23+ quotes from Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes

Quotes from Birthday Letters

Ted Hughes ·  198 pages

Rating: (7.6K votes)


“Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter, your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,
Looking for something to give.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“The dreamer in her
Had fallen in love with me and she did not know it.
That moment the dreamer in me
Fell in love with her and I knew it”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“Do as you like with me. I'm your parcel. I have only our address on me. Open me, or readdress me.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“In the pit of red
You hid from the bone-clinic whiteness

But the jewel you lost was blue.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“I had let it all grow. I had supposed
It was all OK. Your life
Was a liner I voyaged in.
Costly education had fitted you out.
Financiers and committees and consultants
Effaced themselves in the gleam of your finish.
You trembled with the new life of those engines.

That first morning,
Before your first class at College, you sat there
Sipping coffee. Now I know, as I did not,
What eyes waited at the back of the class
To check your first professional performance
Against their expectations. What assessors
Waited to see you justify the cost
And redeem their gamble. What a furnace
Of eyes waited to prove your metal. I watched
The strange dummy stiffness, the misery,
Of your blue flannel suit, its straitjacket, ugly
Half-approximation to your idea
Of the properties you hoped to ease into,
And your horror in it. And the tanned
Almost green undertinge of your face
Shrunk to its wick, your scar lumpish, your plaited
Head pathetically tiny.

You waited,
Knowing yourself helpless in the tweezers
Of the life that judges you, and I saw
The flayed nerve, the unhealable face-wound
Which was all you had for courage.
I saw that what you gripped, as you sipped,
Were terrors that killed you once already.
Now I see, I saw, sitting, the lonely
Girl who was going to die.

That blue suit.
A mad, execution uniform,
Survived your sentence. But then I sat, stilled,
Unable to fathom what stilled you
As I looked at you, as I am stilled
Permanently now, permanently
Bending so briefly at your open coffin.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“You were overloaded. I said nothing.
I said nothing. The stone man made soup.
The burning woman drank it.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“And you will never know what a battle
I fought to keep the meaning of my words
Solid with the world we were making.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“But the jewel you lost was blue.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“So missed everything
in the white, blindfolded, rigid faces
of those women. I felt their frailty, yes:
friable, burnt aluminium.
Fragile, like the mantle of a gas-lamp.
But made nothing
of that massive, starless, mid-fall, falling
heaven of granite
stopped, as if in a snapshot,
by their hair.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“But inside your sob-sodden Kleenex

And your Saturday night panics,

Under your hair done this way and that way,

Behind what looked like rebounds

And the cascade of cries diminuendo,

You were undeflected.

You were gold-jacketed, solid silver,

Nickel-tipped. Trajectory perfect

As through ether.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“Day by day his sister grew
Paler with the wound
She could not see or touch or feel, as I dressed it
Each day with her blue Breton jacket.

- from Life After Death
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“And as if reporting some felony to the police they let you know you were not John Donne.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“I invoked you, bribing Fate to produce you.
Were you conjuring me? I had no idea
How I was becoming necessary,
Or what emergency surgery Fate would make
Of my casual self-service.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“Now I wanted to show you such a beach
Would set inside your head another jewel,
And lift you like the gentlest electric shock
Into an altogether other England--
An Avalon for which I had the wavelength,
Deep inside my head a little crystal.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“In my position, the right witchdoctor

Might have caught you in flight with his bare hands,

Tossed you, cooling, one hand to the other,

Godless, happy, quieted.

I managed

A wisp of your hair, your ring, your watch, your nightgown.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“So this was the reverse of dazzling Nauset.
The flip of the coin - the flip of an ocean fallen
Dream-face down. And here, at my feet, in the suds,
The other face, the real, staring upwards.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“We were where we we had never been in our lives.
Visitors--visiting even ourselves.

The bats were part of the sun's machinery,
Connected to the machinery of the flowers
By the machinery of insects. The bats' meaning

Oiled the unfailing logic of the earth.
Cosmic requirement--on the wings of a goblin.
A rebuke to our flutter of half-participation...

Those bats had their eyes open. Unlike us,
They knew how, and when, to detach themselves
From the love that moves the sun and other stars.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“And as it grew up and began to enjoy itself
What would we do with an unpredictable,
Powerful, bounding fox?
That long-mouthed, flashing temperament?
That necessary nightly twenty miles
And that vast hunger for everything beyond us?
How would we cope with its cosmic derangements
Whenever we moved?

...If I had grasped that whatever comes with a fox
Is what tests a marriage and proves it a marriage--
I would not have failed the test.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“But red
Was what you wrapped around you.
Blood red.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“Your journal pages. Your effort to cry words”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“And the knowledge
Inside the hill on which you are sitting,
A moated fort hill, bigger than your house,
Failed to reach the picture. While your next moment,
Coming towards you like an infantryman
Returning slowly out of no-man's-land,
Bowed under something, never reached you--
Simply melted into the perfect light.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“Their homeopathic letters,
Envelopes full of carefully broken glass
To lodge behind your eyes so you would see”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


“The Tender Place

Your temples , where the hair crowded in ,
Were the tender place. Once to check
I dropped a file across the electrodes
of a twelve-volt battery -- it exploded
Like a grenade. Somebody wired you up.
Somebody pushed the lever. They crashed
The thunderbolt into your skull.
In their bleached coats, with blenched faces,
They hovered again
To see how you were, in your straps.
Whether your teeth were still whole .
The hand on the calibrated lever
Again feeling nothing
Except feeling nothing pushed to feel
Some squirm of sensation . Terror
Was the cloud of you
Waiting for these lightnings. I saw
An oak limb sheared at a bang.
You your Daddy's leg . How many seizures
Did you suffer this god to grab you
By the roots of the hair? The reports
Escaped back into clouds. What went up
Vaporized? Where lightning rods wept copper
And the nerve· threw off its skin
Like a burning child
Scampering out of the bomb-flash. They dropped you
A rigid bent bit of wire
Across the Boston City grid. The lights
In the Senate House dipped
As your voice dived inwards
Right through the bolt-hole basement.
Came up, years later,
Over-exposed, like an X-ray --
Brain-map still dark-patched
With the scorched-earth scars
Of your retreat . And your words ,
Faces reversed from the light ,
Holding in their entrails.”
― Ted Hughes, quote from Birthday Letters


About the author

Ted Hughes
Born place: in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, The United Kingdom
Born date August 17, 1930
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