HUGHES, TED (1930-1998, poet, O.M.)
Lot 121AR
HUGHES, TED (1930-1998, poet, O.M.)
Sold for £4,800 (US$ 7,872) inc. premium

Lot Details
HUGHES, TED (1930-1998, poet, O.M.)
PORTRAIT BY NOEL CHANAN (b. 1939), vintage photograph, silver print, showing Ted Hughes, three-quarter length, looking into the camera, seated in his great friend Leonard Baskin's sculpture studio at Lurley Manor, Tiverton, Devon, photographer's blindstamp in the lower left-hand margin, copyright stamp, negative number, negative and print dates and photographer's initials on verso, c. 1983 print of 1979 negative, framed and glazed, 15¼ x 11½ inches (37 x 29 cm), overall size 21 x 17 inches (54 x 43 cm), 1979

Footnotes

  • This remarkable photograph of Ted Hughes was taken at the same time as the image in profile reproduced on the dust-jacket of Hughes's Collected Poems. Noel Chanan was a particular friend of Leonard Baskin since the 1970s, frequently photographing his work and family, and met and got to know Hughes through him. Using images taken on the same occasion in 1979 as the present portrait, he has produced a DVD of Hughes and Baskin in conversation that day entitled The Artist and the Poet. Chanan is a documentary film-maker and photographer, and author of William, Earl of Craven & the Art of Photography, 2006.


    Memories, Reflections, Gratitudes, 1998, and later.
    A celebration of Ted Hughes.



    Levelling the air out with his hand,
    his huge handsome head held low,
    watching me caught in the spiral of words,
    living again his own first thrill,
    bringing out the marvel of it all -
    it was the way he made things magical.
    Partly it was his childlike sense,
    his boyish charged excitedness,
    as in our two days at the zoo
    when, asked to be a wildebeest,
    he made a tiger turn and snarl.
    He paid court to a cockatoo,
    and was a gibbon gibbon.
    That great roar of laughter -
    like his cry for Ha and Golding,
    rippling round the rafters.
    The way he ruminated over food,
    as if an antique mystic thought
    passed over in some foreign fare.
    Or watching, from his own armchair,
    him rewriting Ovid on his knee,
    the words just running from his pen,
    under the half dim table light,
    while we buffooned upon the floor.
    Or as he simply sat and read,
    rubbing his shingled eye.
    Later, out on a walk with him,
    falling in with his rise and fall;
    it was the way he moved the mud
    to let trapped water out to play.
    Or, set a subject, as we set out,
    with what mastery he wrought it,
    endlessly engaging and engaged.
    Then, those long drifting drives round Devon,
    sometimes at a funeral pace,
    reading new poems while he drove along,
    questioning what this or that one meant.
    We sketched out thirty books and schemes,
    testing titles, shouting down the wind,
    and piled the dirt on poets, politicians, friends.
    He showed me all his ancient haunts,
    and his folks me, in Devon and in York,
    including the great Aunt Hilda,
    and, in time, to most of those he knew
    promoting me as agent and as friend.
    Then, there was his quite distinctive style
    of leaning over bridges, his Barbour
    hooked on his right-hand index finger,
    guaging how high the water was,
    half turned, one foot just off the ground,
    pointing at the fish I could not see.
    And that day of mackerel and bream
    when the pressure fell below the graph
    and, only just, we got inside the bar, then,
    back home, babbled like ancient mariners.
    Calling, merely for a chat.'What's new?
    What's happened? Who's with who?'
    or a thin message on the answer phone:
    'It's only Ted; how are you?
    I'll try the other line'.
    Oh, we put the world to rights,
    ripped up some reputations,
    launched high gossip at the ether.
    Unnumbered rides to restaurants;
    police-slow drives, to music, home;
    the joy of quaffing rich mens' wine,
    revelling in the sheer indulgence of it all.
    Three muscateers: Carol, Ted, and me,
    raising a glass to luck, and love, and us.
    Late mornings; he was always late for meals.
    Then our plans for merchant ventures -
    trousers; shares; antiques; student lets -
    him flirting with ideas, new explanations,
    History was for living, not to learn,
    scholars could keep the record right,
    Magic's in a seance, saga, eagles' flight.
    And yet how much his history was him.
    One secret was the way he'd concentrate,
    that word so early - adverbially -
    in the famous fox he thought,
    searching out the inner spirit,
    the duende, of each thing.
    His will to share his world;
    to teach, to open up horizons,
    making them what you most desired;
    like being converted at your own front door.
    He opened up so many things for me,
    taught me how to train my mind,
    and even how to fall asleep.
    How wonderful the memories are
    of all the pleasures that we shared:
    of the bowl of light we once raised high upon a Devon hill;
    or the angel that did truly fly on a wall in Gloucestershire.
    The mighty hand that clasped electric when we met or went,
    and his big slow bull-like turn back into home,
    captured in my mirror as I inched out of the lane.
    The seance we attended at his healer's house
    with foolish women and two flickering lamps
    unsure about the good bits, or the fraud
    who conjured up wild voices and events.
    The walks down rivers, Nature murmuring,
    content; our London lives beneath the radar.
    Grateful also for your pheromonal smell;
    for wild outbursts (letting off your steam);
    for being so entirely free with me.
    I loved your love of silence
    and of the dusk and dawn;
    your bible bond with Nature
    and the sacred drama of the earth.
    Your lion's eye; the hare bone in your ear,
    the crush and crashing of the bear.
    Your vast capacious mind,
    that temple of your inner life;
    as visionary, your cell.
    The depth of your response,
    your heightened sense,
    your tact, your quite especial care.
    The momentary jealousies;
    the human flare.
    And then your deep forgiveness.
    For fishing; though I failed.
    For having seen you cast
    like Merlin laying on a spell.
    For your passionate dispassion,
    your sympathy; your courage;
    your compassion.
    For your legendary discretion,
    and for all the times you let me in.
    Thank you for your fears about the world
    and your dedication to yourself;
    for your balance of perfection,
    and powerful pursuit of it. For the thrill
    of hearing that I'd done a good thing well.
    I learned your sense of right and wrong
    and felt you wait for me to grow aware.
    I am in awe of your Shakespearean mind,
    the great arc of your intellect,
    your sacred talent and your skill,
    the mingled music of your voice -
    like God auditioning for Man.
    Your wisdom and your love of life,
    your way with words and metaphor,
    your subtle insights and imagining,
    your 'gusto', energy, and power.
    The letters that lit up my days;
    poems that made my mind fly free;
    prose that forced the bended knee.
    Your writing, an uncoiling spring,
    only matched in manuscripts by Bach.
    You were a purpose in my life;
    a solid rock of reference;
    still yet a presence in your empty chair.
    You were loaned out by the gods,
    retained their epic poise,
    to see the cosmic broadbrush myth
    and make mere men rejoice
    at the complex complicatedness
    of the spirit and the mind.
    You were a seer, shaman, friend;
    Coleridge-cum-Wordsworth - and Yourself.
    A loss to Art, you have diminished life
    for those you leave bereft behind.
    But it is one function of the great
    to force on us the contradiction
    of whether more to celebrate the work
    or lament the life's extinction.
    For now, I'll touch on simple benefactions,
    on favours unconditionally done,
    on comradeship and love assumed,
    on your kindness, and for being shy.
    And most perhaps for letting me be there,
    and being so uniquely mine,
    as in other ways, each quite unique,
    you touched the lives of many men,
    bringing out the best in them.
    Your friendship was a miracle to me.
    I really cannot comprehend
    all that mighty heart is lying still.

    Roy Davids (printed in Epic Poise, 1999, and The Double-Ended Key, 2011)

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