Week 405: Full Moon and Little Frieda, by Ted Hughes

This must be one of the best-known and best-loved of all Ted Hughes’s poems, but again I include it just in case anyone’s missed it.

It is not, I think, a poem that needs to be over-analysed. Yes, one can link it to Ted’s shamanistic preoccupations, to moon goddesses, feminine principles and so on, but for me it is a poem about primal wonder. On the one hand there is the wonder of the small child – I believe Ted’s daughter Frieda was between one and two at the time – at an extraordinary fact, at the existence a great round silver rock floating in the sky in the earth’s backyard. But equally, on the other hand, the closing two lines suggest that there is a reciprocated wonder on the part of the universe at an even more extraordinary fact, that a collection of cells should come together, grow, be aware of it, and give it names. And just as the child brings to its act of primal perception nothing beyond the bare name, so, I would claim, we need interpose no baggage of our own between ourselves and this beautiful and tender poem.

Full Moon and Little Frieda

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket –

And you listening.
A spider’s web, tense for the dew’s touch.
A pail lifted, still and brimming – mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm wreaths of breath –
A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk.

‘Moon!’ you cry suddenly, ‘Moon, Moon!’

The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
That points at him amazed.

Ted Hughes


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