Monday, December 24, 2007

Some seasonal Ted Hughes....

A happy christmas to you all! And as I'm sat here with little doing and a glass of Laphroaig at my side, I'll treat you to a fine piece of angling related poetry - Ted Hughes' 1983 composition "The Morning before Christmas".

A big thanks to everyone who has visited this year - I hope you found something of interest - and good luck for 2008.

The Morning before Christmas.

Buds fur-gloved with frost. Everything had come to a standstill
In a brand new stillness.
The river-trees, in a blue haze,
Were fractured domes of spun ghost.
Wheel-ruts frost-fixed. Mid-morning, slowly
The sun pushed dark spokes of melt and sparkle
Across the fields of hoar. And the river steamed -
By the salmon-ladder at the weir -
The sluice cut, the board exit lifted -
The cage drained slowly. A dead cock fish
Hung its head into the leaf-dregs. Another
Sunk on its side, seemed to pincer-lock
The cage wire with its kipe. Already
They were slinging the dead out, rigid in the net,
Great, lolling lilies of fungus, irreplaceable -
Eggs rotten in them, milt rotten. Nothing
So raggy dead offal as a dead
Salmon in its wedding finery. So
After their freakish luck in the lottery -
Their five thousand to one against survival -
Dead within days of marriage. Three, four, five.

Then a hen fish - ten pounds - lurching alive.
Rough grip and her head in an armpit.
Now the thumb and finger kneading her belly.
The frost-smoking sun embellishes her beauty,
Her red-black love-paints, her helpless, noble mask.
Suddenly eggs
Squirt in a liquid loosening - spatter
Into the kitchen bowl. A long, deep-kneading
Oily massage - again and again. Then the fish
Drop-slung, head down, ponderous jerk-shake, and up
For another milking. And now, gentler,
An artful, back-of-the-fingers, cheek-stroke-dainty
Feathering along her flank sets the eggs spurting -
She tries to writhe and shiver a real mating.
The pink mess deepens in the bowl, and her belly
Starts to bag empty. Still there's more. Amazing
Finally the wealth of eggs. Then a cock -
Brindled black and crimson, with big, precious spots
Like a jeweller's trout - gapes his hook
And releases a milk-jet of sperm
Under a skilful thumb, into the treasure.
A little is plenty. He goes back into the net
And into the river - to wait
For his next violation. A stirring
Now of eggs and milt, to a vital broth.
Then they're set aside. Another hen-fish
Comes wagging weakly from the prison.
Four fish only, forty-odd thousand eggs.
The hard frosts this last week
Brought the fish on, ripened them, but killed
Five with sudden death-bloom. Six
Kicking strong, clean, green, unripe, refuse
To yield an egg to the handling. They go
Free above the weir - gloom-flag dissolve
Under the whorled, sliding, morning-smoking
Flat of the pool above. With luck
In natural times, those six, with luck,
In five years, with great luck, might make nine.

That's how four kitchen plastic bowls
Employ eight grown men and keep them solemn.
Precarious obstetrics. First, the eggs clot,
Then loosen. Then, lovingly, the rinsings,
The lavings, the drainings, the rewashings -
A few eggs trundle clear and vanish
Into the white crash of the weir.
A world

Wrought in wet, heavy gold. Treasure-solid.
That morning
Dazzle-stamped every cell in my body
With its melting edge, its lime-bitter brightness.

A flood pond, inch-iced, held the moment of a fox
In touch-melted and refrozen dot-prints.

Ted Hughes; from the collection "River" (1983).

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