This is what I said, and when he moved
I entered on the deep and savage path."
--from Dante's Inferno, Canto II, translated by Seamus Heaney
* * *
It was only after his marriage to Plath that Hughes began applying his imagination to the place of his birth, the Calder Valley: a deep gorge running through the Pennine Mountains of West Yorkshire, where hillsides rise steeply to plateau on the wild moorland that many readers and tourists know as the setting of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. When Ted Hughes was growing up there it was a site of postindustrial wreckage. The Industrial Revolution had made the Calder Valley a prosperous location of the textile trade by 1800: cotton towns in Lancashire, woollen towns in Yorkshire. By the end of the century, business had moved on, leaving a legacy of deteriorating textile mills and clothing factories, and hillsides scattered with abandoned cottages on dilapidated farms. Then the First World War funneled off the able-bodied men. Very few of them returned, and those that did were deeply shocked and disoriented by the war. Hughes would describe living among them as being surrounded by mental patients.
--from Her Husband: Hughes and Plath--A Marriage, by Diane Middlebrook
* * *
Granny Has a Vision
Against the bloodbeat, against the necrotic
pang, against the eyeless house,
you steady yourself.
The silverware in the drawer
speaks your language—
the only language you hear today
inside the glistening mirage
your distractions have concocted:
A bridge is wet with river water, wet with tears.
The cherries bend low to listen.
Their branches strain against the small
wind of your thoughts, the jumbled
meaningless words, the old scents and computations.
Once again, nothing known as love understands you—
you, the soiled puppet queen, reeking of sorrow,
flapping your royal nail-bitten hands
on an island of rats, on an island
where only the kitchen knives speak.
How cold it is in this place.
[from Chestnut Ridge, 2019]