Matthew Evans, the chairman of Faber & Faber, his publisher, called him "one of the greatest poets of the century". The Queen, who presented him with the Order of Merit two weeks ago, was said to be deeply saddened by the loss of the most unorthodox Poet Laureate of her reign, while Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, offered acclaim to "a towering figure in 20th century literature".
"Even in his last years, he was producing great works, and his contribution to the body of great British poetry was immense," Mr Blair said.
Among those who led the tributes yesterday was Andrew Motion, the professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia, a fellow poet and a close friend for 15 years.Hughes had been "an incredible inspiration and a guiding light" throughout his adolescence and adult life, said Professor Motion.
"There is no question that he is one of the greatest poets of this century and one of the greatest of all time. He gave us a vision of England which manages to bring the whole of the history and traditional past into play with a present that is recognisably modern."
Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, described Hughes as "a giant of 20th century literature". "He wrote for young and old alike," he said. "He brought the power of nature alive and his latest poems, exploring the depths of relationships, were enormously moving."
Other politicians echoed his sentiments. Sir Patrick Cormack, Conservative chairman of the all-party parliamentary Arts Group, said: "We have lost a great poet whose works will live on." Peter Ainsworth, the shadow Culture Secretary, said like many people of his generation, he felt as if he had grown up with Hughes's poetry.
Matthew Evans said Hughes would be greatly missed by staff at Faber & Faber, which has published his work since 1957. Mr Evans said: "He was a wonderful person to spend time with. He had a sort of magnetism, a physical magnetism."
Douglas Dunn, the professor of English at St Andrew's University and a fellow poet, said: "It was the originality that made his work so important. It created a vehement post-war climate of a feeling for nature and savagery. I see his poetry as a moral quest to find an almost pagan sort of civilisation."Reuse content