Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate: born 1930, died 1998


You wanted to study

Your stars - the guards

Of your prison yard, their zodiac. The planets

Muttered their Babylonish power-sprach -

Like a witchdoctor's bones. You were right to fear

How loud the bones might roar,

How clear an ear might hear

What the bones whispered

Even embedded as they were in the hot body.

Only you had no need to calculate

Degrees for your ascendant disruptor

In Aries. It means nothing certain - no more

According to the Babylonian book

Than a scarred face. How much deeper

Under the skin could any magician peep?

You only had to look

Into the nearest face of a metaphor

Picked out of your wardrobe or off your plate

Or out of the sun or the moon or the yew tree

To see your father, your mother, or me

Bringing you your whole Fate.

`' comes from `Birthday Letters', Ted Hughes's final collection, which was released earlier this year and which traces the course of his marriage to the American poet Sylvia Plath. It is published by Faber & Faber (pounds 14.99).