Selected Poems 1957-1967
The Iron Giant: A Story in Five Nights
In June, 1954, the undergraduate editors of a Cambridge University magazine called Granta received a poem from someone signing himself Daniel Hearing. I vividly remember running my eye down the typescript and thinking that “The Little Boys and the Seasons” was a very beautiful and enjoyable poem. I was eager to see it in print. And I print it again now, after twenty years, because I still think it is a beautiful and enjoyable poem, and because Ted Hughes, whose pseudonym Daniel Hearing was and who was a student of the University at the time, has mistakenly refrained from printing it again himself.
One came out of the wood. “What a bit of a girl,”
The small boys cried, “To make my elder brother daft,
Tossing her petticoats under the bushes. O we know,
We know all about you: there’s a story.
Well we don’t want your tinny birds with their noise,
And we don’t want your soppy flowers with their smells,
And you can just take all that make-up off our garden,
And stop giving the animals ideas with your eyes.”
And she cried a cloud and all the children ran in.
One came out of the garden. A great woman.
And the small boys muttered: “This one’s not much either,
She keeps my dad out till too late at night.
You can’t get through the bushes for her great bosom,
The pond’s untidy with her under- clothes,
And her sweaty arms round you wherever you go.
The way she wears the sun is just gypsy.
And look how she leaves grown- ups lying about.”
And they all sat down to stare her out with eyes
Hot as fever from hostility.
One came over the hill, bullying the wind,
Dragging the trees out of each other’s arms, swearing
At first so that the children could hardly believe it. No one
Believed the children when they clapped he had come,
And was lying in the market-place and panting.
The weathercock would have crowed, but was in his hand,
The yellow-haired harvest fallen asleep in his arms,
The sun was in his haversack with hares,
Pheasants and singing birds all silent. Whereon
Parents pointed warningly to ba- rometers.
But the small boys said: “Wait till his friend gets here.”
Who came out of the sea, over- turning the horses,
The hard captain, uniform over the hedges,
Drilling the air till it was thread- bare, stamping
Up and down the fields with the nails in his boots
Till the cobbles of the fields were iron as nails.
Birds stood so stiff to attention it was death.
The sun was broken up for sabres. O he was a rough one.
And the little boys cried: “Hurrah for the jolly Roger.”
And ran out, merry as apples, to shoot each other
On landscapes of his icelocked battleships.
This was the first, or among the first, of his published poems, and I also remember being told by a …