Dully Gumption's Addendum

At his begetting a Welsh adder
Declaiming in Ayrshire against Divine Kings
With the jewel of Ireland under its skullbone
Entered his mother and for nine months
The ghost confronted her in doorways.
She suckled him in an unlit crevice of country
Where words grew out of the ground freakishly
With something of a Neanderthal slouch.
England in that day lay under the head of the dead god king
Cromwell cut from the country body but could not bury or silence:
It moved with a kind of maggot.
These maggots were all words stuffed with dead godly kingliness.
The maggots multiplied, spilling into the shires.
Each maggot wore a crown like a basilisk
And the bumpkin English took them for the words of god—sent law.
So these maggots bit deep into the brains of the bumpkin English.
Englishman after Englishman fell eaten to a mummy skin
Around a man—weight maggot and stiffened
To a chrysalis from which a black fly in no time
Flew up into the rotten face of the kingdom.
At grammar school this remorseless strain of maggot
Behind greying disciplinarian masks
Of addison of Gladstone and of Arnold
Ate into his brain, ate into his brain.
They took up house in there, they pronounced for him,
They peered from the gnawn—out eye sockets, they budged him
Southwards and southwards, Oxford and Cambridge,
And his body bundled behind like a lopped earthworm’s.
The colleges stooped over him and night after night thereafter
He dreamed the morphine of his Anglicising:
Dreamed his tongue uprooted, dreamed his body drawn and quartered
High over England and saw Thames go crawling from the fragments—
And fell, and lay his own gravestone, which went on all night
Carving itself in lordly and imperturbable English.
So he woke numbed. So came of age, like a cheese, mouldering
To England’s expectations.
Now this chrysalis twitches into his thirties,
The fly hardening in him that will soon one sunrise
Pop eyes into the open and go up
From the husk of his mother earth with a cloud
Of loyal Trafalgar black starlings
And the morning flocks blackening the nostrils
Mouth and eyes of London where it
Leans so low over England.
Other works by Ted Hughes ...