Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Stubbing Wharfe by Ted Hughes

Stubbing Wharfe is a poem about the pub of the same name in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Written by Ted Hughes in the late 50s, it's a perfect and poignant snapshot of his marriage to the doomed Sylvia Plath, capturing the mood of a visit they made to the West Riding valley with Hughes having a mind to set up home there and in the process of persuading Sylvia that that is a good idea.

Clearly, Sylvia doesn't see it - not that I think Ted's heart is truly in what he is trying to sell either, save for the cheap ageing housing that is available of course - and who can blame her? A dark post industrial decline corner of Yorkshire is hardly going to be beneficial for someone prone to depression, and during their drink, she begins to sob whilst he moodily sips at a Guinness in their dark and gloomy surroundings.

But it's not all doom and gloom; the poem ends on a lovely uplifting note as the couple's spirits are roused from their depression by the arrival of some carousing locals.

It really is a beautiful poem and one feels like an eavesdropper into their marital struggles just by reading it. Some of it was recited with much class by the acting family Timothy West, Prunella Scales and Samuel West in their travelogue series Great Canal Journeys on More 4 tonight (or last night now, given this is just post midnight) at the pub itself.

The Stubbing Wharf

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