A Poem A Day

Caryatids (2)

by Ted Hughes

Stupid with confidence, in the playclothes
Of still growing, still reclining
In the cushioned palanquin,
The nursery care of nature’s leisurely lift
Towards her fullness, we were careless
Of grave life, three of us, four, five, six—
Playing at friendship. Time in plenty
To test every role—she laughs,
For the experiment, lending our hours
To perversities of impulse, charade-like
Improvisations of the inane,
Like prisoners, our real life
Perforce deferred, with the real
World and self. So, playing at students, we filled
And drunkenly drained, filled and again drained
A boredom, a cornucopia
Of airy emptiness, of the brown
And the yellow ale, of makings and unmakings—
Godlike, as frivolous as faithless,
A dramaturgy of whim.
That was our education. The world
Crossed the wet courts, on Sunday, politely,
In tourists’ tentative shoes.
All roads lay too open, opened too deeply
Every degree of the compass.
Here at the centre of the web, at the crossroads,
You published your poem
About Caryatids. We had heard
Of the dance of your blond veils, of your flaring gestures,
Your misfit self-display. More to reach you
Than to reproach you, more to spark
A contact through the see-saw bustling
Atmospherics of higher learning
And lower socializing, than to correct you
With our archaic principles, we concocted
An attack, a dismemberment, laughing.
We had our own broadsheet to publish it.
Our Welshman composed it—still deaf
To the white noise of the elegy
That would fill his mouth and his ear
Worlds later, on Cadar Idris,
In the winds and snows of your final climb.

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