There's something beautiful about a big book, about picking up its solid weight in your hands and just holding it, and this is a big book. You can't easily curl up with it in bed: it's a serious book, the kind made for a library, and the same kind of quiet contemplation that a library inspires.
If you're like me, it's the poems concerned with landscapes, the elements and the animal kingdom that really thrill you. From the exquisite sunrise in "The Horses":
Slowly detail leafed from the darkness. Then the sun
Orange, red, red erupted
Silently, and splitting to its core tore and flung cloud,
Shook the gulf open, showed blue,
And the big planets hanging -
to the power of the "Wind":
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly...
Reading Hughes work is literally hair-raising, and barely a poem goes by that you don't find a line that touches you on an inner level and brings goosebumps out in force.
But to suggest that there is nothing more to Hughes, would be to do the sweeping range of his poetry a disservice and this book, as no other volume can, comprises the genuine depth and scope of his work. From antiquity and history to shamanism and the supernatural, his poetry revels in the human and the animal, in the material and the spiritual.
For any serious reader of Hughes' work, this book represents the whole gamut and should be a must-own tome for your shelves. A book not so much to be dipped into, as to be immersed in for hours.
At Ted Hughes' funeral, the great Seamus Heaney mourned: "By his death, the veil of poetry is rent and the walls of learning broken." Yet through this book, through these words freshly read, the dynamic voice of Hughes endures.