Last Updated 27 Jan 2021

Ted Hughes ‘Wodwo’ and ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’

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Hughes's poetry constitutes a moral project. It demands that we see our world and ourselves differently. Discuss. Together, ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’ and ‘Wodwo’ by Ted Hughes detail aspects of human nature that Hughes is calling the readers to reflect upon from external viewpoints. Hughes is asking a generation exposed to the horrors of war, the destruction caused by the atomic bombs and the Nazi holocaust to consider such pointless destruction and how so much of it is caused by our alienation from the complete being of the universe.

He demands that we understand what it is all conscious beings feel we are missing, and fill that void by connecting to the natural world and through art and poetry. ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’ shows the effects of our alienation and its disastrous consequences, but also asks us to examine these from the outside perspective of Crow. ‘Wodwo’ is a poem showing the first stages of alienation caused by self consciousness and its possible dangers.

Finally, together these poems allow us to examine ourselves objectively, and understand what it is that Hughes is demanding we must do to survive our dangerous hubris. ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’ is a disturbing picture of human coldness told from the neutral perspective of Hughes’s ‘Crow’. While the Crow figure features in many of Hughes’s poetry in order to provide an objective viewpoint, we can still see in this poetry Hughes’s own disapproving feelings about war in the tone of the poem, “This had happened too often before/ And was going to happen to often in the future”.

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The nature of the word “Account” in the title is very scientific in itself, and the lack of metre in the poem accentuates the tone of a report. There are no agencies in this poem, we encounter human parts such as ‘ear’, ‘eyes’, ‘intestines’, ‘brains’, ‘hair and ‘teeth’ but there are no sides, all Crow sees are humans at war. Also, the verbs have no subjects attached to them, “cartridges were banging off…/the fingers were keeping things going”.

This lack of human presence also helps to remove any emotion, as Hughes can refer to not just the world wars, but any war in history, and therefore emphasise and demonstrate to us the cycle of destruction into which humans alone created and will continue to fall in to. ‘Wodwo’ is a stream of consciousness poem detailing a creature’s first moments of conscious being. As the creature becomes aware of itself and it’s surroundings, it also becomes alienated from it’s environment, “Do these weeds know me… do I fit in their world? Hughes constantly suggests, but particularly in ‘Wodwo’, that our consciousness causes us to be alienated from our surroundings and that we will immediately begin searching for this sense of belonging. We can clearly see this in the Wodwo, and in the final line “again very queer but I’ll go on looking” ending with no full stop, suggests that like humans it will now spend its whole life searching for what it feels is missing. However, in relation to ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’, he also suggests this brings danger as we begin to perceive our world as beneath us since we have been given freedom of thought.

The early stages of this danger are shown in ‘Wodwo’, “I seem to have been given the freedom of this place” and “I suppose I am the exact centre”, while the final, cataclysmic stages of it are demonstrated in ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’. While the Wodwo has appeared to have only recently stopped ‘existing’ and started ‘being’, Hughes demonstrates the catastrophic moral consequences this alienation can have, which are further examined in ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’.

While ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’ is presented as the probable future of the creature in ‘Wodwo’, both poems still contain explicit references to the fundamental existential questions that we are constantly trying to explain. ‘Wodwo’ is the very example of such questions, the very word Wodwo sounds like an interrogative because of the ‘w’ sounds and the first line is a perfect example of a conscious beings’ fundamental question- “What am I? Again, ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’ is the evolution of such thoughts, but instead of asking these questions, the beings have started trying to explain them. We have a reference here to “Universal Laws”, “traps of calculus” and “theorems” (i. e. science) but also “pocket-books”, “life-mask” and “many prayers” (i. e. religion). However, since both of these explanations have been reached, and they are still in the middle of a pointless and immoral war and therefore are still trying to find what is missing, Hughes asserts that neither of these is the answer. If we return to the Wodwo’s origins, efore it became conscious, its surroundings are those of nature- we have leaves, rivers, weeds and roots rather than anything artificial. This, then, is what Hughes is suggesting is the answer. That we return to nature and try to reconnect with the whole being of the universe. He suggests that it is only then that we will discover what is missing and rediscover our potential to exist in harmony with all of the forces of nature. In conclusion, Hughes writes such poems as ‘Wodwo’ and ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’ to warn us of our inherent hubristic view of the natural world.

He asks us to step outside ourselves and consider the reasons that we have become alienated, and how we have further extended our alienation by seemingly chronically searching for answers in the wrong places. Hughes is critical of both science and religion, of how we have used fundamental universal laws to our own advantage; almost always for destruction, and of how religion persistently places humans over all other beings. He instead asks us to connect with nature, or “The White Goddess” (the original Goddess, worshipped under many names, who encompassed the whole being of the universe) in order to rediscover that which we have lost.

Ted Hughes ‘Wodwo’ and ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’ essay

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Ted Hughes ‘Wodwo’ and ‘Crow’s Account of the Battle’. (2018, May 30). Retrieved from

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