The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Poetry Friday

Posted on: February 9, 2007

Elmet is still the name on maps for a part of West Yorkshire that includes the deep valley of the upper Calder and its watershed of Pennine morland. These poems confine themselves to the upper Calder and the territory roughly encircled by a line drawn through Halifax (on the east), Keighley (on the north-east), Colne (on the north-west), Burnley (on the west), and Littleborough (on the south-west): an ‘island’ straddling the Yorks-Lancs border, though mainly in Yorkshire, and centred, in my mind, on Heptonstall. Elmet was the last independent Celtic kingdom in England and originally stretched out over the vale of York.


Physically inhospitable, cut off to north and south by the high moorland, the insularity of the valley was in some ways almost complete, in others anything but. – TH


Are a stage
For the performance of heaven.
Any audience is incidental.

A chess-world of topheavy Kings and Queens
Circling in stilted majesty
Tremble the bog-cotton
Under the sweep of their robes.

Fools in sunny motley tumble across,
A laughter — fading in full view
To grass-tips tapping at stones

The witch-brew boiling in the sky-vat
Spins electrical terrors
In the eyes of sheep.

Fleeing wraith-lovers twist and collapse
In death-pact languor
To bedew harebells
On the spoil-heaps of quarries.

Wounded champions lurch out of sunset
To gurgle their last gleams into potholes.

Shattered, bowed armies, huddling leaderless
Escape from a world
Where snipe work late.

Beginning notes and poem taken from “Elmet” by Ted Hughes

2 Responses to "Poetry Friday"


Are a stage
For the performance of heaven.
Any audience is incidental.”

I love that.

He does have a way with phrases. I’m finding Elmet perfect for winter reading.

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