Swans – Ted Hughes


Washed in Arctic
Return to their ballroom of glass
Still in the grip of the wizard,

With the jewel stuck in their throats.

Each one still condemned
To meditate all day on her mirror
Hypnotised with awe.

Each swan glued in her reflection
As the water-caught plume of a swan.

Each snowdrop lyrical daughter possessed
By the coil
Of a black and scowling serpent-
Dipping her eyes into subzero darkness,
Searching the dregs of old lakes
For her lost music.

Then they all writhe up the air,
A hard-hooved onset of cavalry –
Harp the iceberg walls with soft fingers.

Or drift, at evening, far out
Beyond islands, where the burning levels
Spill into the sun

And the snowflake of their enchantment melts.

Ted Hughes
From A Primer of Birds(1981)
Ted Hughes Collected Poems