Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Day 570: Tea with Passion Please


Still on the theme of love, today we have a poem about passion, the real deal. A poem that says so much in so little the result is quite intense.

Passionate love is so rare - that kind made of fire - and so random, that when it strikes, it's usually between people with extenuating circumstances - i.e. married people or otherwise unavailable (Ted Hughes was certainly no stranger to extra-marital encounters). In this poem, the love in question however is restrained, unacknowledged, for some reason; and to highlight its intensity, is juxtaposed with the conservative convention of tea -  'pale cool tea in tea-cups' - against the 'fire' and 'flood' of what rages between the two people present. The passion and the pain that they try to ignore. Even the title hints at the pretence they live under. 

What this poem ultimately asks, I think, is  - is it better to follow your passions, wherever they may  lead, a life of fire and flood, feel it all - good and bad, or to stifle them into 'stillness' and 'silence' and live a dullness of parlour pieces/peaces, sipping pale cool tea? I'd have to go with the former.

Parlour Piece - Ted Hughes

With love so like fire they dared not
Let it out into strawy small talk;
With love so like a flood they dared not
Let out a trickle lest the whole crack,

These two sat speechlessly:
Pale cool tea in tea-cups chaperoned
Stillness, silence, the eyes
Where fire and flood strained.


  1. This actually seems more Plath-like to me than Hughes...lines like 'pale cool tea in tea-cups chaperoned' in particular. I like this; I don't think I've come across this one before (and I am a HUGE Ted Hughes fan).

    1. I only discovered it the other night Cheryl, never read it before. I love it! The lines are so compact and complex.

  2. I love how this poem deals with the restrained and the unrestrained in a sort of paradox, it makes the 'fires' and 'floods' seem all the more powerful.


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