Ted Hughes

He loved her and she loved him.
His kisses sucked out her whole past and future or tried to
He had no other appetite
She bit him she gnawed him she sucked
She wanted him complete inside her
Safe and sure forever and ever
Their little cries fluttered into the curtains

Her eyes wanted nothing to get away
Her looks nailed down his hands his wrists his elbows
He gripped her hard so that life
Should not drag her from that moment
He wanted all future to cease
He wanted to topple with his arms round her
Off that moment's brink and into nothing
Or everlasting or whatever there was

Her embrace was an immense press
To print him into her bones
His smiles were the garrets of a fairy palace
Where the real world would never come
Her smiles were spider bites
So he would lie still till she felt hungry
His words were occupying armies
Her laughs were an assassin's attempts
His looks were bullets daggers of revenge
His glances were ghosts in the corner with horrible secrets
His whispers were whips and jackboots
Her kisses were lawyers steadily writing
His caresses were the last hooks of a castaway
Her love-tricks were the grinding of locks
And their deep cries crawled over the floors
Like an animal dragging a great trap
His promises were the surgeon's gag
Her promises took the top off his skull
She would get a brooch made of it
His vows pulled out all her sinews
He showed her how to make a love-knot
Her vows put his eyes in formalin
At the back of her secret drawer
Their screams stuck in the wall

Their heads fell apart into sleep like the two halves
Of a lopped melon, but love is hard to stop

In their entwined sleep they exchanged arms and legs
In their dreams their brains took each other hostage

In the morning they wore each other's face

Poem Source:


William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

         She Was a Phantom of Delight

             1 She was a Phantom of delight
              2When first she gleamed upon my sight;
              3A lovely Apparition, sent
              4To be a moment's ornament;
              5Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
              6Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair;
              7But all things else about her drawn
              8From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;
              9A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
            10To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.

            11I saw her upon nearer view,
            12A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
            13Her household motions light and free,
            14And steps of virgin-liberty;
            15A countenance in which did meet
            16Sweet records, promises as sweet;
            17A Creature not too bright or good
            18For human nature's daily food;
            19For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
            20Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.

            21And now I see with eye serene
            22The very pulse of the machine;
            23A Being breathing thoughtful breath,
            24A Traveller between life and death;
            25The reason firm, the temperate will,
            26Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
            27A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
            28To warn, to comfort, and command;
            29And yet a Spirit still, and bright
            30With something of angelic light.

Publication date: 1807

Poem source:

        Along this paper, I am going to try to analyse some poems dealing with the psychoanalytic literary criticism. I will focus this paper on some poems I have com-mented in previous papers, instead of analysing new ones. Maybe, a proper psychoanalytic study would focus on just one author witnessing and comparing all his/her works and trying to explain his/her motivations, fears, themes, topics… from the psychological point of view of the author. However, I will only focus my paper on just these poems, not only trying to contemplate the psychological motivations of the authors, but also the relationships and links that these poems may have in common. Furthermore I will analyse these poems dealing with two main matters: 1-What are the author’s psychological conflicts? And 2- Does the author reflect the reader’s psychological conflicts?

        The psychoanalytic theory started obviously with Sigmund Freud’s studies about the human psyche. It is based on the idea that the human mind is divided into three parts: the id or unconscious (the desires and impulses which only follow the dictate of the pleasure principle); the superego (the moral and the ethics acquired from the social order); and the ego (the conscious that must regulate and mediate between the two other parts in order to achieve the most satisfactory profits. It is often said that insane people are the ones, whose ego can not control the other two parts. However, from the artistic point of view, the ego represents a symbol of repression and sublimation to the unconscious part, and that the ego is always in a state of conflict. That is why literature is considered as the wish fulfilment or fantasy gratification of desires denied by the reality principle or prohibited by moral codes. It is a way to free the unconscious part and express the secret unconscious desires and anxieties of the author. Moreover, the psychoanalytical perspective claims that artist’s inspiration comes from dreams or that their own art is dream itself. The goal of psychoanalytic criticism is to reveal the latent content of the work that underlies and determines its manifest content. To analyse that, critics use data from the real events of an author's life and the fictional events dramatized in his literature. In fact, the literary work is a manifestation of the author's own neuroses. All the content, characters, events… of a literary work are considered to be part of the own author’s psyche. Literature is seen as an expression of unresolved emotions, psychological conflicts, guilt, traumas, sexual conflicts… that the author has patent in his unconscious part. Psychoanalytic criticism does not study the author´s intentions, but what the author never intended and it is repressed in his mind. Freud and Lacan claimed: “Art is the unconscious structured as language”. (Glossary of Literary Theory, Wikipedia, Introduction to literature: Psychoanalytic Criticism)

         Concerning dreams, one of the major proposals of psychoanalysis is the interpretation of dreams. Indeed, Freud wrote an essay called “Interpretation of Dreams (1900)”. Dreams are representation of fears and repressions that come from the unconscious part, so as art. There are many interpretations of any kind of dream, but I want to focus on the so-called “dreams about death”, which are considered the representation of the most inner fears and, somehow, a way of understanding poetry and art. According to psychoanalysis, dreaming about death could be interpreted not as a manifestation of the death itself, but as a symbol of the end of any event: a relationship, a work… There are a few cases when it really means that death is going to happen, but usually it means the rebirth of something better. Dreams about death of beloved persons or “ghosts” of people who are already dead could be interpreted as a grief that it has not been overcome yet. (Materials and sources of dreams, Meaning of dreams). To clarify that fact I have chosen to psychoanalyse the poem “She was a Phantom of Delight” by William Wordsworth. 

        William Wordsworth was a very traumatic figure, especially concerning his relationships with females. He lost his mother when he was very young and he always had a strange relationship with his sister Dorothy (some critics say that an incestuous one). So the figure of his dead mother and his sister is patent in his poetry (William Wordsworth Biography). Along this poem he relates a daydreaming encounter with a kind of ghost with the shape of a woman, which produces in him a mixture of fear and curiosity. He indeed compares that ghost’s motions with a virgin and a housemate (Stanza two). Despite he can witness the ghost most clearly each time, he never recognizes totally the identity of that ghost, he only assumes its shape, which is a woman´s shape. So, we can assume that the author, somehow, is obsessed with death or that he is “scared” or he has constantly in mind, the figure of a lady that affects him directly or indirectly and he can not escape from her and that “ghost” is maybe always latent in his unconscious part.

        Another important human aspect that psychoanalytical criticism studies is sexuality. The majority of sexual traumas of artists and their works analysed by psychoanalysts are related with the famous: Edip-Electra´s complex, repressions, homosexuality… Psychoanalytical critics must study the aspects of the author’s real life and his fictional works in order to find those traumas to really understand the author´s real mind. However, I am more interested in other kind of “perversions” and “distorsions”. Psychoanalytic critics must not only study the unconscious latent parts in the artist’s works, but also the conscious ones that the author shows in his works in order to denounce them or empathise with the reader´s mind. I want to focus on one of these perversions: Sadomasochism. Sadism and masochism represent contrasting forms of pleasure derived from sexual excitation linked to cruelty and the infliction of pain. Freud and Richard Krafft-Ebing (Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality -1905) claimed that both are habitually found together in the same individual and occur to-gether regularly as pairs of opposites. (Sadomasochism/ International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis) So, as we can appreciate, this term is usually applied describing some ways of pleasure in the sexual relationships. So, that is the reason whyt I have chosen to psychoanalyse the poem “Love Song” by Ted Hughes. In my opinion, along this poem the author describes a sexual relationship with the two lovers who are consuming their love and literally almost devouring each other. There are many references to affirm this opinion; words like: suck, bit, gnawed… and clear references to other sadomaso-chistic elements: bullets, whips, jackboots…  I think the author wants to emphasize the “love-knot” concept and the consummation of love and destruction of time (There are many references to the destruction of past and future to enjoy the present. (L. 2-4) Moreover, from my point of view, the poet is totally conscious of his intentions with this poem. He wants to satisfy and express the reader´s desires and maybe, on the contrary of Wordsworth´s poem, I do not find any trace of unconscious parts that can be latent in his poem. Furthermore, this is a poem of desires, whereas Wordsworth´s one is a poem of fears and illusions. 
        In conclusion, in my opinion, the psychoanalytical criticism can be considered to be very radical because it underlines the possibility that all artists must be neurotic, frustrated… and they use their art to show those unconscious motivations; and it stresses the statement that no artist is really conscious of what he is writing , which I think is not really true. From my point of view, many artists are conscious, know and study very well their works before publishing them. Indeed most of them play the reader´s unconscious part. However, this theory is also very interesting in order to analyse traumas, fears… that the author has himself (and he himself knows he has), and uses his art as a cathartic experiment



Glossary of Literary Theory, Psychoanalytic Theory, University of Toronto English Literature, Ed. Greig E. Henderson & Christopher Brown, 24th May 2006

Literary Criticisms, Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism,
Ed. Jimmy Wales, 24th May 2006

Critical Theories, Psychoanalytic Criticism, Introduction to literature
Ed. Dr Michael Delahoyde, 24th May

Materials and sources of dreams, Dreams about death, Sigmund Freud´s Interpretation Of Dreams, Ed. Dr Dewey, 24th May 2006

Meaning Of Dreams, Dreams about death,,
Webmaster Unkown, Email: , 24th May 2006

Biographies, William Wordsworth Biography and works, The Literature Network,
Publisher. Jalic LLC, 24th May 2006

International Dictionary Of Psychoanalysis, Sadomasochism, Social Sciences,, 24th May 2006


                             THE TYGER                                                                     TO A LADY

                 SHE WAS A PHANTOM OF DELIGHT  
       VS         SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY

                       THE LABORATORY                                                THE BLESSED DAMOZEL

                 PORTRAIT D´UNE FEMME                                                THE FIVE POEMS

                      THE THREE POEMS                                                       THE FOUR POEMS