Assia and Shibboleth

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Why did Ted Hughes call one of his poems in the Capriccio sequence ‘Shibboleth’?

Perhaps the title is a comment on Assia’s upper-crust British accent, which failed to gain her acceptance Into London’s society. A shibboleth, in biblical times, was a linguistic marker to distinguish the outsider. The last line of Hughes’ poem ‘Shibboleth’ reads ‘lick of the tar brush?’

In my chapter ‘Shibboleth’ Assia’s German  accent (Hochdeutch) betrays her origins, leading to an anti-Semitic attack on her by the innkeeper’s wife. In another chapter, Assia muses ‘my differences will never go away’.

Image of Assia Wevill from www. Pinterest..com

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