The Meaning of ‘Capriccio’ In 1990, Ted Hughes, England’s Poet Laureate, published a collection of twenty poems, entitled Capriccio. The volume was illustrated by artist Leonard Baskin, and published by his Gehenna Press in a limited edition of only fifty copies. At $4000 each, and filled with richly coloured engravings by Baskin, the beautifully boxed leather volume was a […]
Today is the 46th anniversary of the deaths of Assia Gutmann Wevill, and Shura Hughes Wevill. They both died on 23rd March, 1969. Assia was 41 years old, and her daughter Shura was four. After a fraught phone conversation with her lover, Ted Hughes, Assia took pills, turned on the gas, and lay down to die with her daughter, whom […]
Notes found in Ted Hughes’ loose leaf notebook in the British Library summarise the story of a Jewish Talmudist, Rabbah bar Hannah, who set down his life story of perilous adventures,etching them onto a rock. Kabbalah (Hebrew קַבָּלָה) literally mens “receiving/tradition”. It is an ancient series of spiritual teachings originating in the twelfth century BC, in the town of Safed in […]
This precious volume was published in 1990, almost thirty years after Hughes’ began his affair with Assia Wevill. It was illustrated by artist Leonard Baskin, and published by Baskin’s Gehenna Press in a limited edition of fifty. At $4000 each, and filled with richly coloured engravings by Baskin, the beautifully boxed leather volume was a collector’s copy. All twenty poems in ‘Capriccio’ deal with some aspect of his relationship with Assia Wevill. Many of the poems in Capriccio were written in the second person; the ‘you’ was not identified, although there were hints here and there (as in Folktale: He wanted the seven treasures of Asia). Apart from its musical connotation, Hughes’ title Capriccio bears several interpretations, from ‘capricious’, derived from the Latin caper, the goat, to the ancient Latin ‘racapriccio’ meaning ‘horror’. Thus these poems are thematically linked, by the idea of the capriciousness of fate, to the elements of shock or horror, which Hughes often expressed by reference to ancient myths.