‘The Prophet’ by Ted Hughes

This is the last poem that Ted Hughes was working on before his death in 1998. It is a translation of Pushkin’s ‘The Prophet’.

The Prophet 

Crazed by my soul’s thirst

Through a dark land I staggered,

And a six-winged seraph

Halted me at a crossroads.

With fingers of dream

He touched my eye-pupils.

My eyes, prophetic, recoiled

Like a startled eaglet’s.

He touched my ears

And a thunderous clangour filled them,

The shudderings of heaven,

The huge wingbeat of angels,

The submarine migration of sea-reptiles

And the burgeoning of the earth’s vine.

He forced my mouth wide,

Plucked out my own cunning

Garrulous evil tongue,

And with bloody fingers

Between my frozen lips

Inserted the fork of a wise serpent.

He split my chest with a blade,

Wrenched my heart from its hiding,

And into the open wound

Pressed a flaming coal.

I lay on stones like a corpse.

There God’s voice came to me:

“Stand, Prophet, you are my will.

Be my witness. Go

Through all seas and lands. With the Word

Burn the hearts of the people.”