Sunday, April 12, 2009

R.I.P. Nicholas Hughes

Of course I'm aware that - on this splendiferously sunny Easter Sunday, on which I succumbed (tut-tut) to the temptation to plant the tomatoes before the sacrosanct "Frost Saint" watershed (the cold snap that sometimes strikes in May, destroying the crop of all too optimistic gardeners) - you're all already slobbering to read a devastating deconstruction of the Easter message by clanger-dropping Mr. Godastic Walter Mixa (aka the Bishop of Augsburg) .

Well, I'm afraid you'll have to wait a day or so to get our take on "agressive atheistm" (though I can promise you that something substantial - involving hard historical data and quotes by Richard Evans and the likes - is brewing). These here avowed atheists are too busy having a peaceful and sunny spring holiday. I guess you could call that "practising atheism".

In the meantime, here's a belated tribute to Nicholas Hughes, son of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, who committed suicide on 16 March this year. The New York Times has a particularly evocative article about what seems to have been a lovely man:
[Nicholas Hughes] was possessed with an utter distaste for academic politics and a special gift for finding simple solutions to complex scientific problems, which he then translated into clear, clean prose for the most important publications in his field.
Well, that's one thing we have in common (guess which of the three it is), and two that I'm aspiring to. Given these dislikes and passions, it is hardly surprising that Hughes found life in a world of empty verbiage, professional obsfuscation and territorial megalomania too difficult to bear. I hope he's found peace.

And just to round off my commemoration, here's the poem that Plath wrote about him:

Sylvia Plath, "Nick and the Candlestick"

I am a miner. The light burns blue.
Waxy stalactites
Drip and thicken, tears

The earthen womb
Exudes from its dead boredom.
Black bat airs

Wrap me, raggy shawls,
Cold homicides.
They weld to me like plums.

Old cave of calcium
Icicles, old echoer.
Even the newts are white,

Those holy Joes.
And the fish, the fish -
Christ! they are panes of ice,

A vice of knives,
A piranha
Religion, drinking

Its first communion out of my live toes.
The candle
Gulps and recovers its small altitude,

Its yellows hearten.
O love, how did you get here?
O embryo

Remembering, even in sleep,
Your crossed position.
The blood blooms clean

In you, ruby.
The pain
You wake to is not yours.

Love, love,
I have hung our cave with roses,
With soft rugs -

The last of Victoriana.
Let the stars
Plummet to their dark address,

Let the mercuric
Atoms that cripple drip
Into the terrible well,

You are the one
Solid the spaces lean on, envious.
You are the baby in the barn.

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