In the poem "Crowcolour", the shortest of Ted Hughes' Crow poems, there's a series of comparisons of Crow's blackness with other black images.

Here's the full poem:

Crow was so much blacker
Than the moon's shadow
He had stars.

He was as much blacker
Than any negro
As a negro's eye-pupil.

Even, like the sun,
Than any blindness.

This may be just a plain English question, but still:

Can the middle verse have a different meaning other than the obvious one, by which Crow is:

  • More black "than any negro"
  • Equally black "as a negro's eye-pupil"

Such reading is obvious, and hence sounds simplistic to my ears, but maybe it is what is?


Not to make this the subject of the question, but if you're wondering what's up with the N-word, see futher reading here:

"Even though the "negro" of "Crowcolour" was a quasi-acceptable term of the period in the US, here it stands in for "African" or even "aboriginal". The analogy between Crow's blackness and the "negro" was for Hughes a positive one, built upon the connection between Crow's primal powers and the of the uncivilized, and thus unfalled, negro.

Also, such usage is also present in Sylvia Plath's poems, such as Ariel, see further reading here (it's a PDF). But see criticism in this Tweeter thread.

  • Usually, what is meant by N-word is not Negro but n----r, which is still a much more offensive term today (and you should realize that Negro wasn't offensive at all when Ted Hughes wrote Crow).
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 12:35
  • And another comment ... I think you have grasped the essential English meaning of the middle verse; I can't think of anything else it could mean. The quote you include (interpreting 'black' as 'aboriginal') is an interesting alternative meaning. But the real question of interpretation for this poem is why Hughes implies the sun as black.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 13:11


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