Ted Hughes' Crow cycle is a series of interlinked poems which can be understood, as a whole, to be a folkloric cycle inspired by the Christian tradition. When doing readings, Hughes would introduce this with a spoken word monologue sometimes called The Quarrel in Heaven in which God creates the cosmos and Crow becomes God's companion, seeking to understand and improve on his creation.
Further episodes which reflect a biblical narrative include Apple Tragedy, which describes Adam and Eve's fall:
The serpent stared in surprise
At this interloper.
But God said: "You see this apple?"
I squeeze it and look-cider."
And Crow, Blacker than Ever, which mirrors the crucifixion:
Crow nailed them together,
Nailing heaven and earth together-
So man cried, but with God’s voice.
And God bled, but with man’s blood.
Why is this relevant to the quoted work, Crow Hears Fate Knock on the Door? If the Crow poems are a meditation on Christianity, then a key aspect of this exploration is contrasting the instinctual religious impulse with the modern desire for rationality, for evidence and experimentation. There are examples all through the cycle, but let's quote one from Hears Fate:
He looked in front of his feet at the little stream
Chugging on like an auxiliary motor
Fastened to this infinite engine.
He imagined the whole engineering
Of its assembly, repairs and maintenance —
And felt helpless.
Crow is trying to fulfill his role as the explorer of the cosmos through detached observation, but is failing. He is "helpless" to explain both the emotional appeal of the stream and its intricate series of connections to the wider world via rationality.
This is the purpose of the lines:
He plucked grass-heads and gazed into them
Waiting for first instructions.
He studied a stone from the stream.
He found a dead mole and slowly he took it apart
Then stared at the goblets, feeling helpless.
In which Crow is examining the grass, the stone and the dead mole, seeking to understand them by a fixed process. In the first instance this process is tuition, the second observation and the third experimentation - the processes we gradually teach to children as ways of furthering an understanding of the natural world. But to Crow, they are not insightful.
In this context we can understand the couplet
Letting the translucent starry spaces
Blow in his ear cluelessly
To mean that, as he walks, Crow is seeing and thinking ("blow in his ear") about the night sky and its implications and finding himself "clueless" as to what it means. Yet at the same time the sky itself is "clueless": it has no sense of its own purpose.
Indeed, although many a human mind has looked into the starry night and been inspired to wonder on their place in creation, the poem implies that this is a futile quest: there may be no sense in it at all, or at least not one that humanity can understand.
- Violence in the Poetry of Ted Hughes: An Organic Growth, K.T Baby, 1996
- The Laughter of Foxes: A Study of Ted Hughes, Keith Sagar, 2000