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A fine frenzy

THE DREAM FIGHTER AND OTHER CREATION TALES, By Ted Hughes. Faber Pounds 10.99. 0 571 17566 X. Right in the beginning, when everything was being made, God worked night and day, and his helpers were the Angels and the Demons.

His Angels made the insides of things. His Demons made the outsides . . ." So Ted Hughes opens this extraordinary collection of stories, and continues in a veritable ecstasy of imagination. Truly "the poet (laureate's) eye in a fine frenzy rollingDoth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;and as imagination bodies forthThe forms of things unknown, the poet's penTurns them to shapes and gives to airy nothingA local habitation and a name."

Ted Hughes's God is a wonderfully various creation, from the Hamlet-like divinity of the Dreamfighter, who could count himself a king of infinite space did he not have bad dreams : ("God was in a bad way. The trouble was - things from outerspace. These alien beings would land at night, dress themselves in nightmare, and creep into his ear. His sleep was gone . . . ) to the Lear-like deity, frantic with rage "roaring as if he hoped to blow his own heart right out through his mouth."

But even more striking than Ted Hughes's God, is his God's mother. Here she is after a particularly ferocious piece of exorcism: "God's mother laughed a cackling sort of laugh, wiping her hands on her apron. Then she gently undid the gag from Woman's mouth and untied the ropes. 'Take her home,' she said. 'She'll need a good sleep now. We scared it right out of her.' 'So that was the Demon' asked God, as he picked up Woman in his arms. 'That,' said his mother, 'was not quite a Demon. I'm not quite sure what it was. But it was very pretty.' 'Well,' said God, 'it looked to me like what I'd call a Fox'". Not so much "Lady into Fox," but Fox into and out of Lady.

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