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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Essay

A Token of Love: Ted Hughes

The unique imagery used in the poem reflects his blissed state of mind

Update : 03 Sep 2023, 04:03 PM

To pay a tribute to Ted Hughes, the former poet Laureate on his birth anniversary (17 August), my mind remembers the experience narrated by my father who spent valuable and pleasant hours with the poet in the Sundarbans when he came to Bangladesh in 1989. 

The late poet was invited to be the chief guest at the World Poets Festival in Dhaka in 1989. While accepting this invitation, he expressed his heartfelt longing to visit the Sundarbans (His special love for wildlife and animals is known to all readers of his poetry). Accordingly, the authority made all arrangements for the poet's visit to the Sundarbans.

During the poet’s visit to the Sundarbans, my father Mostafizur Rahman Sufi (who was an Assistant Conservator of Forest) was assigned to accompany him along with other people in the launch provided by the Forest Department. In this way, my father got the opportunity to spend quality time with Ted Hughes. 

My father found him to be a wonderfully amiable person with a special interest in wildlife. The poet was fascinated to see the beauty of the forest, river, birds, and animals. He had a deep yarning for seeing the Royal Bengal Tigers. In response to his request, my father shared his experience of seeing tigers. 

Together, they talked a lot about wildlife. Sometimes the poet would write silently getting amazed at the beauty around. After passing a lively period together, when my father told him that he would depart from the launch, the poet got a little bit upset. He requested my father to wait a while and instantly he wrote a small poem for my father. On the top, he wrote ‘For Sufi' (my father's name). The lines were as follows:

                For Sufi 

On November the 22, ’89 

We sailed along eating better 

                than the tiger 

draped with a fuler mala of

                the soft forest 

like Yogis, shawled in bliss,

shawled in the flowers of  

       the Sundarbans

best wishes in memory 

              of a beautiful day 

              from Ted Hughes 

The unique imagery used in the poem reflects his blissed state of mind amidst the alluring nature and hospitable people of Bangladesh.

Lead 2 

This poem was framed by my father and kept in his heart and at our home. We still have that framed poem in our elder sister Tantry's house.

Several times I tried to read that poem (since in1989 when I was in class VIII) but failed to understand a phrase in the 4th line which is ‘fuler mala’. Recently I have discovered from an article that ‘fuler mala’ is a Bangla expression used by the poet. I got astonished to know that the poet wrote several poems during his stay in the Sundarbans and Bagerhat and one of those was titled ‘Fuler Mala’. The write-up containing this poem and this information was written by Syed Muhammad Hussain who was involved with the process to invite the poet and make necessary arrangements for the 10-day visit to Bangladesh.

Let's see what we find in the poem ‘Fuler Mala’:

 ‘Fuler Mala’

We are sailing along festooned
With the silky sheet of the forest’s
reflections,
A fuler mala of the flowers of the
Sundarbans.
Freckled Rajanigandha of the chital,
Gathered in clusters at evening and morning,
White lilies of all the kinds of heron
Black hyacinth of the wild boar
Weightier wind flower of the
white-faced fish-hawk
Dark, hugely-petalled flower
of the horn-bill
And blooming through the fangled
wall of the forest
Over the water
The glaring flower of the smell of the
Tiger
Finger-petalled flower of the monkey
Silk-flash sari flower of the kingfisher
Yellow and olive gigantic, long swamp
arched, the crocodile
And the four-petalled rose of the
tiger’s pug-mark
Plucked last night
With the thorny rose of the tiger’s
assault
That missed us by a day.
We are sailing along eating better than the tigers
Festooned
In the everlasting flower of the smile
And the big reddening lotus of the day
that folds and gives
Into the smoky blue Bay of Bengal.

The use of imagery full of metaphors in this poem is enough to give release to the depth of his feelings, attitude, and love for the nature, beauty, land and people of Bangladesh. Moreover, frequent use of Bangla words and Bangla names in the poem proves his respect for Bangla language too. 

Ted Hughes (1930-1998), who was ranked as one of the best poets of his generation and one of the greatest writers of 20th century, expressed his intense love for Bangladesh as an ardent admirer through his magical poems about Bangladesh. 

I consider his handwritten poem for my father as a token of heartfelt love from Ted Hughes for all people of Bangladesh. 

Aleeya Tamzida Kanti is assistant professor, department of English, Stamford University Bangladesh.

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