1. Ted was given a copy of The White Goddess by a master at Mexborough Grammar School; and, as Faas comments (UU 71), it “had already turned into a kind of Bible” for Ted when he was writing his earliest poems.

2. All this is consistent with Sylvia’s own words in her journals and in her poems.

3. ‘Emeralds’, perhaps, because the wisdom of Hermes / Mercury (whose energies rule Hod) was found, long ago, inscribed on an emerald tablet (the Smaragdine Tablet), which begins: “In truth certainly and without doubt, what is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that which is below, to accomplish the miracles of one thing”. This belief in the unity of all, is the hidden light which underpins the traditional arts of Alchemy and Cabbala.

4. Ted Hughes, Aeschylus: The Oresteia, Faber, London, 1999.

5. Four is the number of Earth and of the four Elements of which all things are created. We speak of the four corners of the Earth; of the four seasons; and four brings everything together in ‘four-square’, material stability.

6. Cabbalists not only believe in the spiritual power of particular words (especially those which represent the Divine Source), they also believe that the sound vibrations of each letter have specific spiritual energy. It is quite likely that Ted intended the letter ‘n’, which brackets the vibrations of ‘oo’, to give each repetition a particular magical power and, depending on the tone in which the word ‘noon’ is pronounced, that the four-fold repetition may link Divine and human energies in each of the four Worlds of the Cabbalistic Tree.

7. In terms of Ted’s own quest for understanding and truth, the Goddess’s tree was still “strengthening” at this time of his life. In his own dream world of illusion and folly, it was “barely” halfway through winter, and the midsummer noon of burning and sacrifice was yet to come.

8. Here is another fourfold, earth-associated repetition, this time from quite early in Ted’s work. It suggests that he was already aware of the magical power attributed to numbers before 1961, when ‘Wodwo’ was first published (New Statesman, 62: 347,15 Sept). Ted would have appreciated the coincidence that ‘Wodwo’ appears on page 183 in both Wodwo (the Faber, paperback edition) and Ted Hughes Collected Poems. Curiously, too, 183 + 183 = 366, and this reduces to 6 – the number of Venus, the Goddess who rules Netzach: alternatively, 183 on its own reduces to 3, the number of the Triple Goddess. Coincidence? Or another reverberation of the Platonic harmonies?

9. Low, Notes on Kabbalah, p. 52.

10. Fortune, The Mystical Qabalah, p. 182 – 3.

11. In Alchemy, too, the impure elements of the prima materia must be burned away in order to reveal the seed of pure Gold which belongs to the Sephira of Tiphereth.

12. Fortune, op. cit. p. 190.

13. Middlebrook, D. Her Husband, Viking, USA, pp. 45 -6.

14. She does this in her ‘Bee poems’, SPCP 211 – 219.

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