Monday, 24 October 2011

More Sheep in Literature

I recently confessed to a passion for poetry as well as sheep.  I'm always excited when the two combine and I come across a poem about sheep.  One of my favourite sheep poems is from Ted Hughes' Season Songs.  Unsurprisingly, the poem is entitled 'Sheep' and describes in detail the shearing process.  Hughes writes from the point of view of the sheep.  It is a sensitive, insightful poem:

Why am I dragged into the light and whirled onto my back

Why am I sat up on my rear end with my legs splayed

A man grips me helpless
What is that buzzer what is it coming
Buzzing like a big fierce insect on a long tangling of snake
What is this man doing to me with his buzzing thing.

I often wonder what the sheep is thinking.  When I did my shearing course we were shearing older ewes.  The farm hosts the course each year so the chances are the ewes get shorn by beginners several years running.  I'm sure the older sheep knew what to expect because some of them just lay there quietly, as though they were thinking 'here we go again'.  

In Hughes' poem, the sheep comes off the winner:
She trots away, noble-nosed, her pride unsmirched.
Her greasy winter-weight stays coiled on the foul floor, for somebody else to bother about.
She has a beautiful wet green brand on her bobbing brand-new backside,
She baas, she has come off best.
What do you think of Hughes' poem?  Do you think sheep remember being shorn?


  1. As a passionate airplane person, I occasionally wonder what people really think about my airplane poems, my four boxes of airplane fabrics, my going on and on, ad infinitum, about airplanes again and I am relieved to know you as passionate about sheep. I can envision you dreaming about sheep, hoping for an early lambing so you can have one for Christmas, at least four boxes of sheep wool in various stages, and poetry.
    "Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth...Put out my hand and touched the face of God."
    Yes, I have airplane poetry.

    And yes, I believe sheep remember being shorn.

  2. That poetry is beautiful, who is the poet?

  3. John Gillespie MaGee

    See entire poem here:

    And there seems to be about a zillion youtube videos of marginal quality. This one from John Denver - singing it - caught my fancy. He starts with the poem and then moves on to his stuff.