After finally starting the pile of books for my Witchcraft, Gender and Magic in Literature, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end. Ted Hughes’ Gaudete is a 200 page poem that really demands your attention. There is deep meaning within every page, line and word makes it both a joy and a chore to read. I feel as though I was trying to read too much into it whilst not understanding what it was going on about at the same time and that was a really surreal feeling. Other reviews of this book praise Hughes for his masterpiece and I feel that I should be agreeing with them. But I want to ensure I completely understand the meanings before I can comment on the quality. I will definitely be re-reading at least two more times I reckon, so it wasn’t too difficult as to put me off a second read.
The main storyline from the poem is the body switch of the Reverend Lumb who travels to an unknown world. He discovers the body of a misshapen woman in a street full of bodies. He is unable to help her medically but can only pray for her to be healed. Back in the real-world, the Reverend has been replaced by a double, who goes around corrupting the members of his local village. He seduces all the women and wives of the village, all become infatuated with him and all have sex with him at some point during the narrative. Yet the men are also corrupted by their anger towards the reverend as they have been cuckolded. They sin by showing violence and aggression, taking the corruption full circle. I am still uncertain about the meaning but from some searches online it seems as though there is a large commentary as to the expression of Christian ideals in a corrupt world. The power that Lumb seems to have over the women is comment on the repressed feelings of lust and passion that we lose in a religious society. There is surprisingly little discussed online about any possible meanings which really leaves it open to any interpretation, although I am now determined to find the ‘right’ one. I’m hoping my lecturer will have some answers.
The writing style is both fantastically and hallucinatory it is sometimes hard to follow what is being discussed. However, you can tell how well the text has been crafted as we constantly feel within a folktale shrouded by mystery every step of the way. It is a truly unique style and book, in my experience anyway, and I’m really looking forward to discussing it within seminars. Hopefully this will lend some clarity as to what I’m actually reading about. I will make another post once I have re-read this to see if my understanding of this book has changed. I think it is an essential read for all literature students out there, as it really is a true challenge for any level of reader. Gaudete has been paired with the 1973 film, The Wicker Man, so it will be interesting to see how they intertwine. A strange start to my Witchcraft module, but one that has set a high precedence for the rest of the texts to meet.