Ted Hughes grew up in Heptonstall, a village set amidst the moors of West Yorkshire in the north of England. His wife, the poet Sylvia Plath, committed suicide and is buried in Heptonstall. Thus, the poem's first stanza can be read biographically. The opening line, beginning with "black," a color associated with mourning, and ending with "gravestones," can be understood as an allusion to his dead wife:
Black village of gravestones
The hill's collapsed skull
However, the stanza can also be read universally. The village is full of gravestones and more people than just Hughes were born there only to find their dreams "die back." In the second and third quatrains, the poem becomes more fully universal with the image of the skull dominating. This repeated image ties the first three stanzas together. In the first stanza, the village graveyard and, by extension, the village itself (Hughes conflates the two) are described as the hill's "collapsed skull." In stanza two, we are...
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