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By the mid-20th century, Robert Graves was a revered poet. His early work explored the First World War. In 1948 Graves published the long essay, The White Goddess: A historical grammar of poetic myth, a creative interpretation of myth and poetry.
Drawing on European and pagan mythologies, ancient cult rituals and other literary sources, Graves argues that there exists a single goddess who has been worshipped under many names. She is a multifaceted deity who governs birth, life and death in the three aspects of maiden, mother and crone. Graves argues that all ‘true’ poetry is an invocation of the Goddess as muse.
The White Goddess has been important for writers as a creative, poetic work.
Ted Hughes first read Graves’ book at the age of 18 after a copy was given to him from John Fisher, a favourite and influential teacher at Mexborough Grammar School. Repeated readings of The White Goddess while at university further developed his poetic vision, and an existing interest in mythology. Graves’ influence and Hughes’s own concept of the Goddess is perhaps found most explicitly in his sole full-length prose work, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (1992).