Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Poetry Reads: Pike by Ted Hughes


Pike by Ted Hughes begins with a description of the fish and their malevolence. This poem’s freshness lies in its heightened imagery of nature, the animal kingdom and the dwelling place of human beings.

Hughes also observes that:

Pike, three inches long, perfect
Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold.
Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.
They dance on the surface among the flies’.

Their habitat has been described in the two stanzas below.

Or move, stunned by their own grandeur,
Over a bed of emerald, silhouette
Of submarine delicacy and horror.
A hundred feet long in their world.

In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads-
Gloom of their stillness:
Logged on last year's black leaves, watching upwards.
Or hung in an amber cavern of weeds.

The following stanzas are an illustration of their predatory nature. It reveals a quiet doom and death of their prey. It is a world where one kills to survive or gets killed. Similarly, only one pike outlives the other three in Hughes’ aquarium. The killing of the other three has been vividly described.

The jaws' hooked clamp and fangs
Not to be changed at this date:
A life subdued to its instrument;
The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals.

Three we kept behind glass,
Jungled in weed: three inches, four,
And four and a half: red fry to them-
Suddenly there were two. Finally one

With a sag belly and the grin it was born with.
And indeed they spare nobody.
Two, six pounds each, over two feet long
High and dry and dead in the willow-herb-

One jammed past its gills down the other's gullet:
The outside eye stared: as a vice locks-
The same iron in this eye
Though its film shrank in death.

A fisherman goes fishing and he is struck by the sheer violence of the fish. He is also gripped by the fear of the fish’s primitivism for survival. This is an atmosphere of danger.

A pond I fished, fifty yards across,
Whose lilies and muscular tench
Had outlasted every visible stone
Of the monastery that planted them-

Stilled legendary depth:
It was as deep as England. It held
Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old
That past nightfall I dared not cast

But silently cast and fished
With the hair frozen on my head
For what might move, for what eye might move.
The still splashes on the dark pond,

The last stanza discusses Hughes understanding of letting all these creatures be in their natural habitats.

Owls hushing the floating woods
Frail on my ear against the dream
Darkness beneath night's darkness had freed,
That rose slowly toward me, watching.

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(Article by Kabita Sonowal) 

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