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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Discuss the major themes and subject matter of Ted Hughes poetry
Ted Hughes is a very important modern British poet. As a poet, he commands full
individual technical superiority over most of his contemporaries. He understands
modern sensibility and contemporary issues; but writes in his own perspective. He
creates before us worlds which delight and instruct us and elevate us emotionally,
intellectually and esthetically. Unlike some modern poets so believe that a poem should
not mean but be, Ted Hughes is profoundly concerned with the subject matter of his
The major theme of his poetry is of course man, that is, the question of human
existence, mans relation with the universe, with the natural world and with his own
inner self. He is awfully serious about this last aspect of the problem of being, namely,
the problem of human consciousness. His subjects range from animals, landscapes,
war; the problem posed by the inner world of modern man, to the philosophical and
metaphysical queries about the status of man in this universe. His moods and methods
of presentation reveal a similar variety. Ted Hughes says about his vigor and vitality
(usually associated with violence):

Any form of violenceany form of vehement activity-invokes the
bigger energy. To accept the energy, and find method of turning it to good.
The old method is the only one. My poems are not about violence but
vitality. Animals are not violent; they are so much more completely
controlled than me

The main theme in his poetry is this energy which has to be turned into a positive force.
Violence is misunderstood in his poetry. Most of Hughess poetry can be said to be an
attempt to negotiate with these energies as we see his argument in the case of Hawk.
This poem is often criticized on the ground that the hawk is a mouthpiece of fascism.
What is forgotten, however, is Hughess assertion that the Hawk symbolizes Nature
thinking. Secondly, the point of view in this poem is the hawks; that is to say, the hawk
is as mortal and part of creation as any other creature, violent or timid. Right from his
childhood, Ted Hughes has been interested in animals. When his parents lived in the
Calder valley, Ted Hughes had a chance to see the world of the animals from close
quarters. Hughes learnt the first lesson that animals were by and large victims. The wild
world of the animals was at the mercy of the ordered human world. Yet, as Hughes
realized and emphasized in his poetry, the human world was fascinated by the world of
the animals because it had pushed into the unconscious what the animal world still
possessed: vat, untapped energies. As depicted in That Morning:

Two gold bears came down and swam like men
Eating pierced salmon off their talons

Here, the untamed natural impulses have been beautifully externalized as the two bears
representing the two visitors to the lake. He writes violence chiefly of savage animals,
but violence also in human nature. Indeed, violence is one of the dominant themes in
Hughess poetry; and for this reason he has often been regarded as a poet of violence.
But these poems of violence by Hughes are certainly genuine poetry; and we certainly
enjoy reading them. And it is not only the sadistic persons among us who would
appreciate these poems. Even the normal reader can find a certain degree of pleasure in
them, especially because they are perfectly realistic, and very vivid, in their depiction of
brutality and cruelty. But not violence alone but treats nature in a unique way as in:

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and
the clank of a bucket

Nature is one of the most prevalent scenes in his poetry. In a way Hughess poetry
continues the tradition of nature poetry. But unlike Wordsworth who found Nature a
nurse, guide and guardian, and Tennyson who found Nature red in tooth and Claw
Hughes tries to take both the Wordsworthian and Tennyson approaches to Nature. In
poems like Full Moon and Little Frieda Hughes can describe Nature to continue the
Wordsworthian tradition, but in poems like Hawk Roosting the That Morning
Hughes recognizes the powerful, vital, violent and predacious Nature without
commenting on it. It doesnt mean that he copies their style. One of the causes
underlying Hughess greatness as a modern poet is his maturity and originality of style.
Hughes has experimented with several different styles, ranging from the Wordsworthian
and their metaphysical to that of the modern East European poets. In each case, he has
made the style his own as in Thought-Fox.

The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed

He can convey his meaning and tone through the use of diction. As in the above extract,
as soon as the thought-fox springs into action, the vowels are short: brilliantly,
concentratedly. The action reaches its climax in the last line which is virtually
monosyllabic: And the page isprinted. The poem thus shows a fine blending of vowels
and consonants so as to provide a fusion of sense and sound. At other times, he uses
animals as symbols. In each case, there is a remarkable mastery over the medium,
whether it is to depict a scene, portray an animal, tell a story, or present a one-sided
vision as that of Hawk. Even the theme of violence is handled with the lexical entities.
Ted Hughes is primarily concerned with material reality not simply the reality of a
superficial urbanity but the one that governs larger questions of life and death, Nature
and the animal world, and above all, the inner world of man as in Full Moon and Little

A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk

Instead of shutting his eyes to the metaphysical and spiritual questions about life,
Hughes tries to go to their bottom. He brings round that blood can be spilled as
mercilessly as milk and water. The reality is depicted in the boulders troubles of life.
Like Blake he shows a fourfold vision which progresses from knowledge of the surfaces
seen from a singular and therefore one-sided perspectives to the mature philosophic
perspective which goes to the heart of the matter. He finds aclose kinship between the
ambivalent but powerful forces within man and the inscrutable and terrible working of
the world of Nature. Equally remarkable is the fact that Hughes has treated of many
modern concerns, like war and violence, with an awareness which is lacking in many of
his contemporary poets. His poetry evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of
experience in a specific emotional response through language that he chooses and
arranges for its meaning, sound, rhythm and a purpose.

Thursday, December 16, 2010
Discuss Hughes use of Dreams and occult Symbolism
Ted Hughes is a highly symbolic and mythical poet who dreams and animal imagery
have been traced with symbolic notes. Almost each and every thing mentioned in Teds
poetry is symbolic. A symbol is an object which stands for something else as Dove
symbolizes Peace. Similarly, Blakes tiger symbolizes creative energy; Shelleys wind
symbolizes inspiration; Ted Hughess Hawk symbolizes terrible destructiveness at the
heart of nature. There is a difference between an image and symbol, the former evokes a
picture and the latter has wide range of connotations. Hughes poetry permeates with
animal imagery which serves as a symbolic purpose. Teds poem Thought-Fox is the
best example of symbol.

I imagine the midnight moments forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clocks loneliness

The Thought-Fox describes, in an indirect or oblique manner, the process by which a
poem gets written. What a poet needs to write a poem is inspiration. A poet waits for the
onrush of an idea through his brain. And, of course, he also needs solitude (loneliness)
and silence around him. Solitude and silence are, however, only contributory
circumstances. They constitute a favourable environment, while the poem itself comes
out of the poets head which has been invaded, as it were, by an idea or thought. The
idea or thought takes shape in his head like a fox entering a dark forest and then coming
out of it suddenly. The fox embodies the thought which a poet expresses in his poem.
The fox here serves as a symbol. Hughess sensibility is pagan in the original sense; and
his poetry is as suggestive of the lair as it is of the library. He feels greatly attracted by
ancient mythologies, Oriental as well as Western, though he makes use of those ancient
myths for his own purpose. He certainly does not believe literally in the ancient myths,
but he finds a great value in them and, throughout his poetry, tries to show his readers
where the value of these ancient myths lies.

As if we flew slowly, their formations
Lifting us toward some dazzle of blessing

As a poet, Hughes believes that he must make secret flights to go back in time in order
to be able to probe his own mind through his knowledge of the past consciousness of the
human race. He believes that the principal method of making such secretflights is
through dreams which provide an insight into the unconscious mind and which have a
collective meaning when they have mythical contents. Hughes invests his poem with a
dream-like quality because dreams reveal the unconscious mind just as the shamanistic
procedures do that. The Thought-Fox is a dream-like poem, a reverie on a cold winters
night. The same is the case with the poem called That Morning. What is even more
remarkable is his ability to adjust his style to the purpose. Sometimes, as in The
Thought-Fox he can convey his meaning and tone through the use of diction. At other
times, he uses animals as symbols; but his symbols are occult and perceived only
through senses. This occult symbolism is pronounced in the following lines:

The subjects he prefers to write on are, however, several: man in relation to the animal
world, man and nature, war and death. Hughess animal poems are among the best in
his work, and among the finest in the whole range of English poetry. The imagery in
these poems has its own appeal. The imagery in these poems is at once graphic and
realistic; and the language which Hughes has employed in describing the
variousanimals shows a striking originality and felicity. The emphasis in this imagery is
on the vitality or energy of the animals concerned and also on the violence, the
fierceness, and the cruelty of most of those animals. The Thought-Fox is also partly an
animal poem, in which the poets inspiration is compared to a fox making a sudden and
silent entry into his head. In this case, instinct replaces intellect. In the poem Chaucer
Ted says:

You declaimed Chaucer
To a field of cows

Where the image of cow symbolizes the so-called critics and those scholastic critics
whose only purpose is to find faults with or find pleasurism in literature. The cows have
similar resemblance to the Hawk. In the poem Hawk Roosting the poet does not praise
the hawk so much as he denigrates man by comparison. The hawk is here seen as vastly
superior to man who is unable to accept Nature for what it is and, instead, tries to tame
it by giving it philosophical names. Elsewhere, cows are thesymbol of nature and the
purity one may wish to enjoy:

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their
warm wreaths of breath

Thus, he uses images, metaphors and realistic imagery for a symbolic purpose; but
purpose seems to be more and more occult. Alliteration and syntax structure are one of
the devices for Ted to achieve the purpose. The paradoxical situations are in the hawk
are also vividly presented. Hughess technique of writing poems includes one very
striking and highly commendable quality which is to be found in almost every poem that
he wrote. This quality is the structural unity of his poems. Almost every poem by him is
well-knit, compact, and self-sufficient as the poems discussed above. Hughes has the
ability to capture the reality of things in words; and he has displayed this ability in his
poem The Though-Fox and Full Moon and Little Frieda.

Conclusively, it is established that Ted Hughes is a highly symbolic poet who uses an
individual style and technique. Although, hissymbols are occult, yet they are unique and
cinematic. Especially, the symbolic use of Hawk and that of Fox gets so much stamped
on the mind of the reader that it is difficult to forget it. No wonder that his poetry, like
the poetry of every modern poet, is a tough nut to crack, because the modern poet tends
to be more subtle and more elusive in the expression of his ideas than the traditional
poet (like Thomas Hardy). But otherwise too, poets are the seers, sages, philosophers,
and Magi of the world, and their techniques of expression, like their modes of thought,
are often complex, involved, intricate, and sometimes even baffling and bewildering. In
any case, Hughess work has considerably enriched English poetry and enlarged its
scope and its bounds.

Thursday, December 16, 2010
Ted Hughes' Full Moon and Little Frieda: Critique and Analysis
This is rightly one of Hughess most popular poems and he has called it a favorite one of
his poetry. The beauty and aptness of its movement could never have been predicted
from most of the poems in The Hawk in the Raineven The Thought-Fox is mechanical
in comparison. It is rare to find such freedom of line accompanied by such
appropriateness and inevitability, so that it seems to have a form as tight as a sonnet
the whole evening in one long line, the listening child who is the focus of it in a
balancing short one; the mirror poised between the water of which it is composed and
the star that it reflects; the herd of cows in a long, lazy line that nevertheless doesnt fall
The humor that belongs to the wonder is there throughout: in tempt; in the cows being
communally the river and individually the boulders that impede its progress; and above
all in the final two lines, where something of the artists wonder at the life of his work,
the moons ancient divinity, the childs suddenness and wholeness of attention, combine
in a delicacy of suggestion that really does defy analysis. But what the poems subtext
reveals is the innocence of the Frieda contrasted with the experience of her father as the
very first lines form the keynote:

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket -
And you listening.
A spiders web, tense for the dews touch

The evening has shrunk not only because the light is failing but also because, as it does
so, time seems to slow down, as it approaches that crucial moment of nightfall, dewfall,
the first tremor of the first star. And the poet is aware that his daughter is the hand;
pointing to that moment because she is utterly open, without defenses, without
distracting consciousness of past and future, to the scene, her fine web of senses
perfectly tuned to it, tense as a spiders web, brimming as a lifted pail. The cows, too, are
part of the scene, the condensation from their warm wreaths of breath falling like dew
on the hedges, their udders brimming like the pail of water, their blood like a river
flowing darkly through, bringing fertility, their bony haunches like boulders ballasting
the moment, balancing its fragility and delicacy with permanence and solidity. Perhaps
it needs the child to register and hold all this because the poet cannot open himself,
cannot jettison his knowledge of past and future, his knowledge that blood can be spilled
as easily as milk and run in rivers outside the body, that boulders in a river are
dangerous, that darkness is dangerous, that the moon is a fickle murderous goddess.
The poem as we have it holds all this at bay, submerges all darker knowledge which
might disturb the perfect harmony of man and nature the child experiences.

Moon! you cry suddenly, Moon! Moon!
The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
That points at him amazed

The persona of Full Moon and Little Frieda views the child as a mirror, a brimming
pail of offering, who gazes at the moon, the largest reflecting object in the cosmos
available to the naked eye. The resulting astonishment at the recognition of an identity
of mirroring artworks is very striking and describes another experience of the
undifferentiated original essence of the cosmos, at times called by Buddhist poets the
full moon of suchness. When little Frieda speaks the word moon, one of the first
words she ever articulated as a toddler, subject and object, self and environment merge
in ecstatic recognition of self-in-other, in the clarity of spotless, mutually reflecting
mirrors. The cows that loop the hedges with their warm wreaths of breath earlier in
the poem convey an almost nativity-scene sense of the purity and supportiveness of a
benign nature in attendance. The cows, sacred in Oriental symbology as representations
of the plenitude of creation, are an apt background for Friedas offering of self as a
brimming pail of youthful purity to an equally pure moonlight. In Full Moon and Little
Frieda, for the first time, there is a moment of harmony.

The poem testifies in its delicacy of utterance, its utterly fresh sense of wonder, to the
possibility of knowing the redeemed life of joy in normal daily experience, when, with
an unspectacular access of grace, the elements of a scene - human, animal, domestic,
rural, cosmic - suddenly cohere to express a plenitude, all the malicious negatives
miraculously melted away. There is no self-consciousness to close her, she points at the
moon with an amazement the moon can only reciprocate, like an artist whose work has
come to life or perfectly reflects the life of its creator who has created innocent and
experience at the same time. But the conflict goes hand in hand where The river of
blood, can actually be a river, but he's personifying this river into the lives of himself and
Frieda , and the dark past they've since had to overcome (Sylvia's suicide) . So he's
saying how dangerous it is, with boulders and blood. But then he says it's balancing
unspilled milk, saying that for this moment, this peaceful moment in the country, life is
balanced, it's calm. Their bond (which must be strong after withstanding everything the
two have gone through) is so great, and the moment that they're in is so beautiful, that
even the moon stood back in awe. The poem is really picturesque and imagist along with
the theme of masculinity:

A pail lifted, still and brimmingmirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor

The theme of masculinity versus femininity is continued with some of the imagery in
Full Moon and Little Frieda. For example, the pail full of water is described as a
"mirror", an object which usually has feminine connotations. The full phrase has
possible religious implications -"mirror/ To tempt a first star to tremor." The specific
use of the word "tempt" could suggest the temptation of Eve in The Bible. With the
religious and nature imagery in both poems, this is not surprising. As Eve arguably
caused the rift between mankind and nature, feminists would undoubtedly argue that
Hughes is trying to blame women for this rift. However, I believe that Hughes is
presenting us with the repair of the relationship between mankind and nature.

I think this is a crucial poem in the Hughes canon one of his most arresting, strange,
and moving. Central to Hughes poetic vision is the extraordinary strangeness,
otherness, of nature, and the miracle of our complex response to it. And this poem
presents that most directly. This is a tremendous moment, because Little Frieda is either
responding to the moon or to the cows, and theres no way of telling which. Shes just
giving a response so human, so innocent, so touching, that it transforms everything,
tying together the earth and the heavens, instinctively, naturally and miraculously.
Friedas cry transforms and fulfils the whole scene. It is a miracle, a true miracle, by
which humanity understands, recognizes and blesses this strange nature which is
otherwise so alien.

Thursday, December 16, 2010
Thought-Fox is a completely realized and artistically satisfying poem. Discuss!
The Thought-Fox has often been acknowledged as one of the most completely realized
and artistically satisfying of the poems in Ted Hughess first collection, The Hawk in the
Rain. I will become saying that The thought-fox is a poem about writing a poem. Its
external action takes place in a room late at night where the poet is sitting alone at his

Outside the night is starless, silent, and totally black. But the poet senses a presence
which disturbs him. In the first two paragraphs we can observe how the author is
describing the environment, a forest in the midnight; he also has in front of him a blank
page where his fingers move, and as he says through the window I see no star. But
inside that completely darkness we can find the loneliness.

Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness

The disturbance is not in the external darkness of the night, for the night is itself a
metaphor for the deeper and more intimate darkness of the poets imagination in whose
depths an idea is mysteriously stirring. At first the idea has no clear outlines; it is not
seen but felt frail and intensely vulnerable. The poets task is to coax it out of
formlessness and into fuller consciousness by the sensitivity of his language. The remote
stirrings of the poem are compared to the stirrings of an animal a fox, whose body is
invisible, but which feels its way forward nervously through the dark undergrowth: But
in the middle of that darkness the author finds something that corrupts his loneliness, it
is a fox:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A foxs nose touches twig, leaf;

The idea of the delicate dark snow evokes the physical reality of the foxs nose which is
itself cold, dark and damp, twitching moistly and gently against twig and leaf. In this
way the first feature of the fox is mysteriously defined and its wet black nose is
nervously alive in the darkness. Gradually the foxs eyes appear out of the same
formlessness, leading the shadowy movement of its body as it comes closer as the poet
says, Two eyes serve a movement, that now/ And again now, and now, and now. The
tracks which the fox leaves in the snow are themselves duplicated by the sounds and
rhythm of the line Sets neat prints into the snow. The first three short words of this line
are internal half-rhymes, and these words press down gently but distinctly into the soft
open vowel of snow. The foxs body remains indistinct, a silhouette against the snow.
But the phrase lame shadow itself evokes a more precise image of the fox, as it freezes
alertly in its tracks, holding one front-paw in mid-air, and then moves off again like a
limping animal. At the end of the stanza the words bold to come are left suspended as
though the fox is pausing at the outer edge of some trees. The gap between the stanzas is
itself the clearing which the fox, after hesitating warily, suddenly shoots across: Of a
body that is bold to come / Across clearings. The fox has scented safety. It has come
suddenly closer, bearing down upon the poet (and upon the reader). In this part of the
poem we can see what color its eyes are:
an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business. ..

It is so close now that its two eyes have merged into a single green glare which grows
wider and wider as the fox comes nearer, its eyes heading directly towards ours: Till,
with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox / It enters the dark hole of the head. If we are
following the full poem the visual logic of the poem makes us to imagine the fox
actually jumping through the eyes of the poet with whom us (the readers of the poem)
is inevitably drawn into identification. That means that the fox enters the lair of the
head as it would enter its own lair, bringing with it the hot, sensual, animal reek of its
body and all the excitement and power of the achieved vision. The fox is no longer a
formless stirring somewhere in the dark depths of the bodily imagination; it has been
coaxed out of the darkness and into full consciousness. And all this has been done
purely by the imagination. For in reality there is no fox at all, and outside, in the
external darkness, nothing has changed: The window is starless still; the clock ticks, /
The page is printed.

"The Thought-Fox" is a poem about writing a poem and not at all about an animal. The
fox in the poem is the poetic energy or inspiration that comes out of darkness (the
unconscious) and leaves its footprints on snow, the blank white page. But the annual
image in the title as well as the movement of the symbolic animal in the poem is not only
appropriate in its own context but also consistent with Ted Hughes concept of poetic
composition which he compared with the capturing of animals. The Thought-Fox
describes the process by which a poem gets written. What a poet needs to write a poem
is inspiration. A poet waits for the onrush of an idea through his brain. And, of course,
he also needs solitude (loneliness) and silence around him. Solitude and silence are,
however, only contributory circumstances. They constitute a favourableenvironment ,
while the poem itself comes out of the poets head which has been invaded, as it were, by
an idea or thought. The idea or thought takes shape in his head like a fox entering a dark
forest and then coming out of it suddenly. That is why the phrase The Thought-Fox
has been used as a title for this poem. The fox symbolizes the thought. The secret, says
Hughes, is to "imagine what you are writing about. See it and live it. ... Just look at it,
touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn your self into it. When you do this, the words look after
themselves, like magic." This is borne out by the present poem in which a kind of drama
goes on between the "I" that imagines and the "I" that perceives.

Finally I have to say that Hughess vision has opened in me like a window through which
I could know that poetry is always there but we do not know how many things a poem
can give to us every time that we read it. Because it depends on the moment we read a
poem, where we read a poem, or even if we know the environmental in which a poem
was written we can improve ourselves by different ways. But Hughes is always talking of
modern civilization as consisting in mental disintegration. And for that reason I want
to show something that Ted Hughes has written, that long after I am gone, as long as a
copy of the poem exists, every time anyone reads it the fox will get up somewhere out of
the darkness and come walking towards them. The presence that moves in deep
darkness is like a fox touching the twigs and leaves with its nose. The blank page will
receive the footprints of the thought-fox in the form of a poem and the page will always