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Ted Hughes used animals in his poems not for the sake of animals but for human beings'

Ted Hughes had so been obsessed with animals that people humorously called him a "Zoo Laureate". Indeed many of his famous poems are based on animals. "The Jaguar", "Pike", "The Horses"," Bull Moses", "An Otter", "Thrushes" and "Crow" are a few of many of his poems dealing with animals. However, though his primary subjects are animals, his main focus is on man. He believed that the primitive energy in man was on the verge of extinction because of the continuous domination of rational consciousness. The poem, "Pike" is an excellent example of Hughes' gift for imagining and describing nature at her most violent and predatory shape. It seeks the root of primitive energy, which is violent, irrational and deadly. Hughes in this poem recognizes the primordial violent energy that defies and threatens all kinds of subordination to rational consciousness. Here lies human interest in the poem. So, "Pike" is a fine poem representing Hughes' pre-occupation with animals, his recognition of the violent primitive energy and his art of relating an animal with the primordial natural force in man.

The poet suggests the violent and deadly nature of the pike in the beginning of the poem. It opens with an objective detail of the fish:

Pike, three inches long, perfect, Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold. Killers from the egg: The malevolent aged grin. They dance...

The words "tigering", "Killers" "malevolent" and "grin" imply that the dance is a macabre celebration of timeless instinctive destructiveness. The first four stanzas present the primitive horror in the subject-creature, the pike, through a series of evocative noun phrases. The speaker appears in the fifth stanza and reinforces the violence and horror in the pike through three brief anecdotes.

The first reference is to three pikes kept in an aquarium. The strongest of them ate up the other two. The second reference is to "Two, six pounds each", which killed each other in the willow-herb. The third is a reference to the pikes of giant size living in an old pond. These pikes are the embodiment of the mysterious foreboding inherent in nature. The first person speaker's experiences from these three incidents not only reaffirm the horror of the killer-fish but also gradually intensify the violence and mystery in the heart of man and nature.

So, "Pike" has very powerful human resonance. In the last four stanzas, the speaker recognises the inexplicable impending horror. He becomes aware that the primitive violence is an inseparable part of human existence. This violence is the evil "otherness", the animality in man. The poem suggests that in our cosy corner of civilisation, with its quiet, domestic surface, there survive primitive forces, the merciless cannibalism.


Unknown said...

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