Pike by Ted HughesPike, 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.
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 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: fed 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 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,
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.
Critical Analysis"Pike" by Ted Hughes is a poem that delves into the menacing and awe-inspiring nature of the predatory fish. It explores themes of power, violence, and the primal instincts inherent in the natural world. Hughes employs vivid imagery and a dark, foreboding tone to create a sense of unease and fascination.
One of the notable aspects of the poem is Hughes' ability to capture the essence of the pike, portraying it as a creature of malevolence and grandeur. The description of the pike's physical features, such as its green and gold markings and its hooked jaws with sharp fangs, evokes a sense of danger and primal strength. The pike is presented as a silent predator, lurking beneath the surface, capable of overpowering its prey with ease.
Hughes also explores the pike's dominance within its watery realm. The pike's dance on the water's surface and its stunning movement over the emerald bed highlight its own awareness of its power and beauty. The image of the pike's silhouette, resembling a submarine, adds an element of mystery and terror, underscoring its predatory nature.
The poem shifts from factual descriptions to personal anecdotes, adding depth to the exploration of the pike's nature. The story of keeping pike behind glass showcases the speaker's fascination with these creatures and the unpredictable and violent nature that lies beneath their seemingly calm exterior. The anecdote takes a dark turn when the pike turn on each other, ultimately resulting in their own demise. This serves as a reminder of the inherent brutality and survival instincts of the natural world.
The final part of the poem takes place in a pond, described as deep and timeless, inhabited by pike too immense and ancient to be disturbed. The speaker's fear is palpable as they silently cast their line, uncertain of what may move beneath the surface. The imagery of still splashes and hushing owls adds to the atmosphere of suspense and mystery.
The "Pike" is a poem that explores the primal and violent aspects of nature through the depiction of the predatory fish. Ted Hughes skillfully employs vivid imagery and a dark tone to create a sense of unease and fascination, inviting readers to contemplate the power dynamics and instinctual behaviors that exist in the natural world.
Stanza-wise summary of the poem "Pike" by Ted Hughes
Stanza 1: The poem begins with a description of the pike, a small yet perfect fish. Its green and gold markings are likened to a tiger's pattern. The pike is introduced as a malevolent creature that dances on the water's surface among flies.
Stanza 2: The pike's grandeur can leave it stunned, moving gracefully over an emerald bed. Its silhouette is described as both delicate and horrifying, resembling a submarine. In its own world, the pike can grow to be a hundred feet long.
Stanza 3: The pike is observed in ponds, particularly under lily pads warmed by the heat. There is a sense of stillness and gloom associated with their presence. They can also be seen hanging among amber weeds, creating an eerie ambiance.
Stanza 4: This stanza focuses on the pike's physical attributes, such as its hooked jaws, clamping mouth, and sharp fangs. These characteristics are considered unchangeable and essential to the pike's predatory lifestyle. The pike's gills and pectoral fins are depicted as kneading quietly.
Stanza 5: The speaker shares an anecdote about keeping three pike behind glass. The pike range in size from three to four and a half inches. The speaker feeds fry (baby fish) to the pike, but suddenly there are only two left. Eventually, only one pike remains with a sagging belly and its characteristic grin.
Stanza 6: The lone pike symbolizes its predatory nature, sparing no one. Two larger pike, each weighing six pounds and over two feet long, end up dead and stranded in willow-herb. One pike had swallowed the other, and even in death, its outside eye stares like a locked vice.
Stanza 7: The speaker reflects on a pond they used to fish in. The pond spans fifty yards and is home to lilies and strong tench fish that have outlasted the remnants of a monastery. The pond is described as having legendary depth, as deep as England, holding pike too immense and ancient to be disturbed.
Stanza 8: Despite their fear, the speaker silently casts their fishing line into the pond. The hair on their head stands frozen, and they hope to catch something or be observed by an unknown eye. The still splashes on the dark pond, the hushing owls in the woods, and the darkness beneath night's darkness create a haunting atmosphere.
Stanza 9: The speaker describes the fragile and dreamlike experience of fishing in the pond. The darkness beneath night's darkness is portrayed as a freeing force. The watcher, likely a pike, rises slowly toward the speaker, watching them intently.
Stanza 10: The owls continue to hush the woods, creating a delicate and eerie sound against the speaker's ear. The darkness beneath night's darkness has been released, and it gradually approaches the speaker, who remains in a state of alertness.
Stanza 11: The final stanza brings the poem to a close. The darkness beneath night's darkness, embodied by the rising watcher, remains fixed on the speaker, maintaining a sense of vigilance and suspense.