‘Mayday On Holderness’
By Ted Hughes
In the poem, “Mayday on Holderness”, Ted Hughes analyses the relationship between man and nature. The theme of the second stanza is strongly focused on death, playing a part of the poem’s overall theme - the cycle of life. Another focus point of the stanza is the eternal being of nature and man’s need for it. Hughes picks up on the inferiority of mankind in comparison to “unkillable” nature. Hughes conveys the idea that nature is immortal and lives off our deads’ remains, we see this through the listing of “tributary graves” being part of what the North Sea “swallows”. This imagery is morbid and voices Hughes’ anti-pastoral feeling. He uses this poem to establish that nature is not clean, pure and innocent but instead has been dirtied and thrives off our dead and waste. Nature has destructive power as well as creative power. The river Humber that Hughes describes in this stanza is depicted as “a loaded single vein”. The use of this metaphor and comparison to a “vein” infer that the river is living, as veins are needed by the body to pump blood around and keep us alive. Leading us to label the river as the blood and the country as the flesh. This metaphor consequently conveying that the people of the North rely on the river, and as a whole rely on nature, to keep them alive. However, Hughes tells us that the river contains human remains; the river therefore is not only a symbol of life but also of death. This reflects the overall theme of the poem: life cycles. Hughes emphasises the density of death that is contained in the river through describing it as “loaded”. This adjective portraying that the river is so full up to the point that it is on the verge of exploding. In addition, the assonance of ‘i’ in the third line of the stanza mimics the flowing movement of the river Humber as it travels out of Hull to join the North Sea. This is also emphasised in many lines of the stanza through sibilance. Notably,...
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