THEMES IN TED HUGHES POETRY:-
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 poetry. The major theme of his poetry as well as short stories and plays is of course man, that is, the question of human existence, man’s 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. As Terry Gifford and Neil Roberts have observed, Ted Hughes’s “endeavour is to gain access to, and give expression to, a level of being at which the continuity between the processes of nature experienced within and observed without is unimpeded by consciousness. Here lies the source of all energy, creativity and delight. Individual consciousness, insisting all the time on it separateness, is the cause of painful and destructive alienation from this inner life—the obscure unhappiness of many of the human protagonists of Hughes’s poems and stories. But consciousness is inescapable, and poems are ultimately acts of consciousness. The subterranean world that Hughes’s poems explore can never be completely projected into language, nor can anyone permanently live in it.” Poetry for Hughes has been a life-long vocation and commitment, as he himself has written, “You choose a subject because it serves, because you need it. We go on writing poems because one poem never gets the whole account right. There is always something missed. At the end of the ritual up comes a goblin.” That goblin is a new perspective to look at the same subject afresh. The subjects he prefers to write on are, however, several: man in relation to the animal world, man and nature, war and death. Let us now explore Hughes’s treatment of these subjects in some detail. Animals in Ted Hughes’s Poetry
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. As he later recalled, he had a brother whose “one interest in life was creeping about on the hillside with a rifle. He took me along as a retriever and I had to scramble into all kinds of places collecting animals: An animal I never succeeded in keeping alive is the fox. I was always frustrated, twice by a farmer who killed cubs I had caught before I could not get to them, and once by a poultry keeper who freed my cub while his dog waited. Here, 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. It was this close intimacy with the interest in animals that informed Hughes’s poetry collected in The Hawk in the Rain and Lupercal. The title poem of the first collection itself announces the major themes: man in relation to the animals, the earth, the weather, time, and mortality. In the first poem, as Keith Sagar comments on it, “The ‘eye of the hawk hangs as still as a polestar, at the eye of the storm the still centre round which all that violence threatens. The poet’s eyes are his most vulnerable part, tumbed by wind nd rain, but the hawk’s seems as impervious as immortal diamond.” Symbolically, “the eye is the ‘I’, the window of the soul, the outward expression of the hawk’s innermost being, its unquestionable identity, its concentrated, inflexible being.” Other animal poems establish a similar connection between man and animals. Like “The Hawk in the Rain,” “The Horses” too is concerned with the...
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