By Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England in 1930. His poetry discards Romantic notions about the natural world. He became British Poet Laureate in 1984 and was so until his death in 1998.
In Pike Hughes offers a far from Romantic view of nature in his depiction of this primitive and malevolent fish.
Stanzas 1 – 4 offers a mix of objective description (‘green tigering the gold’) and subjective description (‘their own grandeur).
Stanzas 5 – 7 include what appears to be personal anecdote of three pike kept at home inside an aquarium and then the grisly description of two large pike that had been locked in deadly combat to death: ‘One jammed past its gills down the other’s gullet’.
Stanzas 8 – 11 mingles personal recollection (‘A pond I fished, fifty years across’) with reflection.
In Hughes’ own words, “here is one of my prize catches. I used to be a very keen angler for pike, and I still am when I get the chance. I did most of my fishing in a quiet lake, really a large pond. This pond went down to a great depth in one place. Some times on hot days we would see something like a railway sleeper lying near the surface and there certainly were huge pike in that pond- I suppose they are even bigger by now. Recently I felt like doing some pike fishing but in circumstances where there was no chance of it and over the days, as I remembered the extreme pleasures of that sport, bits of the poem began to arrive. By looking at the place in my memory very hard, and very carefully, and by using words that grew out of the pictures and feelings, I captured not just a pike but the whole pond including the monsters I never even hooked. Here is a poem I call Pike.”