A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket -
And you listening. A spider's web, tense for the dew's touch. A pail lifted, still and brimming - mirror To tempt a first star to a tremor. Cows are going home in the lane there, lopping the hedges with their warm wreaths of breath - A dark river of blood, many boulders, Balancing unspilled milk. 'Moon!' you cry suddenly, 'Moon! Moon!'
The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work That points at him amazed
His first wife, Sylvia Plath, committed suicide due to depression.
His son, Nicolas Hughes, also commited suicide after battling depression.
Ted Hughes himself died from colon cancer.
Subject Matter & Tone Subject Matter: Little Frieda is seeing the full moon for the first time. Tone: omnious, mysterious and tense. Throughout the poem, a sense of suspense is created.
Stanza One A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket -
'A cool small evening' has positive connotations, and it 'shrunk'. It is interesting because an already small evening has shrunk, which suggests that there are less and less positive occurances, since the night is coming.It also reduces sensory images and seems to create a small circle of concentration for the reader.
Dogs usually bark when something bad is approaching, so it suggests that something negative is going to happen
"the clank of a bucket" emphasizes how quiet the surroundings are.
Stanza Two And you listening. A spider's web, tense for the dew's touch. A pail lifted, still and brimming - mirror To tempt a first star to a tremor
"And you listening" seems to get everyones attention because it's in second person.
"tense for the dew's touch" shows how everything is still and waiting for something to happen. There is a moment of suspense, because even inanimate objects can sense something happening.
To tempt a first star to a tremor " shows how the stars appear to be vibrating on the surface of the water in the pail. This creates a mysterious yet calm atmosphere.
Stanza Three Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm wreaths of breath - A dark river of blood, many boulders, Balancing unspilled milk.
The cows suggest a rural setting.
"A dark river of blood" is associated with death. The fact that there are "many boulders" suggest that it is difficult path for the cows to go home. It can also represent the rough times Hughes experienced before.
On the other hand, "unspilled milk" emphasizes the tranquility of the atmosphere. The alliteration and soft pronunciation in "warm wreaths of breath" also suggest calm surroundings.
Stanza Four 'Moon!' you cry suddenly, 'Moon! Moon!'
This is when little Frieda (Ted Hughes' daughter) sees the moon for the first time. By repeating 'Moon!' three times she is emphasizing her excitement.
When you say 'Full Moon' it is usually related to werewolves and werewolves are associated with lunatics. This shows how crazy Frieda's reaction is to the moon.
This also emphasizes Frieda's innocence, because she is so excited to see the moon.
Stanza Five The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
Ted Hughes created a distinct personality for the moon as it "stepped back like an artist". It makes the moon seem more compelling to the readers.
The moon connotes purity, so the fact that it has stepped back suggests that Frieda's purity has gone.
This shows that Frieda is the 'work' that is pointing back at the moon.
This might suggest that Frieda is the 'work' of the moon - i.e. a werewolf/lunatic.
Abstract Interpretation The subject matter is little Frieda seeing the full moon for the first time, however there is another interpretation of this poem. This poem may represent Frieda's growth from a young child to a woman.
"The clank of a bucket" shows that the bucket is empty, while "A pail lifted, still and brimming" shows that the it is filled with water. This can symbolize the growth of Frieda.
"A spider's web, tense for the dew's touch" could mean that everyone around Frieda are all expecting this change, and the dew's touch symbolizes maturity.
"Cows", "blood" and "milk" are all symbols for women and mothers. This could represent the death of Frieda's mother.
As the cows are going home, there are "many boulders", which shows the the difficulties that Frieda has gone through as she matured into a woman.
Frieda cries out suddenly "Moon!". The moon is often associated with werewolves and lunatics, but in this case it might represent a teenager, but nobody really understands teenagers and many consider them to be weird. This suggests the sudden change Frieda went through from being an innocent girl to a rebellious teenager.
"The moon has stepped back" can suggest that Frieda's innocence is leaving her, as the moon connotes purity.
On the other hand, the moon can also represent Ted Hughes himself as it "stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work". It is like a parent who has watched his or her daughter grow into womanhood. It also shows that Ted Hughes is very fond of Frieda.