They met in 1959, the same year Hughes wrote Pike.
Elaine Feinsteinsnew biography ofTed Hughes waspublished in 2001.
In the book Ted Hughes: The Life of a Poet,the author writes: Teds interest in pikefishing in his teens approached an obsession.He spoke of dreaming regularly about pikeand about one particular lake where he didmost of his fishing. Pike had become fixed atsome very active, deep level in my imaginativelife. It was as if pike had become symbolic ofhis inner, vital being, though he would hardlyhave been able to articulate that thought inhis teenage years.
Pike, three inches long, perfectPike 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, silhouetteOf 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 years black leaves, watching upwardOr hung in an amber cavern of weedsThe jaws hooked clamp and fangsNot 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: red fry to them-Suddenly there were two. Finally oneWith a sag belly and the grin it was born with.And indeed they spare nobody.Two, six pounds each, over two feet longHigh and dry and dead in the willow-herb-
One jammed past its gills down the others gullet:The outside eye stared: as a vice locks-The same iron in this eyeThough its film shrank in death.A pond I fished, fifty yards across,Whose lilies and muscular tenchHad outlasted every visible stoneOf the monastery that planted them-
Stilled legendary depth:It was as deep as England. It heldPike too immense to stir, so immense and oldThat past nightfall I dared not castBut silently cast and fishedWith the hair frozen on my headFor what might move, for what eye might move.The still splashes on the dark pond,
Owls hushing the floating woodsFrail on my ear against the dreamDarkness beneath nights darkness had freed,That rose slowly toward me, watching.Ted Hughes (1959)
The poem falls into three sections:first four stanzas describe the Pike and itshabitat.the next three stanzas look at Pike keptbehind glass;the final four stanzas recall a specific pondand the sinister experience of fishing there.
Pike, three inches long, perfectPike in all parts.reference to the way babies are seen asfaultless miniature version of adultstigering : an image of the destructive.green and gold may recall description of theGolden Age.Killers from the egg : they are designed to killother animals. Also, it signifies the killerinstinct of the fish.
Grandeur: They are very big animals.delicacy and horror: They are beautiful anddeadly.A hundred feet long in their world: They are thekings of the river ruling the submarine life
They are like a giant dictator ruling with a rodof iron instilling fear into other animals. Theypatroll the reeds, searching for unwary and slowsmaller fish who do not notice their comingdeath until its too late.
The jaws hooked clamp and fangsIt is about how pikes hunt.They catch their preys with their teeth.A life subdued to its instrumentThey are like a weapon of death or eating machines.
He and his friend put three pikes in a aquarium.Jungled in weed: A figurative jungle withunusual inhabitants for a domestic aquarium.One pike is three inches long; the other two arebit larger. These three pikes are oberved closely.The fish even turns to cannibalism to fill thehis stomach. One of them eats the other two.One survivor with the other two inside him.
A similar case in the wild in which he cameacross two pikes.None of them spares another’s life.Corpses of mutually destructive two pikes in thewild.Both of them are dead and dry and on thesurface of the water.
One jammed past its gills down the others gulletThis is an extremely disturbing and unsettlingimage. The great struggles of two fish locked inmortal combat. Both fighting for the same life.Inthe end one finally manages to kills the other. As thevictor attempts to swallow his victim, he realizes thathe has bitten off more than he can chew and chokes todeath deprived of oxygen by the food he fought sohard to kill.
The outside eye staredThe eye of the outside fish has an ironstare—a fish-eyed, alien, blank, dead stare.The outer fish stares from a dead eye.
The rest of the poem describes the poets attemptto catch a particularly large and old pike.The “fifty yards across” gives an objective sense ofthe size of the pond; the lilies and the tench thathave outlasted monastery stones contrasts the timedimension of the survival reach of the habitant ofnatural habitat against the medieval humaninstitution of the monastery and its stoneconstruction.
The still, deep pond is so old, legendary andprehistoric yet as for richness in history, it is “asdeep as England”.Pike too immense to stir, so immense and oldIts pike are imagined to be so big, deep and old,they disquiet the speaker, who dared not cast“past nightfall.”
But silently cast and fishedThere is nobody else near him. He is so aloneand he is so close to such huge fish, his hairfrozen as if he was in fear.For what might move, for what eye might move.He waits there as if expecting a visitation fromthe drowned or dream world of the ancientdead.
Pike’s final stanza is about the outer scene withthe imagination of the speaker as the woodsbegin to float and the sound of the owls and thesplashes on the pond grow frail on the ear incontrast to the dream freed from the darknessdeeper than night’s darkness.This deep dark dream, says the poet, “roseslowly towards me, watching.”
Pike’s final two words, “me, watching” suggestambiguously: I watched or sensed the presence ofanother consciousness as the immense, prehistoricpike rose toward me, or it may mean as the immenseold pike from legendary depths corresponds to anaspect of the mind of the speaker and to his geneticpast, the “me, watching” is the “I” or “eye” of thepoet’s identification with his fatal heritage andsurvival as predator.
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