(Poem #98) The Thought Fox
I imagine this midnight moment's forest: Something else is alive Besides the clock's loneliness And this blank page where my fingers move. Through the window I see no star: Something more near Though deeper within darkness Is entering the loneliness: Cold, delicately as the dark snow, A fox's nose touches twig, leaf; Two eyes serve a movement, that now And again now, and now, and now Sets neat prints into the snow Between trees, and warily a lame Shadow lags by stump and in hollow Of a body that is bold to come Across clearings, an eye, A widening deepening greenness, Brilliantly, concentratedly, Coming about its own business Till, with sudden sharp hot stink of fox It enters the dark hole of the head. The window is starless still; the clock ticks, The page is printed.
Somehow, the adjective that comes to mind most often when I read Ted Hughes is 'clean' - I think of his poetry as being very concise, very elegantly crafted, incisive, as glittering and sharp and dangerous as a scalpel... there's a latent violence about his work that, barely restrained, imbues the whole with a raw, primal power. And yet... poems like 'Hawk Roosting' (Minstrels, Poem #42) may be as harsh as the surgeon's knife, but antiseptic they never are. There's a colour and passion that fire Hughes' images; his world of 'Nature, red in tooth and claw' is at once both more earthy and more 'real' than those of the Movement poets who were his contemporaries; their works seem pallid and strained in comparison. thomas. "'The Thought Fox' is a poem about composing poetry, or rather, about being visited by the muse. Appropriately enough, in Hughes' case, the muse is an animal, a fox. Hughes has said that this was the first animal poem he wrote." -- George Macbeth Ted Hughes died last year, at the age of 68. Some extracts from his obituary in the Times: "It has been said that all great works of literature either found a new style or dissolve an old one; that they are, in other words, special cases. The poetry of Ted Hughes is such a special case; its forcefulness and animal vitality injected new life into English poetry. He will be remembered most particularly for the strength of his early work, and for his final, remarkable two books. The appointment of Hughes as Poet Laureate in succession to John Betjeman in 1984 signalled not just a new generation, but a change of outlook. A post that had for more than a century been filled by Establishment men mostly with mellow voices - Betjeman, Day-Lewis, Masefield, Bridges, the lamentable Alfred Austin, Tennyson - was suddenly occupied by one of the fiercest, most critical and uncompromising of writers, who seemed most unlikely to be able to provide verses for state occasions. Laureate poems were never his forte, but it was a chore which he dutifully carried out. He much preferred to send private poems, not for publication, to the Queen Mother, with whom he often stayed in Scotland and shared a passion for fishing, and also to other members of the Royal Family. This reticence was typical of Hughes, always preferring to perform in a private and a modest manner. "The whisper is always louder than the shout," he would tell friends when asked if he would like to comment on his work. He preferred to let it stand on its own. Yet Hughes was perhaps the most widely read serious poet of his time. His early work - The Hawk in the Rain, Lupercal, Crow - was immediately acclaimed, as were two books in the late 1990s, a free adaptation of Ovid, and his verse memoir of his first wife, Sylvia Plath, Birthday Letters. He was always a prodigious poet, as well as producing children's books (including The Iron Man, now recognised as a classic), anthologies and criticism. Both his great poetic triumphs and his failures stemmed from uncompromising self-reliance. His poem The Thought Fox contained what became one of Hughes's most famous images, an emblem of the ferocity of his own poetry: an idea entering the head with the violence of an animal, the "sudden sharp hot stink of fox". These rapturous encounters with nature's claws and teeth showed Hughes to be the finest English nature poet of his generation. " You can read the complete obit at [broken link] http://www.sunday-times.co.uk:80/news/pages/tim/98/10/30/timobiobi02002.html?1045266 For a more detailed biography, visit [broken link] http://www.uni-leipzig.de/~angl/hughes/biobiblio.htm