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Thistles -- Ted Hughes

(Poem #417) Thistles
Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men
Thistles spike the summer air
And crackle open under a blue-black pressure.

Every one a revengeful burst
Of resurrection, a grasped fistful
Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up

From the underground stain of a decayed Viking.
They are like pale hair and the gutturals of dialects.
Every one manages a plume of blood.

Then they grow grey like men.
Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear
Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.
-- Ted Hughes
One of the marks of a great poet is the ability to take a perfectly ordinary
object and cast it in an entirely new light. Hughes does this with the thistles
of today's poem - transforming them from humble weeds into a symbol of strength
and resistance. As George Macbeth says,

"[Thistles] is a short paean of praise to the unkillable virtue of heroism. By
presenting this quality through the nature of part of the vegetable, rather than
the animal, kingdom, Hughes contrives to give it an air of naturalness and
inevitability, as if heroism like the flowers in spring is something which must
go on for ever."

Of course, the fact that it mentions Icelandic frost and Viking gutturals makes
it utterly irresistible to someone like me...



Hughes' poetry is centred on the natural world, as our previous offerings

'The Thought Fox', a poem about being visited by the Muse: poem #98

'Hawk Roosting', a depiction of the ruthless egotism of a tyrant: poem #42

Martin once ran a week of poems loosely based on the theme of 'defiance';
here they are: poem #34, poem #36, poem #38.

70 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Kartik Kumar said...

Hi guys!
I kinda think this poem is about the continuity and futility of war. THe thistles may be soldiers or invaders who attack fields, take over, and then get killed. THey keep coming back however, adn the never ending battle goes on.


Rebekah said...

I think that thistles is about the Vikings attack on Scotland and how the thistles were used to drive them back. It describes the ongoing protectio that the thistles offer the Scots. This may also explain why the national emblem of Scotland is the Thistle.

Busana Muslim said...

in this case, the enchantment of the night. (This takes a page
from Jacques Derrida's postmodernist playbook.) And yet we keep trying,
as the poem so wonderfully points out.

Jasa Penerjemah Tersumpah | Jasa Penerjemah | Penerjemah Resmi said...

in this case, the enchantment of the night. (This takes a page
from Jacques Derrida's postmodernist playbook.) And yet we keep trying,
as the poem so wonderfully points out.

Anonymous said...

Ted Hughes uses personification to structure this poem

Anonymous said...

Ted Hughes describes the life cycle of the thistles and how difficult it is to get rid of this flower.Hughes creates a visual image in a reader's mind

Anonymous said...

thistles is SHIT.

Anonymous said...

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