A Critical Commentary on October Salmon by Ted Hughes

Authors Avatar

Josh Barrow (R)

A Critical Commentary on ‘October Salmon’ by Ted Hughes

   The poem, “October Salmon” is a poem about a salmon swimming upstream to its breeding ground to lay its eggs. Hughes has cleverly titled the poem “October Salmon” as the word ‘salmon’ is singular and plural. This poem seems to be about a single fish, yet it could be referring to many others like it.

   The first few stanzas contrast the grandeur of the journey with the fertility and ugliness of death. For instance, Hughes says “After his two thousand miles, he rests”. This shows that the salmon has travelled a remarkable individual journey; however, it is made all for nothing. Hughes says that the salmon is “Four years old at most”. This shows how young the salmon was. The fact that the salmon is still a youth also makes this journey significant.

   Hughes then describes the salmon as “already [being] a veteran”. This shows again, not only how the salmon is young, but also how he is similar to a soldier at war. Hughes continues this theme in stanza eight when he talks of “badges and decorations” and also in the final few lines of the poem as he talks of the salmon as being “so loyal to his doom”. Also, in the next line it talks of the salmon “[completing]…his service”. The word service is often related to ones military career. This is another link to the war struggle. This is perhaps a human quality in the fish.

Join now!

   In the fourth stanza, Hughes talks of months “embroidered into the earth’s beauty-dress”. This shows how they are beautiful, intricate and of a high level of craftsmanship. Hughes then talks about an “autumnal pod of his flower”. The pod refers to the world’s cycle. He is showing that death will come, and then there will be new life.

   The words ripened and muddy dregs are in a particularly strange juxta position as you would usually think of the word “ripened” referring to new life or something pleasurable; however, dregs are usually found in particularly old wines and ...

This is a preview of the whole essay