Compare and Contrast Horses by Edwin Muir and Pike by Ted Hughes

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Harry YandleEnglishMr Evans

Compare and Contrast “Horses” by Edwin Muir and “Pike” by Ted Hughes

Both “Horses” by Edwin Muir and “Pike” have a title which is a clear statement of intent on what the poem is about. However both of these poems seem to symbolise something more complex, on top of the simple animal poem which it could be interpreted as. Both Ted Hughes and Edwin Muir, ‘animal poets’ have a pastoral lust for the countryside and were writing around the time when Darwin published his “Origin of Species”; This could explain why both poets seem to portray their respective animals rather negatively and yet in conclusion, the poets seem to relish nature despite being fearful of it; “I must pine // Again for that dread country crystalline”. Edwin Muir has a paradoxical wishing for the dreadful country side as it has been taken away from him and hast lost the magic and down-to-earth innocence he had as a child. Hughes’s poetry however dwells on the innate violence in the natural world and on instinctive predatory behaviour; yet he sees to view it as appropriate. He attempts to reconcile what at first appears to be a horrible violence in nature. Perhaps human beings are no different from a creature such as the pike, driven by impulse and appetite in a universe that follows no moral law but eat or be eaten. Hughes clearly views the pike as a creature that belongs in its water world, an animal that exemplifies survival of the fittest. The fish is a part of the natural world in which it feeds. The pike shares the colours of the water, the weeds, the pond bottom, and the shadows; it is in harmony with and a necessary part of the world, but it is a type of creature that many will view as unwholesome because of its very drive to survive. Hughes clearly believes that the pike belongs where it is and has a “right” to behave as it does, no matter the violence, for its follows a naturally preordained path, instincts that drive it even when the fish is only a three inch fry: pike are “killers from the egg”.

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In both of these poems there is conflict and juxtaposition to demonstrate the battle between ‘nature and machine’ and ultimately ‘man versus nature’. Hughes describes the pike as, “of submarine delicacy and horror”, portraying his awe over the animal despite its violent tendencies. “Pike” is also a poem in which the persona's observation of the natural world provokes the realisation of how human beings have been wrongly imposing their own angle of vision and interpretation to the world of animals where nothing of 'human' perspective and understanding can apply.  Muir also compares the horses’ hooves to pistons, “Their hooves like ...

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The way these poems are linked and compared is very good and apt ideas are communicated effectively. Similarities and differences are explored throughout the poem and elements of language, form and structure are considered. There is still room to cover more points but the depth of those covered is good. 5 Stars