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 pistons in an ancient mill”, which symbolises the repetitive and monotonous task which the horses are doing and the rhyme, constant rhythm and regular line length also symbolise this. When you look at pistons all that they do is go up and down very fast but never look like they are moving forward just up and down just like the horses he saw.
In both these poems the poem undergoes a change half-way through and seems to address or symbolise something different. In “Horses” in the sixth stanza, the horses undergo metamorphosis into a demonic creature and Muir uses furnace and burning imagery to create this, “[the] mysterious fire that lit their smouldering bodies in the mire”. This also portrays the understandable childhood fear of these animals as the horses are huge. In the last stanzas of “Pike”, Hughes moves from reality and biological description to folklore. He uses mythical and primitive language and at the end Hughes is trying to bring up something huge from the “dark pond”. Although we not know what this is, I think that it represents writing a poem (like the Thought Fox) as Hughes believed that poetry came from deep within and fishing is deeply symbolic of trying to bring something up from deep down, “It was as deep as England”.
“Horses” and “Pike” are both childhood memories. Pike is narrated from an adult’s perspective over a childhood memory but in Edwin Muir’s “Horses” begins with the poet transcending reality and reminiscing one of his memories, as if he were a child. The interesting part is that it deals with many conflicts and issues which are prevalent even today. It is thus a bridge between the past and present and which is mimetic to how Muir describes himself as a “man lost in time”. They later become the poets’ relationships with nature which shows that they were clearly shaped by nature.
In “Horses”, Muir uses repetition of adjectives in his poems as it helps to mimic the childlike description of the horses and also allows for juxtaposition of phrases. However in “Pike”, the conventional tone of “pike” serves as an effective device for Hughes to heighten the tension and impact of the poem’s violence. Hughes choice of language is simple: with few polysyllabic words; his phrases are stark, almost bare –without the frills that people seem to need in order to escape from the brutal realities of living. Such simplicity allows Hughes to make “Pike” a highly visual poem. His descriptions evoke sharp images for the reader in which the fish becomes tangible. One can see the water, see the weeds, and sense the presence of the pikes as it blends in, waiting to lunge at its unsuspecting quarry. The descriptions are rhythmic, lulling the reader and allowing the final stanzas to take on additional sinister import.
These poems, although completely different in terms of content, seem to resonate well together as they both portray a lust for the countryside and more simply, nature, despite the violent and predatory instincts that Evolution says they have. The poems both play with childhood fears and reality in their poems and for that reason, I believe that they are very similar.
Compare and Contrast “Horses” by Edwin Muir and “Pike” by Ted Hughes 30/05/2012
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
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