Ted Hughes’ “The Thought Fox”

Ted Hughes said”that long after I am gone, as long as a copy of the poem exists, every time anyone reads it the fox will get up somewhere out of the darkness and come walking towards them.The poem appeared in Ted Hughes’s first collection, The Hawk in the Rain.

It is the most frequently anthologised of Hughes’ poems.

The midnight is chosen at the time as it is without any addition to the day, as blank as the poet’s mind itself. The time is unmarked and yet mature. The clock is alone as it is devoid of minutes and seconds, it being midnight. Further, the clock is alive as it is lonely. And there is something else that accompanies the loneliness of the clock-that is the poet’s creative conciousness. The metaphor for the poet’s fresh poetic perception is the “blank paper” where his fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:

Something more near

Though deeper within darkness

Is entering the loneliness.

Note that the poet cannot observe any star but can comprehend something that holds more promise for him. He cannot apprehend it through the senses but experience it through instinct..The image is first formless and can only be a professed feeling formless as the poetic vision of the poet itself, until it assumes concreteshape. It does not enter in a strained and enforced manner but as delicately as snow falls in. The fox’s nose touches deftly against the twig, leaf. The nose feels its way through the darkness. At once the fox transforms itself to the concrete and persistent image of the poet’s creative working progress. By utilizing an animal as the reflection for his thought process ,one wonders whether Ted Hughes writes primarily through instinct.

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Two eyes serve a movement, that now

And again now, and now, and now

These eyes look to the readers like both the fox’s eyes and also the poet’s’ studied’ eye movements. The fox goes on to set neat prints’ on the snow, the writing comes across coherently and clearly on the paper. The soft snow brushing against the trees falls in dark flakes to the ground, as the words on the blank paper, and in a lovely manner fall into place. The words:” now/And again now, and now, and now “point to the continuity that has been picked up by the poet. The continuity is accompanied by “punctuation’-therefore it is a staggering continuity; the idea being reinforced by the word ‘lame’. The predictable rhyme scheme is also departed from, reflecting urgency on the part of the poet and the fox to reach their destination disregarding rhythm for the time being. The movement of the lines voice the movement of the fox. Alliteration is utilized to mime coherence. Though at first, the fox is agile, it staggers occasionally

Between trees, and warily a lame

Shadow lags by stump and in hollow

Of a body that is bold to come

At times, it appears like” a lame shadow’ endeavoring to pick up speed and accelerate towards the final goal. The term stump’ refers to the base of the tree that is incomplete without the tree-top. The stump’ at once functions as a invasive metaphor for the writer’s block. The poet has to make his creativity go beyond the stump’ and not leave his poetic capabilities stunted’. It’ is in the hollow of a body that is “bold to come”, yet to flourish and blossom.

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Across clearings, an eye,

A widening deepening greenness,

Brilliantly, concentratedly,

Coming about its own business

Across the clearings and the undergrowth, there is indeed “an eye”. The “eye” standing for insight here. This insight is coupled with a widening and deepening “greenness”,. The greenness symbolizing fertility and creation at once. Its business is that of its own, not one of after-thought, but that of impulse.

Till, with a 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.

.The poet thought process is filled with hot stink” of the fox, the heat of its passion. The thought-process is saturated now, and hence hot and humid. As the poem comes into place, the window is starless still. The poet at had first set eyes outside the window, for inspiration. Nevertheless, towards the end of the poem he comes to recognize that inspiration comes from within,and not outside. The window is starless still, yet-“the page is printed” Intuition reigns over inspiration here, and instinct over reason.