The poem “Pike” written by Ted Hughes in 1960 in the book Lupercal, describes the poet’s interpretation of a pike and its habitat. The poem is also based on remembering a time during which the freshwater fish perturbed him. The “Pike” is a free verse poem consisting of 11 stanzas, all being quatrains.
From the first strophe, the reader can see how the pike is at the heart of a culture of fear in the pond. On line 3, the imagery’ killers from the egg’ expresses the innate violence of the pike. The introduction of the brutality of the pike at the beginning of the poem establishes the poet’s intent to portray the pike as no ordinary fish. The fearful tone is made even more evident when the writer refers to himself as ‘With the hair frozen on my head’. The use of figurative and emotive language contributes to deepening the angsty atmosphere and gets the reader to think about the hostility of the pike.
The pikes are described as merciless creatures who tower over those who are smaller and hence the weaker ones. Once integrated into society, the pike begins their Darwinist and predatory advances, weeding out the more vulnerable members. In this aquatic version of the survival of the fittest, three pike battle out. Hughes describes how ‘[Pike] spare nobody through emotive language.’ The expressive language causes a repulsive response as the pike devours their own kind. Their destructive nature is also acted upon when feasting on the fry, recently hatched fish.
In addition to the brutality and strength of the pike, the pike is exceptionally unwavering. In the description of the pike and pond, the imagery of the fish that ‘had outlasted every visible stone Of the monastery’, depicts the fight between the pike and man. The continuation of the natural habitat despite the fall of the monastery implies the pike’s spirit will, in the end, prevail over humans. The predator has been a natural part of the ecosystem while the monastery was not. Pikes have existed in their present form for over 60 million years, while monasteries and man-made buildings are much less resilient.
The poem is an allegory of the prevalence, strength, and unrelenting existence of violence in society. Hughes explains that the cut-throat nature of the pond is ‘as deep as England’. The simile emphasizes how the individual in the British society is constantly fighting to be better than their neighbor or risk being eaten like the less fit pike. Unknowingly, humans have followed in the footsteps of pike and illustrates albeit humans are not part of the food chain, they cannot help but circle back and conform to Darwinist nature.
In conclusion, the poem ‘Pike’ is an admiration of the resilience and prevalence of nature in society. The tone is fearful and respectful, expressed by emphasizing the pike’s violent and robust character.