Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
It seems to be fully conscious of its own grandeur. Its shape produces on the onlookers an impression of mixed delicacy and horror. Though small in our eyes, it is very large in the world to which it belongs. Pike dwells in the pond where it lies still in the darkness beneath the surface. It lies on the last year’s black leaves which sink in the water, and from there it looks upwards. It remains suspended among the thick weeds. The jaws of pike have the shape of hooked clamp and inside the jaws are its teeth whose sharpness cannot be blunted at this stage of its existence which has been moulded by its environment.
The speaker of the poem describes pike and tells a couple of his own experiences with pike. The speaker and his companions had kept three pikes in a glass jar in which they had provided a large quantity of weeds for the pikes to feel comfortable. One of those three pikes was three inches long, the second one was four inches long, and the third was four and a half inches long. Then one day it was found that there were only two pikes left in the jar, which had a sluggish belly and the spiteful grin with which it was born.
The strongest of the three pikes had eaten the other two, one after the other to satisfy its hunger. On another occasion, the speaker and his companions found one pike mercilessly killing another. It had plunged its teeth into the other’s throat.
Pike is an animal poem, but it is also a poem depicting violence. The speaker describes pike with its fierce and destructive nature. The pikes are ‘killer from the egg’ means that they have the destructive instinct in them from the very time the mother fish lays its eggs.
Pikes are so destructive and merciless in their nature that they even kill one another to satisfy their hunger. The last four stanzas of the poem produce an effect of horror. The pike in the pond is reported to be ‘too immense to stir.’ Likewise, the pond where the speaker had cast his fishing-line is reported to be as deep as England. The speaker did not have the courage to continue fishing beyond the time of the evening.
The pikes have inborn destructive instinct. They are malevolent with an aggressive nature. The pike’s whole body remains motionless but jaws move because it eats too much. The religion of fish does not teach it the ethos of preserving and protecting its own species. Excessive eating and reproduction are its two characteristics. Pike thinks itself grand. It is the law of nature to think oneself superior to another. That is due to the ego, which is implanted by birth in every creature whether mankind or animals. Pike seems conscious of its own grandeur. The pond where the speaker fished was ‘as deep as England’. This bold comparison of the pond to England projects a sort of satire in England, which is deep perhaps containing pike like people. Moreover, Pike is a poem depicting violence which is recurring theme in Hughes poetry. Ted Hughes believes in Darwinian optimism and determinism. Darwinian determinism says that one’s strength determines another’s fate. Only victimizer can survive, who is the fittest one. For him nature is full of violence and the very violence is the elemental force of nature.
Sharma, Kedar N. "Pike by Ted Hughes: Summary" BachelorandMaster, 13 Oct. 2014, bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/pike-summary.html.