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Ted Hughes' poem "Full Moon and Little Freida" is about his young daughter (by Sylvia Plath).
The poem uses lovely imagery to convey an evening, after dark, where father and child gaze at the landscape and sky.
The first line speaks to us of the time of night; using sensory details that appeal to the ear, Hughes recognizes the sounds of a dog's bark and the clanking of a bucket.
Hughes speaks directly to Freida, noting that she, though very small, is listening just as he is. The two lines below end with periods: separate sentences, but possibly one thought. One wonders, does he mean to list two things he observes, or is he comparing his listening child to the delicate beauty of a gossamer web, waiting to be touched by the gentle dew, just as she is listening and learning, which is, likewise, a lovely image for him to behold?
And you listening.
A spider’s web, tense for the dew’s touch.
Hughes observes a newly filled pail from milking, using a metaphor to describe that the sky's image in the mirror, created by the milk's reflection. The "tremor" here may refer to the unsteady hand holding the bucket, making the image move.
A pail lifted, still and brimming – mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.
Hughes' imagery goes on to describe the cows meandering home, their breath circling in the air around them; it may be that the contents of a nearby pond or lake looks like blood around the animals, and the "unspilled" milk may refer to the pail Hughes and his daughter carry as they watch.
Or perhaps Hughes is saying that as the cows move in the darkness, they look like boulders in a river of blood; "Balancing unspilled milk" simply may observe that the cows have not yet been milked.
The turning point of the poem, and perhaps the most important section in Hughes' imagery so far, occurs with the lines:
“Moon!” you cry suddenly, “Moon! Moon!”
The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
That points at him amazed.
Here the author notes not only the child's delight at perceiving the moon in the sky, but with personification, reports that the moon looks down at Freida, equally amazed by her; Hughes uses a simile to describe the moon's "behavior:"
like an artist gazing amazed at a work
The last line ("That points at him amazed") gives us the sense of the M.C. Escher's picture entitled, "Drawing Hands" (1948), where one cannot tell which hand starting drawing the other, first.
As Freida is in awe of the moon, the moon is also in awe of her, considering the child a work of art.
In this poem, Hughes forever captures not just a moment shared with his daughter, but the beauty and enchantment of nature as simply a reflection of the beauty and enchantment of his child, awakening to the world around her.
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