How is the admiration and fear conveyed in "Pike by Ted Hughes" and "Horses by Edwin Muir" ?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The descriptions used by both Hughes and Muir directly give a sense of the inscrutable power of the creatures they describe, and in this way the admiration and fear is conveyed. In the very first stanza of 'Horses' Muir remarks that the horses appear 'terrible ... wild, strange.' Similarly, in the first stanza of 'Pike', Hughes describes the fish as both 'perfect' and also 'malevolent'. Both the pike and the horses are figured as being splendid, and at the same time, terrible. The horses appear huge and majestic: the pike obviously are not so large but have their own 'grandeur'. 

The mixture of admiration and fear for nature's creatures - the horses on the land, the pike in water - comes through in the vividly impressionistic style of both poems. The animals are not described in conventionally realistic terms at any point, but instead in a way that emphasizes both their strength and their strangeness. This is especially apparent in the Hughes poem, and never more so than in the final stanza as the speaker waits and watches for the pike to break the surface of the pond where he is fishing:

Owls hushing the floating woods

Frail on my ear against the dream

Darkness beneath night’s darkness had freed,

That rose slowly toward me, watching.

The pike here are figured vividly as a rising 'darkness', emphasizing the speaker's sense of fear and awe at both the menace and magnificence of the creature.

It is significant that the speaker in 'Horses' recollects the horses he used to watch in his childhood. The horses are described as they might appear to a child, as being 'gigantic', and so on. In 'Pike', too, although not explicitly stated, the depiction of fishing and also of keeping the pike as pets, might be referring to childhood activities. Childhood obviously is a time when one might be especially enthralled by the wonders of nature, but this sense of wonder also remains with the adult speaker in either poem.

It is this sense of wonder most of all that is apparent in both poems - the wonder that results from the emotions of fear and admiration that the creatures inspire in their human observers.

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jjohnson112's profile pic

jjohnson112 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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In the poem "Pike" by Ted Hughes, admiration and fear are clearly conveyed through the vocabulary of the poem.

The admiration the author has for the pike is evident in the author's word choice.  In describing the pike he calls them, "perfect," and "stunned by their own grandeur."  However, the author also wants us to be in awe of their fearsome nature.  The pike are described as "malevolent," a "hundred foot long" "horror." 

In "Horses" by Edwin Muir, the author recollects a time as a child when he would watch the horses, and admire and fear them at the same time.  The horses are described in many ways.  In the first stanza they are described as "terrible," and yet, they hold a "magic power" for the author.  He describes their hooves as "conquering" in the third stanza, he calls them "monsters," but he also says they are "golden seraphim."  In the 6th stanza he describes their eyes as "brilliant,"  but also as "cruel."

In both poems it's clear that the authors conveyed their admiration and fear of both pike and horses, by the words they chose to use. 

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