In "The Predator" by Irving Layton I'm not quite sure what the message is behind the poem. Also I would appreciate some help with finding figures of speech/poetic devices.
Irving Layton was a Canadian poet and political activist. He isn't really a nature poet per se but has written a few important poems on the subject of dead animals. These poems are not, like those of Hughes, an attempt to understand animals as animals but are instead reflections on or criticisms of human society and its cruelty. Layton in this poem calls humanity "the dirtiest predator."
The main point of the poem is typical of Layton in seeing contemporary bourgeois society as opposed to anything "wild and gleeful." Layton clearly sympathizes and even identifies with the fox, saying there is "no place in the world any more for free and gallant predators." Layton himself saw his poetic mission as a fight against conservatism and complacency, writing explicitly erotic and unconventional verse, and sees human treatment of the fox as similar to the way we treat poets, social activists, and other unconventional figures.
Although written in free verse, the poem does have a regular stanzaic form, with the first line having four syllables, the second line approximately eight to ten syllables, and the third line ten or more. The poem personifies the fox and uses apostrophe or direct address in the final stanzas.
Layton is saying in this poem that humans are the greatest predators. In it, he raises our sympathy for the fox who chews off his own paw to get out of a trap a man has laid. A figure of speech is a word or group of words that have a meaning beyond the literal. The word "trap" in this poem functions as a figure of speech, in this case as a metaphor, for human cruelty in general. As the poem says:
Man sets even more terrible traps for his own kind.
Humans come out unfavorably as predators in comparison to the fox, for the fox's predatory nature is "free and gallant," not underhanded like a human being's trap. By characterizing the fox as free and gallant, words typically applied to human beings, Layton uses personification, a literary device in which an animal or inanimate object is likened to a human. This helps put the reader on the side of the fox, who represents nature. It is worth noting that Layton, a Jewish poet, was haunted by the Holocaust and explored the theme of man's inhumanity in practice versus his noble ideals in theory.
The poem is quite Ted Hughesian, I must say. But it lacks the Hughesian brilliance and complexity of the mind. it seems to take on in a simplistic manner the 'predator' tag and examine its applicability to both the fox and man, in general. Who is it that turns out to be the real predator? It is the man instead of the dead fox, lying in a ghastly pool of blood. The poem also explores the ironic couplings of freedom and death and captivity and survival. For all its genuine passion and wildness, the animal gets the reward of a violent death whereas since man prefers incarceration in a cage to liberty, he survives in the cruel and unfair game of compromise that is life. The death of the fox stands for the death of cunning. With the duality of knowledge/culture (libraries) and raw de-humanized violence (knife), man is called the 'dirtiest' of predators. The poet in the last section of the poem, spells revenge on behalf of the tragic death of the real predator and ends on a note of warning that one day in future, man as a result of his suicidal violence, will himself lie dead in a pool of blood.