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In The Thought Fox, Ted Hughes likens the process of writing of a poem to the approach of a fox, which slips into his head as a real fox would slip into a hole. At the beginning of the poem, the poet sits before a starless window poised over an empty page. The fox emerges from a place "deeper within darkness" than the evening sky. It comes from somewhere near and enters the poet's loneliness. The thought has risen from the dark subconscious of the poet and has taken shape.
The fox comes closer, sniffing his way, following a scent toward the waiting poet. It seems the thought is coming to the poet, perhaps in response to a summons from him. The fox becomes more clear to the vision of the poet as it gets closer, but it is now apparent to the poet that the fox is coming on "its own business."
Foxes give off an odor when anxious, most notably when they are being hunted. The poet is certainly hunting the fox, but its disappearance into his head is an assimilation of the thought rather than the thought's escape. The stink hangs in the air, a residue of the process and suggestive of the fox having been run to ground--trapped. The page is printed, yet the sky remains starless and the clock still ticks, as if nothing so vigorous as a hunt had taken place.
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