What is the relationship between man and nature in both "Pike" by Ted Hughes and "The Horses" by Edwin Muir?
Both poems present a relationship between man and nature that suggests nature still has the power to dominate and strike fear and awe into the heart of man. Both poems therefore challenge contemporary notions of the dominance of man and the way that man is considered to have conquered nature. In "The Horses," for example, Muir imagines some post-apocalyptic world where a disaster has made it necessary for man to return to using horses instead of tractors. However, the return of the horses into the world of man is something that provokes disquiet and almost fear into the hearts of humans. Even though they come to be used by man to labour and to help them as they return to farming and growing their own food, there is still something disquieting about them:
Since then they have pulled our plows and borne our loads
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.
The "free servitude" is not something that the speaker takes for granted, and their assistance is something that still produces an emotional response of thankfulness. Man is presented as being dependent on nature in this poem, and the horses still possess the ability to provoke awe in the hearts of the men they choose to serve.
In "Pike," the fish of the title is an example of nature that strikes fear into the heart of the man who tries to fish for it. The poem begins by describing the pike as a natural predator that is lethal in every way and then finally presents a chilling scene that imagines the speaker being watched by the pike in the pool 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 final line, imagining the pike slowly and menacingly approaching the speaker, watching his every move, presents an image of nature that is threatening to man and in opposition with him. Both poems therefore challenge notions of man's dominance over nature through a presentation of the way in which nature is not beholden to man, and can indeed continue to represent a threat to man.