What is a summary for the poem "Ravens" by Ted Hughes?

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Ted Hughes's poem "Ravens" is written in free verse , in three stanzas of varying lengths. It is a narrative poem and focuses on a day in spring when "we"—that is, the speaker and his three-year-old child—entered a field to look at some "new lambs" who had recently been...

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Ted Hughes's poem "Ravens" is written in free verse, in three stanzas of varying lengths. It is a narrative poem and focuses on a day in spring when "we"—that is, the speaker and his three-year-old child—entered a field to look at some "new lambs" who had recently been born. Hughes describes the raven which flew over the field and the many sheep "nibbling" the grass, pausing to see what the interruption is. The protagonist and his child see a new lamb which has only just been born, the placenta still hanging out of its mother.

The child is interested in this lamb, but also in another one which was "born dead" and is twisted grotesquely, its belly "opened like a lamb-wool slipper" and the various bits and pieces of its innards hanging out. It is no longer possible to determine which ewe was its mother.

The speaker explains to his child that the lamb died being born, and the child repeatedly asks whether, as the father picks up the dead lamb, the lamb cried. The father says that it did.

The final stanza of the poem is conciliatory: Hughes notes that the lamb, despite being dead, was "lucky" because the day of its aborted birth was "blue and warm." There is also a suggestion that this kind of death in nature, while surprising to small children, is simply a part of things which have gone on for "millions of hard years," now resulting in "soft" hillsides and the "domestic happiness" of magpies.

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“Ravens” is told from the perspective of a parent explaining the death of a newborn lamb to his or her child.  A raven first makes its appearance as the two enter a field of sheep, most likely their own property, to see the new lambs that had been birthed that day.  The raven “bundled itself into air from midfield,” while the parent focuses his or her attention on a lamb and its mother, in the fresh moments immediately following birth, both feeling each other out and discovering this new world.

The child is at first focused completely on this interaction, but in the second stanza becomes consumed with that to which the raven had been giving its full attention – a lamb that had died in birth; it is in a visceral state of early decay, half-consumed by scavenger birds, most of its insides exposed.  The child is visibly upset at this, repeating the question, “’Did it cry?’…in a three-year-old, field-wide/Piercing persistence.”  And even though there is another newborn lamb making its way over, a black one, the child pays no mind to anything but the dead one, also a child, a “tattered bundle of throwaway lamb.”  And to the child’s unceasing question, the parent answers in the affirmative.  “’It cried.’”

The final stanza offers this small consolation:  that the lamb had been lucky enough to die on a beautiful day, in a warm, safe environment.  In this poem we see a contrast between the naturalness of death and the instinctual distress over it; a human child of three is inconsolable over the loss of a farm animal, while it is "impossible to tell now which in all this field of quietly nibbling sheep/Was its mother."  

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