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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 229

Ted Hughes' poem "Pike" has as its subject a species of freshwater fish that the poet used to encounter when fishing at a large old pond in England. The poet highlights both the pike's predatory nature and his grandeur.

The poem's sixteen stanzas begin with a physical description of the pike: it's "three inches long" with "green tigering the gold" (an especially poetic way to describe stripes). The poem quickly moves to an assertion of the pike's awe-inspiring predatory nature, calling the species "killers from the egg." Nevertheless, there is a disjunction between their outward appearance "danc[ing] on the surface" of a pond and what the author ascribes as their evil inner nature. The poet insists that the pike's grin is "malevolent." Having made bold to keep three of these fish in captivity ("behind glass"), the poet is able to observe firsthand the unique danger that each of these fish poses to one another; they are cannibals who eat one another. The poet graphically explains that "one jammed past its gills down the other's gullet."

The poem then zooms out to their territory—a pond at the site of a monastery that no longer exists. The pike, the poet suggests, is ageless to the extent that it outlives its territory. On a formal level, the poem employs alliteration and an occasional internal rhyme ("perfect pike in all parts").

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