The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Pike” is written in free verse and consists of forty-four lines divided into eleven stanzas. The title focuses immediate attention on the creature under scrutiny and on the natural world, which informs most of Ted Hughes’s work. The poem can be divided into three sections or perspectives.

The first section, stanzas 1 and 2, sets the scene, depicting the voracious, ruthless nature of this fish and establishing its green water world. In these first stanzas, Hughes maintains an objective narrative perspective in which the fish and its environment occupy the center of attention.

The next section, the third through seventh stanzas, begins a consideration of the predatory nature of the pike and describes it as it moves through a green, gold, shadowy habitat. No sounds disturb the quiet of the fish’s waiting expectation beneath the water’s surface. In stanzas 3 and 4, Hughes graphically describes the fish’s “jaws’ hooked clamp and fangs” and makes the reader sense the pike’s ruthless nature as it lurks silently waiting in the weeds for its prey. In stanzas 5 and 6, he heightens this vision by describing what happened when he kept three small pike captive in an aquarium: The ruthless fish preyed upon one another until only one remained, “with a sag belly and the grin it was born with.” Hughes juxtaposes a second scene of the pike as unstoppable predator by concluding this section with the image of two dead, six-pound,...

(The entire section is 412 words.)