Quotes

Ted Hughes's poem "Pike" is about the poet's fascination with pike fish and their violent nature.

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Though Hughes states that pikes are only three inches long, they act like murderous dictators from the beginning of their existence.

Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.
They dance on the surface among the flies.

Though three inches is small to us, in their world, it is monstrous.

Or move, stunned by their own grandeur,
Over a bed of emerald, silhouette
Of submarine delicacy and horror.
A hundred feet long in their world.

Ted Hughes continue to explain that he once kept three pike fish in some kind of glass container filled with weeds. A few weeks later, there was only one pike fish left. The biggest one, at four and a half inches, had eaten the other two, despite the fact that Hughes would feed "fry" to them.

Three we kept behind glass,
Jungled in weed: three inches, four,
And four and a half: fed fry to them-
Suddenly there were two. Finally one.

Hughes even describes observing a pike killing another pike in great detail.

One jammed past its gills down the other’s gullet:
The outside eye stared: as a vice locks-
The same iron in this eye
Though its film shrank in death.

He states that a pike always seems to do this "with a sag belly and the grin it was born with."

The descriptions of the pike's violent nature set up the end of the poem, when Hughes is fishing for pike on a pond "as deep as England." As he sits there with the day drawing to a close, he describes the pike, rising from the depths of the dark pond watching him.

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.

They are so "immense . . . that past nightfall I dared not cast."