“Thrushes” paints a picture of birds as efficient, instinctive killing machines. The poet is observing some thrushes on his lawn; the observations lead him to contrast them to human beings, such as himself, whose best acts seem produced by the suppression of such energies as the birds display, and at enormous cost.
The poet looks at the thrushes hunting for food, such as worms, slugs, and beetles, in his yard. Normally, thrushes are associated with domesticity or song, certainly with nature tamed. Instead, Hughes sees them, no less than the hawk in his poem “Hawk Roosting” (also in Lupercal), as ruthless killers. Each bird is doing its natural thing in its pride of life as it drags “out some writhing thing,” which it devours in “a ravening second.”
He wonders what motivates this single-minded ruthless purpose. Is it, he asks, the way they are programmed to some point of evolutionary perfection? Have they been taught by equally skillful elders, or is there some survival of the species instinct, driven by “a nestful of brats”? Perhaps it is genius: an almost indefinable term, but one which reminds him of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who seemed to have superhuman ability to produce perfect music apparently without trying.
His questioning thoughts turn on the phrase “automatic/ Purpose” toward the shark. The shark’s automatic purpose is to attack the smell of blood, even if it is its own...
(The entire section is 524 words.)