Ted Hughes’s poems often contain striking and sometimes quite startling imagery and language. In the poem “Thrushes” for example Hughes’s describes the birds in an almost disturbing manner.
Hughes refers to the birds as “more coiled steel than living” this produces a startling image of the speed and almost robotic and mechanical nature of the thrush who sits, ready to spring into action and devour its victim. It is almost as though they have no other purpose but to hunt and kill their food.
He describes the thrush’s eye as “dark” and “deadly” which gives a threatening and almost menacing image of a thrush just waiting and watching completely focused on finding food.
He describes their hunting method as “Triggered to stirrings beyond sense” which means that they can sense their prey, a technique that cannot be explained logically but like a water definer who seeks water through some sort of sixth sense. The thrush can find worms or grubs by sense rather then movement, this creates quite a vivid image of these mechanical birds who single mindedly seek out their prey.
He uses mono-syllable words such as “bounce and stab” to describe the quick sharp movements of the birds. These words are almost onomatopoeic. This gives distinct emphasis to these words and reflects the violence of the action, which gives the language quite a startling effect.
He refers to the prey as “some writhing thing” which effectively describes the patheticness of the victim once dragged out of the ground by the seemingly ruthless thrush.
He also refers to the thrushes as “bullet” and “automatic” which effectively describes the speed and automaticness of the birds and emphasizes the single purpose of them to kill. This has quite a terrifying effect.
At the end of stanza three Hughes’s compares the Thrushes to sharks, “The shark’s mouth that hungers down the blood-smell even to a leak of its own side and devouring of itself” This creates quite a shocking and dramatic effect. It compares the Thrush to a shark who is so mechanically devoted to the single task of pursuing and devouring its prey that it can start to eat itself if it smells its own blood.
Hughes’s also uses startling language to describe the ever present temptation of man who’s man can never remain focused on one thing, “furious spaces of fire do the distracting devils orgy and Hosannah”
This creates quite violent and vivid imagery, describing the sinful temptations of man, such as sex.
He also conjures up the very vivid and effective image, “Black silent waters weep” to really capture the idea of stillness which maybe seen on the outside but the huge expanses of depth where you have no idea what’s going on, like a mans mind.
In the poem “Thrushes” Ted Hughes’s uses startling imagery describe the thrush as a ruthless and deadly bird who is completely, single-mindedly devoted to the task of hunting down its prey and devouring it. The language and imagery emphasise the deadliness of the thrush especially when compared to man who can never be devoted enough to concentrate on one task no matter how it seems to look from the outside there is still the inescapable temptation of everything around us.
In the poem Mayday on Holderness Hughes’s also uses vivid imagery and vocabulary, he begins for example with the phrase “motherly summer” which successfully creates a sense of warmth and birth of a new summer full of life.
He refers to the river Humber as a, “a loaded single vein” which drains the North. This creates a vivid image of the river like a throbbing vein pumping and flowing across the North of England.
He creates a quite startling effect by describing how the salt, sea cuts right through his body, “The sea-salts scoured me, cortex and intestine” He describes quite startling language how he can feel it right down his throat and moving through his organs, as if he’s digesting it.
He uses a very effective and startling technique of referring to the river as a person who is growing and breathing with all the life and energy of summer around it, “What a length of gut is growing and breathing”
He creates a quite vivid image of the hedgerows which are full of mothers guarding their nests, “There are eye-guarded eggs in these hedgerows”. This shows how full of life everything is and is effective as it allows you to picture the watchful beady eye of a bird defending her nest from any possible predator.
He shows that even though everything looks fine and full of energy there can still be pain and suffering underneath it all by mentioning the hidden wreckage of world war one which is hidden by the North sea. He uses startling language and imagery to emphasise the horrors of the war, “Heart-beats, bomb, bayonet. Mother, Mother! Cries the pierced helmet. Cordite oozings of Gallipoli”
The poem Mayday on Holderness also uses startling imagery and language in a similar way to “Thrushes” it also describes something typical like a beautiful summer’s day but concentrates on the pain and suffering lurking underneath. Like how “Thrushes” portrays an ordinary bird as a deadly and single-minded killing machine.