Critical Analysis of “The Thought Fox” by Ted Hughes
“The Thought Fox” has often been acknowledged as one of the most completely realized and artistically satisfying of the poems. Discuss.
Ted Hughes is famous for using animal imagery for the purpose of symbolism in his poetry. Animals serve many functions in his poems. It depends on the quality of the animal that what function is to serve. “The Thought Fox” is also one of those poems, in which the writer has assigned a special meaning to “Fox”. The poem is highly symbolized and reveals the procedure of writing poetry. Ted Hughes is a poet by profession, therefore, the critics have defined the poem as poetic inspiration instead of artistic inspiration. In general terms, the poem is not specifically about poetry; it is a divine guidance for every artist; a process, through which an idea comes in the mind of an artist and its expression in relevant form. Although the end of poem “the page is printed” reveals that the poem is written specially for the poets yet there is no doubt that the divine guidance for every artist is the same. Ted Hughes, very imaginatively, expresses the method, though which an artist shows his talent to the world. Thus, the poem is not only about a poet and is not just related to poetry; it is relevant to every artist; whether he is a musician, painter or writer.
In starting lines of the poem, the poet creates imagery about the person and his surroundings. He says that in a lonely room a person, who in this case is a poet, is sitting; it is dark night; everything is still and quite except the sound (tick-tick) of clock. The person is sitting alone and a blank page is in front of him; perhaps, it is the darkest night as the stars are not there on the sky. Suddenly, the persona feels something in the darkness; two eyes are moving; possibly it is a fox, who is wandering; the fox smells the twig but leaves it. After sometimes, it departs and leaves its footprints on the snow. After a while, the very idea in shape of a poem comes in the mind of person and the page, in front of him, is printed.
In a simple poem, the poet has described each and everything in detail, which are required for an artist to present his artistic talent. Firstly, he creates a lonely and silent atmosphere, which is necessary for an artist so as to create something imaginative. It is worthwhile to mention here that the poem is about every artist but we will specify the poet and the procedure of writing poetry for the sake of understating the method of artistic presentation. The poet has created a noiseless scene, which is symbol of peace. Ted Hughes wants to say that mind should be peaceful while writing poetry. In fact, it is the most essential feature for writing poetry. Secondly, the person sitting in the room is lonely. Like, silence, loneliness is also necessary to focus on the subject of poem. In solitude, a poet can give his full attention to his imagination. Ted Hughes is of the view that the very subject, which is required to be explained to the readers, should be written with focused-mind. Thirdly, the poet says that darkness has prevailed everything; even stars are not there in the sky. It symbolizes that the mind of the persona is entirely blank just like the paper in front of him.
Then there comes the fox. It is the most important symbol in the whole poem. Something is moving in the darkness is actually the idea, which suddenly comes in the mind of poet. He focuses on the eyes and after a while, it seems to him a fox. Ted Hughes is lover of animals and in this poem, he has symbolized fox as an idea that touches the consciousness of the poet. Name of the poem is self explanatory and needs no elucidation. Symbolically, the fox is signified as a thought. Ted Hughes has tried to explain that how an idea invades the mind of the artist. He links the divine revelation with the fox. It is unclear to us that why the poet has shown the procedure of the writing poetry though fox only and has not used any other object to express this beautiful method of writing poetry. Anyhow, it is attractive and leaves influence on the minds of readers. Relevant portion is reproduced as under;
“Cold, delicately as the dark snow
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now”
At the end, he writes:
“Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed”.
The fox is a thought, which suddenly comes in the mind of a poet and leaves its footprints in form of words. Ultimately “The page is printed” suggests that the poet has successfully written a poem. Here, we cannot underestimate the talent and powerful imagination of the poet. Keith while appreciating the artistic talent of the poet writes:-
“The poem has already sets neat prints upon the page in the line before we are told that the fox sets them into the snow. The noun ‘shadow’ has to drag itself across the gap between the lines which separates it from its adjective. And the alliteration of ‘lame’ and ‘lag’ upon a long palatal consonant mimes the meaning to a degree which becomes obvious if we try to find a substitute for either word.”
The whole poem is symbolic. This poem is a tribute to every artist, living in the world. The procedure of writing poetry and the things which are required for it have been beautifully discussed in this poem. The poet has experience as well as knowledge of writing poetry and through this poem, he shares the same experience and knowledge with his readers. In view of the above discussion, it is true that “The Thought Fox” has rightly been acknowledged as one of the most completely realized and artistically satisfying of the poems. 1