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Notes On "Thistles" By Ted Hughes. A Poem From The Book "Touched With Fire" Used In The Cambridge Course

892 words - 4 pages

Like tall nettles, thistles, takes ideas about life from nature.The defiant character of the plant is emphasized in the very first word ("Against") of this poem. They not only resist all animal ("rubber tongues of cows") and human ("hoeing hands of men") attempts to destroy them but even attack the natural world, indicated by the words "spike the summer air". Further, they make it difficult for themselves to reproduce because their seed-pods open only under 'pressure'.Every plant, without exception, is similarly defiant, according to the second stanza. Moreover, it is determined to revenge itself upon whatever destroyed the parent plant. The violence of its determination is expressed in the ...view middle of the document...

Their murderous character is conveyed in a metaphor which again links them to battle, as "plume of blood" suggests the red flower which grows on the seed-pod looks like the feathers on a medieval soldier's helmet.The final stanza explains how, when the thistles grow old and are cut down, they fight back even more strongly because their seed-pods burst and spread new plants (their "sons") over the territory which had been cleared of the parent plants.The poem hints at the existence of an inescapable force behind nature, which cannot be defeated by man. It manifests itself in cycles of death and birth and unifies nature because it us also within man. This last point is indicated by figures (metaphor, simile and personification) which link thistles and men by descent (thistles come from Vikings). They have children, like humans (they are "revengeful"), tools of war, like humans ("weapons"), and they have other human qualities and attributes (grasped, stiff, blood, feud, fighting, and gutturals of dialect). Despite this, their oppositional character also had a quality of myth because they reappear and multiply like the legions of invincible warriors in Greek legends or Icelandic sagas.The poet emphasizes this quality in the first line of the poem by inverting the usual word order and using parallel structure (rubber tongues of cows/hoeing hands of men). He does it again in the last three lines by using anthropomorphic terms and personification (feud, sons, stiff with...

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