The Writer and The Thought-Fox
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The metaphorical voyage found in Richard Wilbur’s “The Writer” and the experience described in Ted Hughes’s “The Thought-Fox” show events in which a journey of discovery is made. Though their theme and metaphors are vastly different, many parallels exist between their use of animals and their creation of sensorial imagery. In this way, the reader finds how the voyage of life and the flight of a bird are akin to the adventures of a fox; one can hope to direct fate, but we must let it run its natural course.
“The Writer” begins with the speaker informing the audience that his daughter is “at the prow of the house” (1) where his “daughter is writing a story” (3) as “the windows are tossed with linden” (2). From the beginning of the poem, the speaker begins to deliver an extended metaphor of life’s voyage with the phrase “prow of the house” (1). Moreover, the speaker continues it throughout the poem with phrases such as, “Like a chain hauled over a gunwale” (6) or “I wish her a lucky passage” (Line 9) or “Beating a smooth course” (29).
In addition to the metaphor, the Wilbur depicts precise imagery and a symbol for the audience to experience. One example of imagery is found in the line, “Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden” (2). Not only does this line create a sense of confined—yet open—space, but the audience can easily imagine the sound and wave-like movements coming from the swaying linden trees. Another image created is two people anticipating the “starling” (19) to fly smoothly into the outside world as they watch the “sleek, wild, dark / and iridescent creature” (22-23) “helplessly from . . . through the crack of a door” (20). Lastly, Wilbur utilizes the form of a small fragile bird trying—repeatedly—to fly out of an unfamiliar room into the world. As the speaker’s daughter will have struggles during her life because situations are unfamiliar to her.
Similarly, “The Thought Fox” establishes the physical setting very quick; the speaker is a room in which “something else is alive / besides the clock’s loneliness” (2-3) and where there is a “blank page” (4) where the speaker is imagining a forest at midnight. In doing so, Ted Hughes begins to create a metaphor of darkness with the phrase “midnight moment’s forest.” The darkness found in this forest represents the unknown bounds of the human imagination because the deeper one goes into darkness the further one “is entering [into] loneliness” (8).
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Nevertheless, if we are patient for the wary lame whose “shadow lags by stump,” (15) we will soon see “a body that is bold to come” (16)—inspiration will be “sharp, hot” (21) and poignant.
And like Wilbur, Hughes uses a fox to effectively further his extended metaphor. Through the fox, the audience understands the curious nature of the fox when its nose “delicately” (9) “touches twig [and] leaf” (10) covered in the dark snow. The audience has a tactual experience of feeling the cold snow against the “starless still” (23) of the figurative forest. Coinciding with the physical sensations, Hughes builds the reader an emotional connection to the fox by creating a sense of urgency in the “loneliness” (8): “Two eyes serve a movement, that now / And again now, and now, and now / Sets neat prints into the snow between trees” (11-13). In this urgency, the reader cannot wait till the moment when fox will “[enter] the dark hole of the head” (22) and is creation will undeniable because “the page is printed” (24).
In conclusion, one can see the effectiveness that the common traits these poems have with one another; from their description to metaphors, they physically and mentally enticed the reader. Because of these enticements, the reader learns that gaining independence in life is an arduous journey that commonly causes many to worry until one finds a smooth course, and the curious nature of the imagination can be scary and lonely. Nevertheless, they are both journeys of discovery in life that need time to come to fruition.
How does Hughes use language to express his difficulty in writing?
In Ted Hughes’ poem, ‘The Thought-Fox’, he uses the metaphor of a fox in a dark snowy ‘forest’ to describe and allow the reader to understand his difficulty in the thought process of writing a poem.
The title itself, ‘The Thought Fox’, is a metaphor for the ideas and inspiration for his poems. By nature, a fox is nocturnal, suggesting that the poet finds his more ideas and inspiration for his writing during the night. Foxes are also known to be cunning and cleverly camouflaged, making them difficult to see and hard get a hold on, just like inspiration and ideas are difficult to grab a hold on.
Hughes starts the poem with “I imagine this midnight moment’s forest”. The phrase “midnight moment” shows that the poet is working late into the night (that he is nocturnal like a fox), and the word “moment” makes the opportunity seem very precious and easily passed by, as if there will never be another moment like this. In this phrase, Hughes uses the alliteration of the letter ‘m’, emphasizing the phrase. He uses the “forest” as a metaphor for his mind- it is deep and difficult to get hold of inspiration, which is this case comes in the form of a fox.
The next line, “Something else is alive”, shows how Hughes senses a presence, although he is not able to distinguish what this presence is. This line is a metaphor for an idea he senses coming, but can’t define. “Something else is alive/ Beside the clock’s loneliness/And this blank page where my fingers move.” Hughes uses personification, describing the clock as something alive, showing that he is aware of the movement (ticking) of the clock. This helps to build up an image of the situation in the reader’s mind.
The next verse starts with “Through the window I see no star:” The star is...