Ted Hughes’ “Thrushes” is one of his frequently anthologized poems. The poet is enamoured at the violent streak in the thrushes rather than their singing ability. He is amused at their ability to “stab”. They are by themselves ‘sleek’ or stylish. They are single-minded in purpose, and therefore very attentive. With their iron will, they come across as coils of steel rather than mundanely humane. The “dark deadly eye” foregrounds the scene fixed in its stare, and the poise they assume is indeed to be regarded. The fragile legs are triggered to stirrings beyond sense, that is, it is driven on instinct-“with a start, a bounce, a stab.” Swiftly according to impulse, they prey on the writhing thing. They indulge in no irresolution, no lethargy and no postponing; they are characterized by immense presence of mind.
No indolent procrastinations and no yawning states,
No sighs or head-scratchings
It just takes a rapacious second for this predatory being to satisfy ts urge.
Is it their single-mindedness characterized by their solid skulls, or their body that is inherently well-trained, or is it the undeterred genius, or the poet asks is it the “nestful of brats” or the lineage with the killer-instinct. The adjectives “bullet” and “automatic” exemplify how the act looks automated, mechanized and triggered. Further, it also portrays how objective the act is, without depending on external considerations and extraneous factors. Mozart had this innate genius and artistic drive for music that was not out of any ulterior motive. It existed in its own right. It was unique, stemmed from his brain as an extended metaphor of his genius. It was not inclined towards fame or appreciation. Likewise, the shark is unflinching in its act of preying, to the extent of smelling out even a leak of its own blood. It is so proactive in its endeavor that it may devour itself if the situation demands. The poet concretizes its efficiency as a streamline that doubt cannot pluck at or likens it to a streak of light that is not reflected on obstruction.
With the average man, it is indeed different, with his narcissist tendencies, as he verges on “fishing for compliments”. Therefore, he intends his actions to incline toward heroism. He attempts to outdo himself, in the race to set high standards.
Outstripping his desk-diary at a broad desk,
Carving at a tiny ivory ornament
His act seems to worship itself, and therefore the vision of progress in indeed short-sighted. Though he appears to be immersed in prayer, there are spaces for distraction to set in –
Furious spaces of fire do the distracting devils
Orgy and hosannah, under what wilderness
Of black silent waters weep.
The words ‘orgy’ ,’hosanna’ and ‘weep’ point to the involuntary tendencies in man that dissuade him from his goal. How man gets distracted in his sexual orientation, need for acclaim or the fear of the result of the action.”Time and waste, depths of distraction, and the essential distinction between man himself and his acts are, he tells us, are characteristic of human effort”(M.L.Rosenthal)The phrase “wilderness of black silent waters” points to the complications that hell has in store for the wayward.
© Rukhaya MK 2010
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