Thistles by Ted Hughes. Question: Critically analyse the poem.
Question: Critically analyse the poem, paying attention to diction & imagery, showing how they are effective in describing thistles.
P : Thistles are described as if they were nature’s avengers.
Q : Thistles ‘spike’ ‘Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of man & ‘…a revengeful burs of resurrection’
R : Thistles inflict pain towards ‘the hoeing hands of men’ which gives readers the spa image of men destroying the plants in the soil with a hoe, perhaps for the unnecessary need for urbanization and other recreational purposes. It seems that the thistles are punishing man for destroying nature. Even though the ‘cows’ mentioned somewhat destroy plants, or to be specific, grass for it is their staple food, they seem to not be a part of the ones punished for their rubber tongues’ gives the image of a lifeless tongue where it does not feel pain, having the qualities of rubber- lifeless and feeling nothing.
Hence, the thistles are described as avengers for those who abuse and destroy nature for unnecessary wants. It seems as if avenging is the purpose of the thistles’ existence and for their resurrection- the phrase ‘a revengeful burst of resurrection seems to give the image of revenge, powering the process of resurrecting the thistles. Hence, the suggested reason for their existence and their behavior in punishing men describes them as if they are nature’s “avengers”.
P : Despite being described as “nature’s avengers”, they seem to have an evil side that is abeing brought alive by what could be perceived as the evil present in the world as
represented by – “underground stain of a Viking”.
Q : “From the underground stain of a decayed Viking”, ” the gutturals of dialects” & space every one manages a plume of blood”.
R : Readers get the impression that thistles are being brought to life ‘From the spaceunderground stain of a decayed Viking’. Now, a Viking is a monstrous, wild and spaceevil legendary barbarian and the fact that its remnants are absorbed in the growth of spacethistles could suggest that evil is being transferred to them as seen from their evil spaceacts or purpose in trying to hurt innocent animals (‘cows’), men and even plague the space’summer air’.
Also, it seems as though the spirits of the dead Vikings are spacewhispering to the growing thistles with ‘the gutturals of dialects’ perhaps to impart spacetheir evil nature and character. It is seen that after being grown amongst the space spac ‘decayed Viking’ and taking its essence (like fertilizer from a dead animal) and after spacebeing imparted of the Viking’s evil nature, the next line that comes shows that evil spaceis being put into action where Every one manages a plume of blood’.
R : Furthermore, it seems as though thistles began and end with the presence of blood- spac’From the underground stain of a decayed Viking’ they grow and before growing spac’grey like men’, ‘Everyone manages a plume of blood’. Hence, this parasite-like spacebehavior gives thistles an evil character for it thrives and is brought alive with blood spaceand that it’s suggested sole purpose in life is to hurt those alive (to get ‘a plume of spaceblood’) for that is the only thing that they seem to do in the poem before dying. In spaceaddition to that, ‘blood’ or rather, bleeding is associated with being caused by pain spaceand those who thrive on it is said to be somewhat inhumane and evil, like thistles.
P : Thistles have the characteristics of a Viking, perhaps because they absorb the spaceremnants and essence of Vikings.
Q : ‘Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up’, ‘They are like pale hair and spacethe gutturals of dialects’ & ‘Every one manages a plume of blood’.
R : The metaphor ‘splintered weapons’ and ‘Icelandic frost’ gives the idea of spacethistledowns that outline thistles. These thistledowns could be sharp, being like space’splintered weapons’ and could be the part that spike ‘the rubber tongues of cows spaceand hoeing hands of men’. One can imagine the image of the thistledowns getting spacestiff and ready to spike (‘Icelandic frost thrust up’). These thistledowns have spacesimilarities to that of a Viking’s ‘pale hair’ and ‘the gutturals of dialects’ are like spacethe whizzing sound thistles make as they disperse through the air, trying to find spacevictims or their prey to spike them for blood.
Hence, it seems that the evil nature spaceand the physical appearance of Vikings are being passed down to thistles perhaps as spacethey absorb the essence of dead Vikings which is represented by the word ‘stain’ spacethat could of blood. Afterall, it is believed that one would posses the characteristics spaceof whose essence they have absorbed into themselves. In addition to the mentioned spacecharacteristics passed down, the predatory nature of Vikings is similar to that of spacethistles for both is bloodthirsty, ‘a plume of blood’ being the goal in life.
P : Thistles are also endlessly revengeful
Q : ‘Every one a revengeful burst / Of resurrection’ & ‘Their sons appear / Stiff with spaceweapons, fighting back over the same ground’.
R : Thistles, in this poem is described in an almost chronological form where the spores spaceor seeds are being dispersed (‘crackle open under a blue black pressure’) on to the space’underground’ where the ‘stain of a decayed Viking’ acts as a source of fertilizer spacethat completes thistles’ growth before the thistles spike the air again and manages a spaceplume of blood’ each. Then they ‘grow grey like men’ and die as suggested by the spacewords ‘mown down’, perhaps by man in the process of mowing their green lawns in spacethe summer. However, notice that after this batch of thistles are dead, ‘Their sons spaceappear / Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground’.
The word ‘sons’ spaceand ‘feud’ make the situation seem as if it is a battle (for battles are usually fought spaceby men). ‘Fighting back over the same ground’ shows the characteristic of thistles spacebeing endlessly revengeful for the thistles are being “born” over and over again. spaceFurthermore, the fact that the “battle” is staged in the summer’ that occurs in the spaceearlier half part of the year symbolizes the fact that thistles’ time would not be up spaceany time soon and that they would continue “fighting”.
The ‘blue-black pressure’ spacethat causes the dispersal of the spores or seeds may also symbolize the immense-spacepressure the thistles have on their offspring, perhaps in their expectancy of the spaceoffspring fighting after their time. It may be ambiguous, carrying the fact that after space’Thistles spike the summer air’ and get “injured” by being “mown down” by men spaceor being chewed by ‘cows’ (I do not suppose cows swallow such spiky plants.
They spaceperhaps spit them out. Furthermore, thistles are mentioned to only pass through spacecows’ mouths and to the ‘rubber tongues’ which could imply that thistles are not spacebeing swallowed) they painfully, in their injured condition as suggested by the word space’blue-black’, as if having wounds, they ‘crackle open’ themselves to disperse the spaceseeds or spores. Hence, even though the process of breeding another generation of space”army troops” is painful, the thistles carry on. This shows their endless revenge for spacethey do not stop at anything to fight.
P : Thistles are also described as annoying pests, a nuisance to the living and the dead.
Q : ‘Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men’, ‘ Thistles spike spacethe summer air’, ‘From the underground stain of a decayed Viking’ & ‘Their sons spaceappear…fighting back over the same ground’.
R : Thistles are portrayed as bothersome. Firstly because they plague the happy and spacecheerful atmosphere of the ‘summer air’. The line ‘Thistles spike the summer air’ spacegives this impression. The ambiguous word ‘spike’ could mean that they simply spacespike the air with their sharp body. On the other hand, it could mean that they spaceplague the air and sort of poison the cheerful summer air with pain that is delivered spaceas they ‘manage a plume of blood’. Thistles bother animals even when they are spaceeating (cows) as suggested by the line ‘Against the rubber tongues of cows’ and spacethistles disrupts men’s work by poking them as they work as suggested by the line space ‘Against…the hoeing hands of men’.
It is not only those alive that are being spacebothered. Ancient ‘decayed Viking’ in the ‘underground’ are also being fed on, as spacesuggested by the word ‘stain’ which gives us the impression of a bloodstain, in the spaceline ‘From the underground stain of a decayed Viking’. It is almost a parasite-like spacebehavior for the thistles seem to be taking blood from animals, man and even spacecompose, which makes them a nuisance for they rob away peace- imagine thistles spacespiking you every moment when you are trying to enjoy the ‘summer air’. In spaceaddition to that, the fact that thistles are being produced after their “forefathers” spacehave served their purpose (in obtaining ‘a plume of blood’ each) let us see thistles spacein the light where they appear to be irksome in the sense that they do not stop spacebothering and disturbing.