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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Thought-Fox

(Ted Hughes, poet laureate, 1984-1998)

Ted Hughes (1930-1998) was appointed poet laureate by Queen Elizabeth II. He was one of the most distinguished poets of his generation. His genius can be compared to the unique and passionate voices of poets like Dylan Thomas and Seamus Heaney. His verses, including his children’s poems, are noted for their remarkably vivid pictures and original imaginings.

Discussing the poem below in his book
Poetry in the Making, Hughes wrote that “This poem does not have anything you could easily call a meaning. It is about a fox, obviously enough, but a fox that is both a fox and not a fox. What sort of a fox is it that can step right into my head where presumably it still sits . . . smiling to itself when the dogs bark. It is both a fox and a spirit. It is a real fox; as I read the poem I see it move, I see it setting its prints, I see its shadow going over the irregular surface of the snow. The words show me all this, bringing it nearer and nearer. It is very real to me. The words have made a body for it and given it somewhere to walk.”


I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

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

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

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.

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