Analysis of Poem "Wind" by Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes and Wind
Wind is a poem full of imagery, forceful language and movement. It is a typical Ted Hughes poem in that it explores the idea of struggle with and within nature, the first person speaker directly connecting the reader with the monstrous power of the wind.
This poem evokes a sense of terror and danger, the wind being experienced as a threat as it hits the house and surrounding countryside, causing havoc like some primitive invader.
- Throughout the six stanzas there is a tone of impending doom as the onslaught continues through the night and into the day. The relentless wind instils tension, not only in the fabric of the land but in the minds of the two people in the house.
It's a poem that creates tense drama within a timeline of night, dawn, noon and afternoon; and with metaphor, simile and other poetic devices immerses the reader in a kind of life or death situation, as is so often the case in poetry by Ted Hughes.
First published in 1957 in his first book The Hawk In The Rain, Wind continues to impress readers with its physical language and vivid imagery. There is also an immediacy about it that grabs the attention.
This is not a comfortable poem to dwell in but a thought-provoking blast that urges and prompts - what is it like to experience elemental power and what might the effect be on the vulnerable or helpless human, with little or no control?
Or is this a wind of change for the couple who cannot quite get their act together, because of the imposing wind, or despite the fierce gales?
This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet
Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.
At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up –
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,
The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap:
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house
Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,
Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.
Analysis of Wind
Wind is an evocative mix of powerful language and stunning imagery. It could be construed as a simple human versus nature poem but there is a slight twist near the end which throws this basic theme up into the air.
From the first line the reader is taken into the dramatic world of the first person speaker, the initial image being that of a vessel far out at sea, isolated by the all encompassing violence of the strong wind.
With onomatopoeia and other poetic devices, the poem progresses through a timeline totally controlled by nature - the wind just doesn't let go, it forces itself into the life of this individual and his partner/friend/relative.
Not only humans are affected. Even the birds are subject to this elemental battering, a magpie being flung, whilst a gull is bent like an iron bar, an incredible image, a forceful simile.
The internal rhymes and echoes reinforce the idea of a connected world, despite the destructive nature of the gale....
It's this gutteral diction, together with harsh accent and snappy vowels that build an atmosphere of tension and danger.
The syntax is made for headlong rush and temporary reprieve, the punctuation allowing for pause whilst the enjambment encourages flow and increased energy.
The question is: how to cope in such a wind, how to come to terms with such power, enough to completely wipe out the scene, according to the speaker, who is caught up in the wind's dreadful strength.
- So there is an existential aspect to this poem, which manifests near the end when the speaker comes inside, sits by the fire and presumably tries to communicate with whoever is next to him, in a separate chair.
Is this a friend, a lover, a relative? The reader is left in the dark. There's no telling if they'll survive.
As the wind powers on, the two sense that a great disturbance is about to take place....their domestic life is to be shaken to the core?
The final stanza is like something pout of a gothic horror movie. There they are sitting by the roaring fire, unable to talk, incapable; and the urgent wind continues to sweep and batter the landscape. Upheaval is imminent.
Further Analysis of Wind
Wind is a formal looking six stanza poem, each stanza a quatrain so making 24 lines in total. It is, loosely, a free verse poem because it doesn't have a strict rhyme scheme or a set, consistent metre (meter in American English). On the page it looks formal.
Whilst there is no rhyme scheme as such, some of the end lines in each quatrain do fully rhyme, or are imperfect rhymes. Full rhymes tend to bring harmony and complete meaning, imperfect bring some dissonance and confusion:
Stanza 1 has: night/wet (pararhyme)
Stanza 2 has: sky/eye...wielded/emerald (full + pararhyme)
Stanza 3 has: as/eyes...up/guyrope (2 pararhymes)
Stanza 4 has: grimace/house...flap/black (pararhyme + slant rhyme)
Stanza 5 has: note/thought...deep/grip (2 pararhymes)
Stanza 6 has: blazing/horizons...on/in (near rhyme + pararhyme)
Metre (meter in USA)
This is certainly no steady, plodding iambic poem because the metric rhythms vary such a great deal, reflecting the erratic, unpredictable wind. But there are pentameters with iambic feet every so often which sort of goes against the grain of this very physical battered poetic landscape.
So mostly pentameters with the occasional hexameter, and extra beats here and there to vary the mix.
Let's have a look at the first stanza from a metric point of view:
This house / has been / far out / at sea / all night,
The woods / crashing / through dark / ness, the / booming / hills,
Winds stam / peding / the fields / under / the win / dow
Flounder / ing black / astride / and blind / ing wet
The first line is iambic pentameter, five regular feet, but the rest of the stanza is a mix of trochee and iamb, bringing sudden stress, as in lines three and four.
Each stanza from then on has its quota of iambic feet mixed with trochee and spondee and pyrrhic, as in stanza 2, line 7:
Blade-light, / lumin / ous black / and em / erald,
This contrast of spondee (double stress) and pyrrhic (double non stress) again suggests power and helplessness, as described in the poem.
More Analysis - Poetic Devices
There are several examples of alliteration:
Stanza 1: house has...black astride and blinding.
Stanza 2: hills had....wind wielded...Blade-light,luminous black...like the lens.
Stanza 4: Back gull bent like an iron bar.
Stanza 5: green goblet....front of the great fire.
Stanza 6: We watch.
Assonance is to vowel what alliteration is to consonant:
Stanza 3: as far as.
Stanza 4: a magpie away and a.
When a line or stanza carries on to the next without punctuation, ensuring a flow and continuation of meaning. The poet uses this device a lot - in all stanzas but the last.
This poem has such strong language, reflecting the wind's strength and the speaker's awe in the face of such elemental energy.
Note the use of several present participle, active verbs that enliven the whole poem and give variation on a theme of dramatic intensity:
woods crashing...booming hills...Winds stampeding...Floundering black...The fields quivering...fire blazing
Other verbs reinforce the tone of the poem:
wind wielded...dented the balls...drummed and strained...bang and vanish...flung...bent...Rang...shatter....grip....feel.....tremble...cry out.
The first line introduces the metaphorical idea that the house is or has been a ship (or boat or vessel), out at sea.
The second stanza has Blade-light, that is, the light is a cutting instrument.
And the third stanza has the tent of the hills, suggesting temporariness and tension as the wind blasts the hill.
Where objects and things take on human characteristics:
wind wielded....The fields quivering....skyline a grimace...window tremble....stones cry out.
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.
...a black/Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly.
The house/Rang like some fine green goblet
100 essential Modern Poems, Ivan Dee, Joseph Parisi, 2005
© 2018 Andrew Spacey