Compare and contrast “Pike” by Ted Hughes with “Trout” by Heaney

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Both poets focus on different aspects of the fish’s lives. Heaney focus’s mainly on the sleek physicality of the trout and the fact that it is a guided missile, full of energy and this point reinstates the fact that it is very powerful, not dangerous or aggressive. It also contributes to the very militaristic style that the poem is written in due to the fact that Heaney had a violent upbringing in Ireland, which helps to bring in the notion that the trout is a missile or acts like a bullet being shot from a gun.

Hughes focuses mainly on the pike’s very sinister personality that it is born with and its aggressive nature towards all, even its own kind. So it is therefore not surprising that the pike is a natural born killer from the egg and as it is so aggressive it is invested with mythical qualities and is subsequently thought of as a prehistoric relic lurking in the legendary depths of England’s freshwater ponds. So the poets see both fish with respect and admiration as both are sleek, quick, majestic and powerful.

Let us now compare and contrast how Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney put across these points to us. We can see that ‘Trout’ is written in a far more abstract way than ‘Pike’ and contains a lot less detail about the trout’s mannerisms and its everyday life. The only thing we know of the trout’s lifestyle is that it ‘Picks off grass-seed and moths’. This allows Heaney to use a lot more similes, ‘From depths smooth-skinned as plums’ and the occasional metaphor, ‘A fat gun-barrel’.

We can compare this with ‘Pike’, which contains a lot of detail about how the pike is perfectly formed for killing, ‘killers from the egg,’ which is its main priority in life which also happens to be the main point and central idea for the poem. We are told about the pike’s shape, long snouted, large teeth and strong which makes them perfect predators. This makes the pike the shark of the fresh water kingdom. As a result it has not needed to evolve, ‘Pike, three inches long, perfect Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold.

This tells us that the pike is perfectly proportional at birth, unlike humans, and is a miniature version of what it will be when it grows bigger and older. Trout are also predators, but they only feed on ‘grass-seed and moths,’ whereas pike have gone one stage further and will even feed on each other in desperate cannibalism to show off how powerful they are by showing no mercy and reinstating the fact that only the biggest and the best survive. Hughes tells us this, ‘three we kept behind glass, jungled in weed: three inches, four, And four and a half: fed fry to them-Suddenly there were two.

Finally one. ‘ ‘The jaws hooked clamp and fangs not to be changed at this date; a life subdued to its instrument;’ This shows us that the pike’s entire life is dominated by the very fact that it is a killer and backs up the fact that the jaws and the rest of its body do not need to be changed as they are perfect for killing already. Now Hughes introduces himself in to the poem so that we can really feel the power of the pike. ‘ Stilled legendary depth: It was as deep as England. It held pike too immense to stir, so immense and old that past nightfall I dared not cast.

Hughes may have been only a boy at the time but now we really begin to sense just how deadly the pike is. He dared not cast past nightfall for he is so scared that he may catch something so enormous and legendary that he would not know what to do. We know that the fish in the pond have outlived the monastery that planted them in the first place which does not inspire much hope to Hughes as it suggests that the pike are slowly taking over.

‘Darkness beneath night’s darkness had freed, that rose slowly towards me, watching. From this quote it is possible to think that it is the pike that are fishing for him, rather than Hughes fishing for the pike! This also leads us to think that Hughes is certainly much more afraid of the pike than the pike is of him. We can now contrast this with the trout, which although being a predator could never insert the same amount of shear fear in to a human as a pike can and would certainly be more afraid of a human than a human would be of it. This again suggests the pike’s aggressive nature to us and we feel a great sense of admiration towards the pike.

The main point and central idea of the poem entitled ‘Trout’ is that it is overwhelmingly stacked full of militaristic words and phrases which back up the notion that the trout is a missile and therefore full of energy. ‘ Hangs, a fat gun-barrel, deep under arched bridges or slips like butter down the throat of the river. ‘ This suggests that the trout is camouflaged in the shadows like a soldier where it is loitering and staying perfectly still, until the trigger is pulled and it will shoot out like a bullet from a gun and then disappear as fast as it arrived.

Pike prey in a very similar way to this as pike also ‘watch upwards’ while they hunt for food. Also, the fact that it ‘slips like butter down the throat of the river’ makes it seem very enticing in the way that it would be delicious to eat and it also appears as if the river will happily swallow it. It describes how gracefully and easily it moves and how it is so majestic and smooth, shiny and streamline. Now Heaney compares the trout to a gun and suggests that they are both very similar, ‘his muzzle gets bull’s eye;’ from this quote we can establish that both a gun and a trout are accurate missiles, which never miss their target.

We can also compare this statement with the pike, which is also very similar to a gun in this way, especially since it has a long snout, which is similar to the long barrel of a gun. We get a sense of the trout’s phenomenal power as it speeds through the water from this quote, ‘where water unravels over gravel-beds. ‘ This creates eddies, turbulence and ripples which further suggest the trout’s immense power.

We also learn that the trout is very similar to a tracer bullet, ‘darts like a tracer-bullet back between stones and is never burnt out. This is because they both have great precision. The trout is unlike a tracer bullet because it never runs out whereas a tracer bullet does. This shows us that the trout is one better than a bullet. We are also told that the trout is ‘ramrodding the current’ because it is going up stream. ‘A volley of cold blood ramrodding the current. ‘ ‘A volley’ in militaristic terms means a rain of fire, so we get the impression that the trout is pounding itself fearlessly against the current and it is ‘of cold blood’ because fish are cold-blooded creatures.

We can now see that ‘Pike’ and ‘Trout’ are written in different ways as both poets are trying to get a different message across to us. As Heaney has written ‘Trout’ in a very abstract manner it suggests that he has not concentrated on the trout’s lifestyle. He wanted us to really feel the sense of power the trout has and the fact that it is subsequently full of energy. Hughes on the other hand has written a very detailed poem about the pike’s lifestyle and mannerisms, as he wanted us to get an idea of just how fierce, aggressive and merciless the pike really is.

Tagged In :

Get help with your homework

Haven't found the Essay You Want? Get your custom essay sample For Only $13.90/page

Sarah from CollectifbdpHi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out