‘Roe-Deer’ by Ted Hughes is a poem about momentary beauty that can take a mind away from the real to the surreal. It drives one to feel what one hasn’t felt before. It is called the scenic beauty that with its simplicity van do wonders in the soul. And, Ted Hughes sublimed with the “blue-dark deer” penned down this poem that can soothe a soul as well as make the person dive deep into the beautiful nature. The beginning of the poem is as soft as the end of the poem. It’s no doubt a soul-stirring poem to read and think about.
Summary of Roe-Deer
‘Roe-Deer’ by Ted Hughes presents how a simple scene of nature can give one a lasting sensation of a lifetime. The poem is about two roe deer that the poet saw while he was on the way. It was the time of winter. The poet was driving. Suddenly, on the road, he saw two roe deer standing. The scene touched the poet so softly that he couldn’t help stopping the car and saw those two beautiful creatures. But the poet’s sudden intrusion into their deery world, made them flee. The poet observed the deer’s every movement with great attention and at last, they were no more. They faded like the ice that evaporates by the warm touch of sunlight. However, at last, the whole scene came to its previous shape as if nothing, in reality, happened there.
You can read the full poem Roe-Deer here.
Structure of Roe-Deer
‘Roe-Deer’ by Ted Hughes is a short poem mostly written using the couplet form. However, the poet doesn’t employ the rhyming couplet scheme in the poem. For this reason, the poem is in free verse. There is a repetition of the “d” sound in the second, third, and fourth stanza. The first line in the mentioned stanzas ends with “dimension”, “deerhood”, and “disintegration” respectively. Apart from that, the line lengths of the poem are also irregular. There are only three single lines out of the couplets. Moreover, the poet mostly uses the anapestic meter and iambic meter. There are also some variations of spondees and pyrrhics in the poem. The irregularity of the metrical composition brings an internal regularity to the poem. The poem has a flow of its own like nature and her beautiful creatures have.
Literary Devices in Roe-Deer
‘Roe-Deer’ by Ted Hughes contains several interesting literary devices that make the poet’s voice more appealing to the readers. Likewise, in the first line, there is a metaphor in “dawn’s early light”. In the same line, the poet uses a palilogy by repeating “the” twice. There is another metaphor in the use of the word “dimension” in the next couplet. The following section presents a marvelous figurative device in “secret deerhood”. It presents a metaphor and a personal metaphor as well. Apart from that, the fourth couplet contains anaphora. In the next section, the poet uses metonymy by using the word “password” and “sign”. These words also contain metaphors.
Moreover, in “the trees were no longer trees, nor the road a road”, Hughes uses a paradox. However, it is not that the poet refrains from using alliterations. In fact, there are several alliterations and consonances in the poem. As an example, “Then they”, “thru the”, and “Towards tree-dark” contain alliteration. There is a polysyndeton in “Seeming to eddy and glide and fly away up”. In the last section of the poem, “dawn inspiration” is a metaphor for the natural setting at dawn.
Analysis of Roe-Deer
In the dawn’s early light, in the the biggest snow of the year
Two blue-dark deer stood in the road, alerted.
They planted their 2 or 3 years of secret deerhood
Clear on my snowscreen vision of the abnormal
‘Roe-Deer’ by Ted Hughes begins with the image of two “blue-dark” deer standing in the road at dawn. It was the “biggest snow of the year”. So, it is natural that there was none but the poet who was observing this scene. Those two creatures appear mysterious as they aren’t like general roe deer. They have a bluish dark tincture on their bodies that make them appear like two creatures from a mysterious world. Suddenly, the poet’s intrusion into their tryst, made them alert of human existence. Here, it seems that such a romance isn’t possible in this carnal world.
However, the mysterious scene glued the poet’s eyes. He had to stop by and observe their beauty. Here, the poet makes use of the word “dimension” that puts a surreal layer over the poem’s surface. It can be a reference to the poet’s inner dimension where the poetic imagination flourish. Those creatures entered there, into the poet’s mind. Moreover, in the last section, the poet imagines those deer might have been in an amorous relationship for two or three years. The poet thinks, like then, they possibly had such a secret meeting before.
Apart from that, the use of the metaphor, “secret deerhood” is very interesting. Here, the poet refers to their secret relationship that nature was unaware of. However, in the last line by using the word “abnormal” the poet again creates an air of mystery in this poem.
And hesitated in the all-way disintigration
And stared at me. And so for some lasting seconds
The deer had come for me.
‘Roe-Deer’ by Ted Hughes inserts mobility into the poem’s primary image. The poet’s existence made them alert. Those two roe deer hesitated to wait any longer. They disinterested the meeting at dawn and stared at the poet to make sure if he was approaching or not. Thereafter, they started to run within a few lasting seconds. Here, the poet uses the themes of the transience of natural beauty.
In the next section, the poet thinks that the deer were waiting for him. Here, the poet employs two metaphors. One is the “password” and another is “sign”. Here, password refers to a specific way to enter someone’s inner world and sign seems to be referring to the poet’s identity. The poet thinks that they might be waiting to please the poet and gain access to his heart.
In the last few lines, the poet thinks that the road was like a stage, and nature had blown the curtain aside for a few moments. Then again, dropped it. It is a reference to the theme mentioned above. Moreover, the presence of those creatures that appeared to the poet made the whole scene cherishing. But, after their departure, the place had nothing to please the poet’s mind. The last line of this section, “The deer had come to me” reflects the kind of attachment the poet created with the deer in just a few moments. It appears that there is a sense of longing in his voice.
Then they ducked thru the hedge, and upright they rode their legs
Into the boil of big flakes.
The snow took them and soon their nearby hoofprints as well.
Revising its dawn inspiration
Back to the ordinary.
In the last few lines of ‘Roe-Deer’, Ted Hughes describes how they fled away from the scene. The description is no doubt exceptional and soothing to the eyes. Those deer at first ducked through the hedge, and then they moved upright. Then they kept running to the “snow-lonely” field and then with a surprise they were totally out of the poet’s view. Here, the poet uses alliterations to maintain the flow of the lines and depict the movement of those deer. There is also a metaphor in the “snow-lonely field”. The field appeared to the poet as a lonely creature covered with snow. Moreover, the line “Seeming to eddy and glide and fly away up”, appears as those two creatures weren’t from the real world. They might have come from heaven.
In the last four lines, the poet presents how this surreal scene came to an ordinary level. In this section, it seems that the haziness of air due to snowfall might be a reason that the poet couldn’t see where the deer went. However, after the deer fled away, snow even covered their “hoofprints” as if nothing happened there. The scene of dawn appeared to the poet as normal and “ordinary” as it was a few moments ago.
Historical Context of Roe-Deer
‘Roe-Deer’ by Ted Hughes first appeared in “Moortown Diary” and it also appeared in “New Selected Poems” in 1973. Like his other poems, here the poet shares his liking for the animal world. The poet was always interested in the beauty and uniqueness of nature and the creatures close to her. In this poem, the poet reflects on the same theme of finding the divine and the sublime in nature. Hughes captures how a simple scene of early morning can take one to a different dimension where every movement appears as mysterious and beautiful.
Like ‘Roe-Deer’ by Ted Hughes, here is a list of some poems that talk about the beauty of nature and its transience.
- Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats – Here, John Keats talks similarly about a nightingale and the bird’s heartwarming song.
- All in green went my love riding by e.e. cummings – In this poem, E.E. Cummings presents the imagery of dawn and a deer.
- The Fawn by Edna St. Vincent Millay – The poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay has the same emotional flow in the heart after seeing the deer in this poem.
- Two Look At Two by Robert Frost – This poem by Robert Frost interestingly describes the encounter between two men and two deer.
You can read about 10 of the Best Nature Poems here.