Ted Hughes is perhaps one of the most controversial figures in all of the literary world. While some esteem him because of his breathtaking way with words, others feel that his reputation was destroyed by the tragedies surrounding his life. Some have even claimed that Hughes himself caused these tragedies. Hughes’s wife and mistress both ended their lives in suicide. It is unclear whether Hughes played a role in driving them to suicide or whether he was drawn to women who tended toward depression and suicidal thoughts. While some have blamed Hughes, others have felt sympathy for him. Wind describes a storm and has a meaning in and of itself, but knowledge of Hughes’s personal life gives each stanza a deeper meaning.
Critic Drue Heinz wrote about Hughes, “His voice is commanding. He is often invited to read his work, the flow of his language enlivening the text. In appearance, he is impressive, and yet there is very little aggression or intimidation in his look. Indeed, one admirer has said that her first thought sitting opposite him was that this was what God should look like “when you get there.”
Summary of Wind
‘Wind’ is both within and out of Hughes’ normal writing style. Most of his most formidable works of poetry take place within such suspended periods but personify the moment using animals. In ‘Wind’ there is nothing even vaguely humanistic present throughout the poem, thus lending to it an air of almost complete animosity and luck. The people at the mercy of nature cannot do anything but wait for the night to end, and in a jump from his regular style, Hughes is not interested in describing this act of nature in the loving detail that he has shown in works such as ‘The Thought-Fox‘.
Instead, the description is written through action: what happens and what doesn’t, leaving the image to develop inside the reader’s mind without adding very many adjectives. It works well for this poem. The detailed actions provide enough that the reader can imagine the house and the family, the vibrant anger of nature, the terrifying power it wields, and how helpless man is in the face of it.
You can read ‘Wind‘ in full here.
Themes in Wind
In ‘Wind,’ Hughes engages with themes of nature, human experience, and relationships. By the end of the poem, the wind that started as an incredible, although terrifying, natural force transforms into a possible metaphor for the state of a couple’s relationship. It is quite easy to connect the couple in this piece to Hughes and Plath, but as there is no evidence that this was Hughes’s intention, it is safer to assume that the couple is creating this piece. The wind powers its way through the poem, completely controlling the couple’s ability to go about their lives–they’re at the mercy of it. There’s a feeling of impending doom throughout the poem as the wind goes on through day and night. It helps to depict the tension between the couple. They “sit on” at the end of the poem, revealing nothing to the reader about what happens next for them.
Structure and Form of Wind
‘Wind’ by Ted Hughes is a six-stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains do not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, meaning that the poem is written in free verse. Despite this, there are some examples of half-rhyme and full rhyme in the text. For instance, “note” and “though” in stanza five and “up” and “guyrope” in stanza three both are half-rhymes. IN stanza two, there is a full rhyme with “sky” and “eye.”
Literary Devices in Wind
Hughes makes use of several literary devices in ‘Wind.’ These include but are not limited to onomatopoeia, alliteration, and enjambment. The latter, enjambment, can be seen throughout the poem. In fact, it is in all the stanzas except for the last. Some of the best examples are the transitions between lines one and two of stanza three and line four of stanza four, and line one of stanza five. Alliteration is a type of repetition, one that’s concerned with the use of consonant sounds. For example, “black” and “blinding” in stanza one and “green goblet” and “great” in stanza five.
Onomatopoeia is a type of figurative language. It occurs when the poet uses words that sound like the thing they’re describing. For example, words like “floundering” and “booming” in stanza one.
Analysis of Wind
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
With the opening of this poem, the speaker paints a perfect picture of complete desolation. A house is stranded out at sea. One can only conclude that a tragic storm strong enough to lift a house from its foundation is responsible for this stranded house. The speaker describes that it has been out at sea all night. This reveals that the storm has been going on for quite some time, and there has been no one to recover the house or to rescue those inside. The storm continues in a furry as “the woods crash through the darkness,” and the winds are “stampeding the fields.” The speaker then implies he himself is inside the house, for he describes the view from the window as “floundering black” and “blinding wet.” The picture he paints here is one of hopelessness. He is entirely at the mercy of the storm, and even his home, which should have been his shelter, was swept away by the wind and the rain.
Notice the onomatopoeia in lines 2-4: ‘crashing,’ ‘booming,’ ‘stampeding,’ ‘floundering,’ all big words of even bigger actions, crazy noise adding to the general unease of the first stanza; it is not just the wind that has been turned into an animal, but the rest of nature as well. The loneliness of the house is deepened. There is truly no other presence on the hill beside the storm and the house, and that heightens the atmosphere of the poem to an almost fervent pitch.
Till day rose; then under an orange sky
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.
The night is finally over, but daybreak does not restore peace. Instead, the sky is orange, and “the hills had new places.” This storm has changed everything. Even the hills about his house look different. His home itself seems to be in a different place. The speaker suddenly feels that nature itself is his enemy, that light is a “blade” like a sword to fight him with. Nature is also “luminous black and emerald.” These are dark and mysterious colors, revealing that the speaker views nature as a dark and mysterious thing. Then, in the final line, the speaker even suggests that nature is insane. He claims that it flexes “like the lens of a mad eye.”
All the colours chosen in this stanza are dropped into the stanza in such a way that their qualities are somehow exacerbated; in a colourless, frightening world, the sky is orange, the light ‘luminous black and emerald’, and by not comparing the colours to something else, it helps to clarify and sharpen the tone of the colour itself in the reader’s mind. There is something warning about the orange sky, about the ‘luminous black’ light that the wind scatters through the clouds. However, it is hard to say what, exactly, is quite so threatening about the presence of colour.
At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,
It is now noon, and the speaker describes himself as inching his way along the side of the house until he gets to the door. He dares to look up, just once, and the “brunt wind” was so strong that it actually “dented the balls of [his] eyes.” This description allows the reader to understand the true magnitude of the storm and the strength of the wind. He looks out to the hills and sees that the wind continues to drum the hills and strain the “guyropes,” which were intended to keep the tents fastened to the ground.
The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house
The speaker continues to describe the brute force of the wind. “The fields quiver” under its strength, and even “the skyline…grimace[s]”. He sees the wind fling a crow and bends a “black back gull” (a very large breed of Seagull) like one would “slowly” bend “an iron bar.” The speaker purposely ends this stanza mid-sentence with “The house.” The house, then, seems to be still utterly standing alone. This also builds anticipation for the following stanza.
Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,
The speaker says that the house, at the mercy of the wind, rings “like some fine green goblet in the note.” One can imagine a delicate, fragile goblet and the way it would shake if hit lightly. The house is doing the same thing, and the speaker says that “any second would shatter it.” There is nothing he can do to protect his house against the wind. The wind is strong and ruthless, and compared to it, his house is like a delicate goblet. The speaker then reveals that there is someone else there with him. He says, “now deep in chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip our hearts.” They are bracing themselves for whatever is to come. It is clear that they understand the wind might take their very lives. It has already uplifted their home and shifted the landscapes around them. It seems about to shatter the house and the people inside fear for their lives. They are unable to “entertain book” or “thought,” for they are in fear of their lives.
Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.
As the people inside the house wait, at the mercy of the wind, they cannot even entertain one another. They simply sit and watch “the fire blazing,” perhaps the last comfort they will experience in life. They “feel the roots of the house move,” but they do nothing. They merely “sit on.” There is nothing they can do against the power of the wind. The speaker personifies the window, just as he has personified the wind, and portrays it as shaking in fear of the wind, wanting “to come in.” It seems as if they can even hear “the stones cry out under the horizons.” Everything within and outside of the house is entirely at the mercy of the wind.
About Ted Hughes
While this poem effectively describes the way any human being might feel in the face of the power of nature, it is likely that this poem describes something much more personal to Ted Hughes. Hughes was married, for four years, to Sylvia Plath. Plath, a poet herself, is best known for being a tortured soul. Her poetry is dark and sometimes downright terrifying. Plath attempted to end her life multiple times but did not actually commit suicide until about a year after she and Hughes separated. This tragedy tainted Hughes’ reputation as a poet since many identified with Plath’s poetry and saw Hughes as the source of her torment. Here, however, Hughes describes what it felt like for him to be in a marriage with someone who was so intent on self-destruction.
One particularly interesting quote that reveals how Hughes thought about his writing reads:
There are certain things that are just impressive, aren’t there? One stone can be impressive and the stones around it aren’t. It’s the same with animals. Some, for some reason, are strangely impressive. They just get into you in a strange way. Certain birds obviously have this extra quality that fascinates your attention. Obviously hawks have always done that for me, as a great many others have — not only impressive in themselves but also in that they’ve accumulated an enormous literature making them even more impressive. And crows too. Crows are the central bird in many mythologies. The crow is at every extreme, lives on every piece of land on earth, the most intelligent bird.
Without knowing the details of their marriage, it is difficult to form an opinion on whether or not Hughes was the source of Plath’s pain. But this poem reveals some of Hughes’ point of view. He clearly felt hopeless in the situation. He felt that he and his wife were entirely alone. There was no one to help them. They were like a house stranded at sea, at the mercies of the wind. The last two stanzas reveal that he felt as if both of them were dying and could not even talk to each other. They could not read a book or enjoy any kind of entertainment in the presence of one another. This represents the power of the storm that overcame their marriage. Hughes clearly felt that he could nothing to help Plath or himself. He felt that they were dying, and he was entirely hopeless.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Wind’ should also consider reading some of Hughes’ other best-known poems. For example, ‘Amulet,‘ ‘Crow’s Fall,‘ and ‘Bayonet Charge.‘ The latter depicts raw human emotions of fear and attributes of strength and focuses on a soldier from the First World War. ‘Amulet’ is a simple poem that uses Hughes’ much-loved animal imagery. He depicts the importance and dominance of a wolf within its surroundings in this particular piece. In ‘Crow’s Fall,’ the speaker describes how the crow became black, an allegorical story of what happens when one goes beyond their limits.