Saturday, October 21, 2006

Poem of the Week: 'The Jaguar' by Ted Hughes

Very few poets have been as obsessed with the power of NATURE as Ted Hughes - one of the most famous and influential British poets of the 20th century. He believed passionately in nature's ascendancy over mankind, and this is just one of the poems in which he explores this immense power. It was written after watching a jaguar's cage in a zoo, and shows both awe and fear of this magnificent creature.

If you are interested, click here for a short essay on Hughes' animal poems in general - and see if there are any others you would like to read. (The essay also gives some excellent examples of how to EMBED quotations in your own essays, for those of you who want help with this.)

All that aside, however, enjoy the poem...

The apes yawn and adore their fleas in the sun.
The parrots shriek as if they were on fire, or strut
Like cheap tarts to attract the stroller with the nut.
Fatigued with indolence, tiger and lion

Lie still as the sun. The boa-constrictor’s coil
Is a fossil. Cage after cage seems empty, or
Stinks of sleepers from the breathing straw.
It might be painted on a nursery wall.

But who runs like the rest past these arrives
At a cage where the crowd stands, stares, mesmerized,
As a child at a dream, at a jaguar hurrying enraged
Through prison darkness after the drills of his eyes

On a short fierce fuse. Not in boredom—
The eye satisfied to be blind in fire,
By the bang of blood in the brain deaf the ear—
He spins from the bars, but there’s no cage to him

More than to the visionary his cell:
His stride is wildernesses of freedom:
The world rolls under the long thrust of his heel.
Over the cage floor the horizons come.

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