Thistles” and “Tall Nettles Essay
Thistles” and “Tall Nettles
The poems “Tall Nettles” by Edward Thomas and “Thistles” by Ted Hughes contain similar yet different themes. Both of them contain not one but many themes of their own. “The Tall Nettles” contains a theme of abandonment, a theme of nature fighting back against man, and man-made objects, as well as the theme of “inner beauty” i. e. , beauty that is not obvious to the eye. The poet is showing that the plant is fierce, yet protective over a place that “belongs” to them, simply because no one else wants it. It portrays how the nettles have triumphed over man by covering the machines.
Thomas shows this conquest over man in a positive light. It portrays the nettles as beautiful, yet they are not aesthetically pleasing. This seems to show that Thomas sees the “inner beauty” of the nettles; he portrays their resilience and strength. “Thistles” also contains the theme of nature fighting back against man as well as the theme of survival. Unlike in the previous poem, the thistles are fighting over land which is still desired by man. Hughes, unlike Thomas, portrays these battles in a negative light, and seems to portray the plants as the enemy.
This poem is a lot more violent than the previous one, as it actually portrays the epic battle that the thistles fight to survive. Both these poems portray themes of nature fighting against man, and survival. Analysis of “Thistles” “Thistles” is a poem about survival and triumph. It portrays how thistles have to fight to stay alive, but they in fact conquer over their aggressors. In order to fully understand this one must analyze the poem stanza by stanza. In stanza 1 the very first word, “Against”, gives us the first clue to the plight of the thistle.
It has many things which are “against” it, such as the “rubber tongues of cows” and the “hoeing hands of men”. The fact that the “hoeing hands of men” is used as an example of one of the thistles enemies, is ironic, because even though the men have hoes and mean to destroy, the thistle’s still survive. The use of “spike” in line 2 gives us a sharp, jagged image of artillery. “Crackle” in line 3 gives us this same effect. These war-like images are continued throughout the poem. The use of the word “crackle” gives us the idea that the thistle is tough, not gently opening, but crackling open, as if preparing for battle.
In stanza two the poet introduces the idea of revenge. (“Every one a revengeful burst”) The poet uses the word “burst” to describe the purple “exploded” head of the thistle, and the spikes that protrude from this. The use of the word “resurrection” in line 2 supports the idea of the thistles never really dying. The “grasped fistful of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost” also refers to the head of the thistle, and how it appears to be like a hand that has grabbed a handful of weapons. The introduction of “Icelandic frost” brings in the first idea of the war between the Scots and the Vikings.
“Thrust up” brings in the idea that the nettles are like the soldiers sent by nature to fight against man. In stanza two our idea of the thistles being sent by nature is continued. (“From the underground stain of decayed Viking” This is a reference to the Scots/ Vikings war again, but also a reference to the amazing ability of thistles to get nutrient from any soil, even using the nutrients of the dead body of a Viking. Another war-like image is apparent in the “plume of blood” referring to the plume of feathers traditionally worn by soldiers in a war. The final stanza begins in contrast to the other stanzas.
These strong, unbeatable thistles are growing old and dying. They “grow grey”, describing how they age before death. But in the second line “feud” is used, describing how even though the thistle has died the war is not over. “Their sons appear”, ready to continue the battle over the land. They are “stiff with weapons”, making them seem unbeatable, almost over-laden with weapons. This poem is full of war-like images and references to historical events. It describes the way thistles never seem to die, and will keep fighting against man until they win. This poem is deeply emotional and metaphorical.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 2 June 2017
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