The Warm and the Cold

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  • As you only have to write about two poems I wouldn't use this one, except as a second poem if I had to.

As in 'Wind' and 'Tractor', in this poem, Hughes describes how the natural world copes with extreme weather conditions. Whilst the animals seem to be well-adapted and 'warm' despite the 'cold', ('And the badger in its bedding/ Like a loaf in the oven'), the farmers appear to be suffering, turning in their sleep 'like oxen on spits'.

Spit fire

Each stanza begins with a description of the 'freezing dusk', before explaining how animals are dealing with the weather. Each animal is given a simile.

This creates a sense of the animals having something in common, and a sense of order and predictability to the poem.

Figurative Language

Again, Hughes uses personification and metaphors and similes...

The 'freezing dusk' is compared, in similes, to 'a slow trap of steel', 'a nut screwed tight', and 'a mammoth of ice'.

The landscape is personified, 'trees and hills ands all That can no longer feel'.

As is the moon, which due to the cold 'has lost her wits'.

A metaphor is used to describe the spectacular night, 'the starry aeroplane of the soaring night'

Most of the similes, however, apply to the animals.

You need to pick out four or five that seem good to you, and write an explanation of how effective they are.

Remember: that you will not get marks in the exam for simply identifying a simile, or metaphor or example of personification correctly.

The marks will be for what you say about the effectiveness of these poetic devices.

So if you chose to write about 'The deer are on the bare-blown hill Like smiles on a nurse', you would need to say that this is effective because it's an unusual and original simile. That it isn't immediately obvious what the connection between the deer and the nurse's smile is, and this makes the simile interesting.

Landscape

The simile isn't visual, like the owl of line 14 being 'like a doll in its lace', rather the comparison is in terms of ideas.

A nurse works in a tense and difficult environment, her smile in this kind of situation is like a little piece of happiness, a fleeting, momentary beauty. The 'bare-blown hill? is exposed in a difficult, dangerous environment. The deer are like a fleeting moment of beauty and joy.

The form of the first three stanzas is unchanging, constant. The repeated form and the regular rhyme scheme create a sense of order, balance and harmony.

As in 'Work and Play' and 'Tractor', in the last two stanzas the form opens up so that three things are isolated, separated from the security of the rest of the poem.

Why do you think the line 'A star falls' is on its own?

"Because the effect is of the line being iosolated, like the solitary star it describes. The line also is surrounded by white space, creating a sense of it falling"

The final rhymes link the mad moon, 'wits' with the farmers, on 'spits'.

Subject
The poem is about how nature adapts easily to adverse weather, and about how man suffers in it. Presumably the farmer is on a 'spit' because he is worrying about his cattle or crops, and is powerless to help them.
Attitude
The tone of the poem seems to be one of gentle wonder. The images of the animals are all of comfort and warmth. And even the potentially grotesque image of the tortured farmers seems rather comic.
Style
Hughes mainly shows us his talent for thinking of fresh and arresting similes in this poem.
But as in all the poems he also employs metaphor and personification.
Once again, he cleverly adapts his form to underscore the ideas in the poem.

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