In the latest issue:

In Quarantine

Erin Maglaque

Après Brexit

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: Springtime for Donald

David Bromwich

Meetings with their Gods

Claire Hall

‘Generation Left’

William Davies

At the North Miami Museum: Alice Paalen Rahon

Mary Ann Caws

Buchan’s Banter

Christopher Tayler

‘American Dirt’

Christian Lorentzen

Fiction and the Age of Lies

Colin Burrow

In Lahore

Tariq Ali

GOD HATES YOUR FEELINGS

James Lasdun

Rereading Bowen

Tessa Hadley

At the Corner House

Rosemary Hill

William Gibson

Thomas Jones

Poem: ‘Murph & Me’

August Kleinzahler

The Stud File

Kevin Brazil

John Boorman’s Quiet Ending

David Thomson

In Shanghai: The West Bund Museum

John-Paul Stonard

Diary: The Deborah Orr I Knew

Jenny Turner

The Great Irish PikeTed Hughes
Close
Close
Vol. 4 No. 22 · 2 December 1982
Poem

The Great Irish Pike

Ted Hughes

231 words

The pike has been condemned.
The Virgin, dipping her lily in the lough, decreed it.
This is no precinct for anything fishy
That revives the underhang of the Dragon.

He fell asleep in Job.
He woke in The Book of Vermin.

And in the Courts of Beauty-care and Cosmetics
His picture is pinned up – as the criminal norm.
No trial for those eyes. No appeal
For that mouth. And flesh of such length,
So gilled, so slimed, is flagrante delicto.

Nursery trout bore witness in falsetto.
Shameless hatchery smolts
United their plea with the helpless and oppressed.

And the pretty rudd
Cast themselves as the allotted
Mediaeval maidens.

Whenever the pike tried to protest
The show of his fangs emptied the hearing.

Therefore the vibrato of Sunday bells
Atomised him
In the straitened souls of our grandmothers.

The water-colourist of human progress
Is painting the ponds afresh,
The rivers and the loughs, without him.

Even the deft snake of Freud
Invested him, religiously,
For nightmare returns only.

Can he still be said to exist?

Between the mud bed sown with bronze daggers and gold fibulae
And the crannog reeds guarded by ornamental herons

The pike in his cell

Only survives till the hired German beheads him
And strings his skull, with twelve others,
Along the gunnel of a Shannon cruiser,

Or nails it, on a plaque,
Over the resurrection of Valhalla.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences