Critical Analysis of That Morning

Critical Analysis of That Morning

Q. Write a critical analysis of That Morning, a poem written by Ted Hughes.

“That Morning” is a poem by Ted Hughes, a renowned British poet. The poem is part of Hughes’s collection titled “River,” which was first published in 1983. The “River” collection is known for its focus on nature, particularly rivers and their surrounding environments.

Critical Analysis of That Morning

Lines 1-3

We came where the salmon were so many
So steady, so spaced, so far-aimed
On their inner map,

We came where the salmon were so many 

This line establishes a sudden, striking contrast between the human observers (we) and the natural world. The abundance of salmon (so many) not only highlights nature’s richness but also suggests a world thriving independently of human influence.

salmon
                                        

The salmon symbolizes the unstoppable force of nature. Their presence in large numbers underscores the vitality and resilience of the natural world.

So steady, so spaced, so far-aimed 

Hughes uses concise, impactful descriptions to convey the salmon’s purposeful movement. ‘Steady’ implies a relentless, unwavering commitment to their journey, reflecting the powerful instinct driving them. 

‘Spaced’ suggests a harmonious, natural order in their movement, indicative of an innate understanding of their environment and purpose. “

‘Far-aimed’ highlights the salmon’s long-distance migration, driven by deep-rooted biological imperatives.

On their inner map,

The term ‘inner map’ is particularly significant in understanding the salmon in Hughes’s poem. This metaphor suggests an intrinsic, perhaps genetic, sense of direction that guides the salmon to their spawning grounds.

It speaks to the remarkable navigational abilities of these creatures, which are driven by instinct rather than learned knowledge or conscious decision-making.

Lines 3-6

England could add
Only the sooty twilight of South Yorkshire
Hung with the drumming drift of Lancasters
Till the world had seemed capsizing slowly.

England could add
Only the sooty twilight of South Yorkshire

The industrial north of England, specifically South Yorkshire, is known for its coal mining and heavy industries. “Sooty” suggests pollution and darkness, typical of industrial areas, especially during heavy coal use. 

“Twilight” can symbolize a transition or fading, possibly referring to the decline of the industry or the dimming of day, which could metaphorically represent harder times or the shadow of war.

Hung with the drumming drift of Lancasters 

“Lancasters” refers to the Avro Lancaster, a British bomber aircraft extensively used during World War II. The “drumming drift” evokes the sound of these planes, a constant, ominous presence in the skies.

This line shows the unease and the omnipresent threat of war. It also ties the industrial landscape to the war effort, as many industrial regions were heavily involved in wartime production.

Till the world had seemed capsizing slowly

This line uses the metaphor of a capsizing world to convey a sense of upheaval and disorientation. The slow capsizing could represent the gradual but profound changes brought about by war and industrial decline.

It affects both the physical landscape and the psychological state of the people living there. It suggests an upside-down world where the familiar becomes unstable and uncertain.

The external reality of war, symbolized by the Lancasters, directly influences the internal state of individuals and societies.

The slow capsizing of the world indicates a shift in collective consciousness. There is a change in how people view their lives and futures in the face of ongoing conflict.

Lines 7-9

Solemn to stand there in the pollen light
Waist-deep in wild salmon swaying massed
As from the hand of God.

Solemn to stand there in the pollen light

The “pollen light” suggests a particular quality of light, possibly tinged with the golden hue of pollen. It creates an atmosphere that is almost sacred or ethereal. Standing solemnly in such light implies a deep, respectful engagement with the natural world.

Waist-deep in wild salmon swaying massed

Here, the speaker is immersed in nature, literally waist-deep among a large, dense group of wild salmon. This immersion conveys a sense of unity with nature.

“Waist-deep” suggests deep immersion in the natural environment. The speaker is not merely observing from a distance but is physically surrounded and engulfed by the natural phenomenon, indicating a profound connection with nature.

“In wild salmon” emphasizes these creatures’ natural and untamed aspects. “Wild” contrasts with anything domesticated or controlled by humans. It highlights the raw and primal force of nature.

“Swaying massed” conveys the dense, collective movement of the salmon. “Swaying” suggests a rhythmic, almost synchronized motion, while “massed” implies many salmon, creating a powerful image of abundance and collective behavior in the natural world.

As from the hand of God. 

This line elevates the scene to a spiritual or divine level. It implies that the scene, especially the abundance and behavior of the salmon, is so awe-inspiring and majestic that it is a manifestation of a higher power’s work.

Lines 9-12

There the body
Separated, golden and imperishable,
From its doubting thoughta spirit-beacon
Lit by the power of the salmon

There the body

It refers to a moment of deep connection with nature, where the poet experiences a profound sense of being part of the natural world. “There” indicates a specific moment or place where this realization occurs.

Separated, golden and imperishable

It symbolizes a state of transcendence or enlightenment achieved through this deep connection with nature. 

“Separated” suggests a detachment or division from something else. In a symbolic context, it could imply a state of being set apart from life’s ordinary, mundane, and physical aspects.

It might represent a spiritual or existential separation, such as the distinction between the physical and the spiritual, or the everyday self and a higher state of consciousness.

“Golden” symbolizes something precious, valuable, or of excellent quality. It can also imply a sense of purity, perfection, or an idealized state. Gold is associated with the divine or the sublime in many cultures and literary contexts.

“Imperishable” indicates something that cannot decay or be destroyed, suggesting timelessness and endurance. In a spiritual context, it may refer to eternal or transcendent aspects of existence or consciousness beyond physical limitations.

From its doubting thought 

This line means that when someone sees a beautiful and powerful natural scene, like being surrounded by wild salmon, it can make their thinking clearer and help them feel more connected spiritually. It is like their doubts and questions disappear for a moment.

a spirit-beacon 
Lit by the power of the salmon

This imagery suggests that the presence or movement of the salmon is a spiritual or metaphysical illumination (spirit beacon).

The phrase “lit by the power of the salmon” indicates that the natural force and vitality of the salmon are enlightening or awakening in a spiritual or emotional sense.

The salmon’s journey is not just a physical migration but also holds a more profound, almost mystical significance.

Lines 13-15

That came on, came on, and kept on coming
As if we flew slowly, their formations
Lifting us toward some dazzle of blessing

That came on, came on, and kept on coming

This repetition emphasizes the relentless, continuous movement of the salmon. It reflects the persistent, unyielding nature of their journey, often against strong water flow. It symbolizes determination and resilience.

As if we flew slowly, their formations
Lifting us toward some dazzle of blessing

These lines metaphorically suggest that the spectacle of the salmon is spiritually or emotionally elevating the observers (perhaps the speaker and companions).

The “formations” of the salmon seem to have an uplifting effect as if the observers are being carried or lifted towards a higher understanding or state of grace (“some dazzle of blessing”).

It could imply a sense of awe, enlightenment, or a profound connection to nature that elevates the human experience to something more transcendent.

Lines 16-19

One wrong thought might darken. As if the fallen
World and salmon were over. As if these
Were the imperishable fish

That had let the world pass away –

One wrong thought might darken.

This line suggests the fragility of the moment or the experience. It implies that a single negative or misplaced thought could overshadow or diminish the significance and beauty of the scene.

It could be a comment on the human tendency to be distracted by negative thoughts, which can eclipse the appreciation of the present moment or the natural world.

As if the fallen 
World and salmon were over.

These lines seem to ponder a hypothetical end of the “fallen world” and the salmon. The “fallen world” could refer to a world that has lost its way, perhaps environmentally or morally.

The idea that this world and the salmon could be “over” evokes a sense of finality, possibly hinting at environmental concerns or the transient nature of beauty and life.

As if these
Were the imperishable fish

The salmon is imagined as “imperishable,” contrasting with the earlier suggestion of their end. It could symbolize the enduring, timeless aspects of nature and life cycles despite the transient nature of individual lives or species. 

That had let the world pass away –

This line suggests a scenario where the salmon, as eternal or imperishable beings, remain while the world around them fades or changes.

It is a powerful image that could reflect the resilience of natural processes in contrast to human civilization’s impermanence, or it might suggest a kind of natural wisdom in the salmon, enduring beyond human concerns and impacts.

Lines 20-22

There, in a mauve light of drifted lupins,
They hung in the cupped hands of mountains

Made of tingling atoms. It had happened.

There, in a mauve light of drifted lupins,

This opening sets a scene of serene beauty. The “mauve light” suggests a soft, gentle illumination, possibly at dawn or dusk, creating a dreamlike atmosphere.

Lupins, which are flowering plants, add to the sense of a lush, natural setting. This phrase paints a picture of a tranquil and almost mystical natural landscape.

They hung in the cupped hands of mountains

The salmon (presumably continuing from previous lines) are described as being ‘held’ by the mountains. This “cupped hands” metaphor personifies the mountains, suggesting a nurturing, protective quality.

It conveys a sense of harmony and integration between the salmon and their environment, as if the natural world is cradling or cherishing them.

Made of tingling atoms. It had happened.

The phrase “Made of tingling atoms” adds a sense of vibrancy and energy, perhaps reflecting the dynamic, ever-moving essence of life and nature.

“It had happened” implies a significant event or realization has occurred. It could refer to the culmination of the salmon’s journey, a moment of profound natural beauty, or a deeper spiritual or existential revelation experienced by the observer.

Lines 23-27

Then for a sign that we were where we were
Two gold bears came down and swam like men

Beside us. And dived like children.
And stood in deep water as on a throne
Eating pierced salmon off their talons.

Then for a sign that we were where we were

This phrase suggests a moment of realization or confirmation, indicating that the observers are precisely where they are meant to be. It sets up an expectation for a significant event or encounter that confirms their place in the natural world.

Two gold bears came down and swam like men

The appearance of “two gold bears” (likely referring to a species like brown or grizzly bears, known for their golden-brown fur) adds a majestic and powerful element to the scene.

Describing their swimming as “like men” anthropomorphizes the bears, attributing human qualities to them. It bridges the human and natural worlds.

Beside us. And dived like children.

This line continues to humanize the bears, comparing their diving to children’s playful, carefree actions. It creates an image of joy and natural playfulness, further enhancing the connection between humans, animals, and nature.

And stood in deep water as on a throne

The bears are depicted as regal and commanding, standing in the water like on a throne. This powerful imagery elevates the scene, giving the bears a majestic, almost royal status within their natural domain.

Eating pierced salmon off their talons.

The final line brings the focus back to the interaction between the bears and the salmon, a natural occurrence depicted here with a certain raw elegance.

Lines 28-30

So we found the end of our journey.

So we stood, alive in the river of light,
Among the creatures of light, creatures of light.

So we found the end of our journey.

This line suggests the culmination of a quest or search, not just in a physical sense but also in a spiritual or existential sense. The journey’s end is a significant achievement or understanding, possibly a deep connection with or insight into the natural world.

So we stood, alive in the river of light,

It could symbolize a state of enlightenment or heightened awareness. The “river of light” might represent nature’s energy and life force. It indicates the speaker’s immersion in the vibrancy and dynamism of the natural world.

Among the creatures of light, creatures of light.

The repetition of “creatures of light” emphasizes the idea of purity, beauty, and perhaps a divine or transcendent aspect of the natural creatures surrounding them. It suggests that these creatures and the natural world possess an inherent luminescence or spiritual quality.

“Creatures of light” can have a spiritual or mystical connotation, suggesting that these creatures connect to a higher realm or possess a spiritual significance beyond their physical existence.

In Hughes’s work, animals often embody deeper meanings or natural forces. Describing them as “creatures of light” could suggest they are not only part of the natural world but also bearers of something more transcendent or mystical.

 

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