Imagery in ‘Wind’ by Ted Hughes


Imagery in ‘Wind’ by Ted Hughes


The house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet

Till day rose; then under an orange sky                                                              5
The hills had new places, and wind-wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up –                                                         10
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap:
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-                                                    15
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain a book, thought,                                          20

Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the windows tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.

Ted Hughes (New Selected Poems p. 14) originally in Hawk in the Rain (1957)

Imagery in ‘Wind’ by Ted Hughes


The poem, Wind, by Ted Hughes portrays the speaker’s experience of being at home in the countryside during a severe gale. The descriptions are evocative and vividly capture the threat of ‘having the roots of the house’ shaken, and of having ‘the tent of the hills [] vanish with a flap’. The images of the wind’s onslaught on the house and surrounding landscape, along with the sounds it makes, its movement and texture are all vividly drawn – so vividly, in fact, that we, as readers, feel as if we are right there in the thick of the action.

But that is not all that is going on in the poem. There are actually two scenarios at play. The first is the portrayal of the real experience of being caught up in a severe wind storm; and the second, more oblique scenario concerns the fact that the speaker and his lover/partner/wife*are in conflict. Their house is literally under threat from the onslaught of the wind, and their relationship is equally under threat from whatever has caused the tension between them. Hughes artfully makes use of what is happening in the storm to reflect what is happening between them.

….. The house
Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it’.

We can say that the gale is both itself and a reflection of what is going on between the two of them: their house is literally caught up in that terrible wind storm, and their relationship is caught up in its own storm with the house-under-threat acting as a metaphor for the state of their relationship at this juncture. On closer examination, you will find many examples of words and images that connote both scenarios.

Imagery in ‘Wind’ by Ted Hughes

Unfortunately this aspect of the poem is not the focus of this short article on Wind. Rather, I will be focusing briefly on the many devices Hughes has used to make his descriptions vivid, evocative and powerful.

We need to ask ourselves:

  • How is it that we are able to conjure up such a dynamic, textured and multi-dimensional image of the gale as the poem moves through the developing time-line from night, ‘day r[i]se’, noon, and afternoon?
  • How does Hughes achieve these effects?
  • Which literary devices does he bring to bear on the material so that we hear the sound of the wind as it crashes through the fields, see and feel its movement as it stampedes across the landscape, feel its power as it dents the balls of his eyes and makes the house ring?

A close reading of Wind will soon reveal that Hughes has made use of a range of literary devices to help him achieve these effects.

I’ll list the principal ones below, although you will need to do your own detailed analysis and point, example and explore (PEE) of the words in context, so that you are able to understand more clearly how each creates the particular effects associated with it. Investigate each instance separately , then group and cluster similar effects and discuss as a group.

  • Powerful, concrete action verbs – wielded, scaled, dented, drummed, strained, bang and vanish, flung, shatter, grip, tremble, cry out,
  • Present participles that denote movement and duration and/or sound – crashing, booming, stampeding, floundering, blinding (quatrain 1), flexing (quatrain 2), quivering (quatrain 3), blazing, seeing, hearing (quatrain 6) – pay attention to the distribution of the –ing words. Effect? Significance?
  • Really precise adjectives – booming, blinding (present participle acting as adjectives), black, orange, luminous, emerald, mad, coal-house ,black-backed (compound nouns acting as adjectives), brunt, quivering,
  • Vibrant colours – black x 3, orange, emerald, green
  • Onomatopoeia – crashing, booming, stampeding, drummed, bang, flap, shatter, cry out.
  • Rich image choices – ‘wind wielded blade-light, luminous black and emerald/Flexing like the lens of a mad eye’, ‘fine green goblet in the note … shatter it’, ‘wind flung a magpie away’, ‘a black-back gull bent like an iron bar slowly; and more.
  • Metaphors – house compared with a ship floundering out at sea (‘the house has been far out at sea all night’), the light of the sun shining in blades through the trees(blade-light), ‘the tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope’,
  • Similes – ‘flexing like the lens of a mad eye,’ ‘gull bent like an iron bar slowly’,
  • Personification – wind wielded, fields quivering, the skyline a grimace, windows tremble, stones cry out.

I hope this discussion on Imagery in Wind by Ted Hughes has been helpful. I am currently working on a study guide on Ted Hughes’ poetry in which a detailed analysis of this poem will also appear. Watch this space for more info.

For a discussion on Ted Hughes’ November, click here.

Ted Hughes’ powerful poem, Wind, was first published in his collection Hawk in the Rain (1957).



* I don’t like making biographical readings of texts, so I am not bringing in the Sylvia Plath connection here at all. This poem’s meaning and power are not dependent on biography.