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Exploring Animal Imagery in Poetry


Ted Hughes and William Wordsworth both wrote in various ways. They included nature and animals in their poems. Animals are used in the poems “Thrushes” by Ted Hughes and “To a Butterfly” by William Wordsworth to explore human nature. While Wordsworth used the butterfly to symbolize life’s ephemeral beauty, Hughes equates thrushes to humanity as natural murderers. This article will compare the animal imagery in the two poems. This approach looks at the poets’ use of animals. Hughes and Wordsworth use animals to study the nuanced human emotions and experiences. While Wordsworth views butterflies as lovely and fleeting, Hughes views thrushes as vicious and instinct-driven. The two poems demonstrate several approaches of using animals to explore human nature. The structure and themes of Ted Hughes’ poetry “Thrushes” will be examined, as well as how William Wordsworth utilizes the butterfly in “To a Butterfly” to talk about the beauty and transience of existence. This article focuses on how these two poets portrayed complex ideas and emotions in their poems by using animals.

Ted Hughes’ poem Thrushes

The poignant poem “Thrushes” by Ted Hughes contrasts people with various creatures, notably thrushes. Thrushes kill prey instinctively and quickly, which strikes the poet as impressive. He contrasts this with humans, whose strongest traits seem to entail costly suppression of such impulses. Beautiful imagery of thrushes killing ruthlessly is used in the poem (Hughes, 1971). Each bird pulls “some writhing thing” with pride before gobbling it up in “a ravening second.” What motivates this harshness, the poet wonders? He wonders whether it is the programming that has been refined through evolution. He comes to the conclusion that terrifying and awesome thrushes are effective, instinctual murderers. The poem places a lot of emphasis on thrushes since they are wild and free, unlike people. They serve as a reminder that, like the thrushes, all species struggle for existence, and that humans are not the only living creature on Earth.

The poem investigates animals and adds to the body of animal poetry. Poetry about animals has been around for millennia and has often dealt with human-animal interactions (Hughes, 1971). It often demonstrates the beauty and intricacy of nature and inspires us to preserve it. This custom is strengthened by Ted Hughes’ “Thrushes”. It presents a fresh perspective on nature and challenges our assumptions about human civilisation. Hughes portrays thrushes as vicious murderers in order to highlight the darker side of nature. As a result, the poem is deep and discusses both humans and animals. The poem uses beautiful imagery and symbolism to challenge our presumptions about nature and to implore us to cherish and protect it.

 Wordsworth’s poem “To a Butterfly”

The poem “To a Butterfly” by William Wordsworth pays homage to the poet’s favourite insect. The poem’s stanza lyrics illustrate Wordsworth’s Romantic vision of nature as lovely and significant. The second stanza refers to the butterfly that was mentioned in the first verse. The poem’s basic form portrays the speaker’s wonder because of how extensively the poem relies on language and images (Wordsworth, 1896). Wordsworth paints the butterfly in exquisite detail as an elegant and delicate creature. The butterfly’s wings are “golden” and “glittering,” and they are “fringed” with “silver.” The imagery and musicality of Wordsworth’s poem are enhanced by alliteration and other sound techniques. With its repeating “f” sound, “Fringed with Silver” emphasizes the butterfly’s brittle wings. The butterfly in the poem represents a number of ideas, including the fragility and beauty of nature, as well as the speaker’s wonder at the butterfly’s elegance and ability to survive in such a challenging environment.

Because of its brief life cycle from caterpillar to cocoon, which mirrors Romantic notions of birth, death, and rebirth, the butterfly is a symbol of transformation (Wordsworth, 1896). The butterfly also symbolizes the poet’s creativity since poets are brittle and fleeting, much like butterflies. English literature is replete with animal poetry, which is why the butterfly motif is important in this genre. Animals have served as symbols for the heavenly, demonic, innocent, and corrupt throughout history, from medieval bestiaries to contemporary eco-poetry. stand Romantic poetry, animals stood stand for both the beauty and untamedness of nature. The butterfly symbolism used by Wordsworth is inspired by this custom but stresses the butterfly’s delicate beauty. The butterfly represents nature, artistic creativity, and the fleeting essence of life.


The authors of both works employ animals to explore nature. Unlike Hughes’ thrush, Wordsworth’s butterfly is fragile and fleeting. Both depict creatures, however they vary greatly from one another since the thrush pursues the butterfly, whilst the butterfly is fragile and the thrush is robust. Despite their diversity, these species serve as a representation of nature and the intricate connections that exist between animals and their habitats. Hughes describes the thrush as a nasty predator in “Thrushes,” describing its “deadly” eyes and “hooked head” as a “death mask.” This portrayal highlights the thrush’s ruthlessness and makes the case that other species are endangered by it. The butterfly approach of Wordsworth is delicate. He describes it as a “thing of beauty.” His ethereal, delicate artwork highlights the butterfly’s vulnerability and transience.

Despite their distinct animal portrayals, both poems value nature. Both authors are drawn to the complexity and beauty of animals and use them as symbols for more amazing concepts. Hughes uses the thrush to illustrate the brutality of nature and the battle for existence. For Wordsworth, the butterfly is a representation of beauty and ephemerality. The meaning of the two poems is influenced by their parallels and divergences. The savagery and endurance of nature are emphasized by Hughes’ harsh words (Wordsworth, 1896). According to the “death mask” description of the thrush, the bird symbolizes the cycle of life and death in the natural world (Hughes, 1971). Wordsworth’s butterfly serves as a reminder of beauty’s fleeting nature and the need of appreciating the outdoors now. His gleaming, airy argument claims that the butterfly represents renewal and optimism, reminding us that life is magnificent even in its fleeting moments. They contribute to the hundreds of years of animal poetry. Poets have long used animal poetry to explore both nature and the human condition. By using animals as symbols, poets may make complicated ideas simpler. The poems “Thrushes” and “To a Butterfly” demonstrate how poetry about animals may capture the wonder and intricacy of nature.

The poems’ characteristics and their effects

Although both poems are about nature and animals, their contrasting themes have an impact on what they imply. “Thrushes” by Ted Hughes details the lives of thrushes. The poem does a good job of capturing the power and grace of birds. In the first verse, the thrushes are referred to as “dark-crowned” and “eyed,” while in the second, they are characterized as “blunt, fat,” and “harsh, rolling.” The last verse of the song calls thrushes “possessed” and “violent.” The poem’s powerful imagery and words showcase the grace and toughness of birds. Since the poem’s three stanzas gently depict the weak butterfly, the butterfly existence is explored in Wordsworth’s poem (Gupta, 2021). The butterfly is described in the first verse as “joyous” and “winged,” and in the second as having “orange” and “silver” wings. Wordsworth’s concluding description of the butterfly, “Creature of a day,” highlights both its beauty and fragility; as a result, the poem’s soft language and images highlight both nature’s fragility and beauty.

Both poems make use of language and imagery to alter readers’ perspectives of animals. In “Thrushes,” birds express their power, beauty, and aggression using stern words and graphic illustrations. The poem’s words and pictures capture the untamed force of nature and make the reader feel in awe. Wordsworth’s lyrics and artwork capture the butterfly’s exquisite beauty. Since the symbols have an effect on the poetry, the words and pictures move people to wonder and devotion. Since thrushes stand for nature’s power and beauty in “Thrushes,” the poem expresses nature’s emotions and chaotic nature (Jason, 2015). In the poem “To a Butterfly,” the butterfly represents both beauty and frailty. The butterfly in the poem serves as a metaphor for life and feeling. Both poems’ descriptions of animals benefit from symbolism.


The poems showcase the intricacy and beauty of nature. “To a Butterfly” considers the butterfly’s fleeting beauty and role in nature, while “Thrushes” eloquently conveys the bird’s activity and connection to its surroundings. Poetry’s meaning and force are derived from its language and pictures. Hughes describes the thrush’s predatory behavior and ecological function using strong verbs and analogies, while Wordsworth humanizes the butterfly to represent the brittleness and fleeting nature of existence. Both poets enhance the reader’s sensory experience and create an impact by using rhythm and tone. The poems are significant because they continue a tradition of poets expressing the complexity and beauty of nature. They serve as a reminder of our interconnectedness with the environment and the need of preserving it for next generations. These poems aid readers in understanding that animals are more than just objects for study or killing; they are sentient creatures with agency and significance. By emphasizing animal behavior and its links to nature, these poems serve as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all living things and the need to protect the environment.


Gupta, S. (2021). To a Butterfly by William Wordsworth. Poem Analysis. Retrieved from

Hughes, T. (1971). Thrushes. TriQuarterly21, 68.

Jason, P. K. (2015). Thrushes.

Wordsworth, W. (1896). To a butterfly. The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth. London: Macmillan170.


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