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The Thought-Fox by Ted Hughes I imagine this midnight moment s forest: Something else is alive Beside the clock

s loneliness And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star: Something more near Though deeper within darkness Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow, A fox s nose touches twig, leaf; Two eyes serve a movement, that now And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow Between trees, and warily a lame Shadow lags by stump and in hollow Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye, A widening deepening greenness, Brilliantly, concentratedly, Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox It enters the dark hole of the head. The window is starless still; the clock ticks, The page is printed.

The structure of this poem contradicts the apparently weak identity of the writer. Hughes frequently uses: midnight moment - alliteration a movement that now Sets neat prints - enjambment, Between trees - and assonance, giving the poem a meticulous and precisely crafted feel.

Sets neat prints into the snow. The tracks which the fox leaves in the snow are duplicated by the sounds and rhythm of this line. The first three short words are internal half-rhymes. The fox s body remains unclear, merely a shadow against the snow. But the actual phrase lame shadow evokes a more precise image of the fox, as it freezes alertly in its tracks, holding one front-paw in mid-air, and then moves off again like a limping animal. At the end of the stanza the words bold to come are left suspended as though the fox is pausing at the outer edge of the clearing.

Something else is alive, On a literal level, it could be interpreted that the short lines, sentences and phrases represent the fox s short, cautious steps. They also emphasise the sense of solitary isolation our narrator feels.

The page is printed. The last line of the poem states this simply, and with a note of regret. The blank white page, which was full of potential for poetry is now in print, and the writer knows that what has been written is always a pale echo, compared to the potential of the poetry which could have been created.

One theme could be that poetry aids and comforts those who are lonely, that the fox is company for the anguished bard. Alternatively, however, one could argue that poetic inspiration and genius robs the writer of their identity, as it comes second to what they feel they must write.