Have fun with the poem by trying this...
Who would have thought that a poem about the humble and unloved thistle could be so full of struggle and tension? There is a battle going on. The poem begins with the word “Against” and in the last line we see “fighting back”.
How many other fighting words and images can you see in the poem?
Stand up and read the poem aloud. Enjoy the sounds and the texture of the words Hughes has chosen. Try exaggerating the k sounds in the first stanza in 'spike' and' crackle' and 'blue-black'. Try holding onto the f sounds in the second stanza in 'fistful' and 'frost'. It’s hard not to feel the scrape and sharp prickle of the thistle!
Which other words and sounds help you feel you are there in that field amongst the tough thistles? How could you help your listeners to feel this too?
Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing
hands of men
Thistles spike the summer air
Or crackle open under a blue-black pressure.
Every one a revengeful burst
Of resurrection, a grasped fistful
Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up
From the underground stain of a decayed Viking.
They are like pale hair and the gutturals of dialects.
Every one manages a plume of blood.
Then they grow grey, like men.
Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear,
Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.