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Hughes uses the fox as a symbol of his poetry. It is his muse. This effective metaphor shows that the poet’s creative inspiration is as full of warm-blooded life and movement as an animal. In the still night, the clock ticks and the poet’s fingers pass over the blank sheet of paper. But Hughes dismisses these unimportant movements and draws the reader’s attention to the fact that “Something else is alive” (2). That “something else” is Hughes’ idea which throbs with life. It first stirs in his mind as a formless being, and then tentatively takes shape and tests the ground: the fox “And again now, and now, and now / Sets neat prints into the snow” (Hughes, 12/13). The lame, cautious shadow gains confidence and boldly takes concrete shape: ideas finds expression and take on the solid form of words as they emerge from the poet’s mind.
The poet’s mind is compared to a forest. This is a particularly graphic symbol, as a forest is a fertile ground, dense with undergrowth, rich in nutrients, which is conducive to the birth of new life. The metaphorical forest of the poet’s mind lies in darkness. Every part it - twig, leaf, hollow, trees and clearings – is covered by “the dark snow” (Hughes, 9). This suggests that, underneath the blanket of snow, there are seeds holding the germ of ideas waiting to burst open with life. As the fox, Hughes’ muse, emerges from the forest of his imagination, its eye is described as “A widening deepening greenness” (Hughes, 18). The green color summons an image of dark winter trees bursting into the green buds of spring. The birth of new ideas in the poet’s mind comes with effort, just as new growth has to push its way out of the winter soil.
The effort of creation is symbolized by the setting of the poem. The poet is seated in the dark. A blank sheet of paper lies before him. His only companion is the ticking clock. The poet’s
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