9 Jun 2013

Examples of Sensory Language in 'Wind' by Ted Hughes


This is a lesson I did for a student on how to find examples of sensory language. I've already posted on how writers use this here and also how you can use it in your own writing, here. But we needed more detail using a specific example. The poem we used was 'Wind' by Ted Hughes.

Briefly: the poem seems to be about stormy weather. Later, we realise this is a metaphor for the poet's stormy relationship with his wife. It's very subtle. They've been having an argument. By the second-to-last stanza**, the tension is at breaking point. I've shown this in bold. Beneath the poem, I've done a super-detailed analysis of the sensory language: what type it is and why.

Wind
This 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
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 -
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-
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 book, thought,

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

So which bits are 'sensory language'?

1. The first stanza has a group of 'sound' words (adjectives). These are onomatopoeia and also 'sensory'. This stanza also has a 'clump' of description (adjectives). You've probably noticed that what we're looking for here is adjectives - or describing words, that appeal to one of the five senses, e.g. sounds, light, colour, smells, textures, sensations.

This 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 


2. The second stanza has a group of 'colour' words (adjectives). It also describes 'light'. So the imagery here is very visual.

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


3. In the third and fourth stanzas, the sensory language is more spread out. In the third stanza - Hughes uses verbs, not adjectives, to convey the sense of violence. 

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

In the fourth stanza, the verb is more gentle (quivering); then we have more sounds - or onomatopoeia.

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- 
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house 


4. In this stanza, we have sounds, colour, and tension on the point of shattering, physically.

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 book, thought, 


5. Unusually, the final stanza makes direct appeal to the five senses. Look: 

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