“Lovesong” by Ted Hughes describes a passionate sexual relationship between two
people. In the poem, Hughes utilizes metaphors, word choice, and repetition to capture the
bipolar nature, sheer force, and ultimate violence of the lover’s physical and emotional
The poem quickly switches between depicting a passionate, intimate relationship
and an unhealthy, violent, one.
Ultimately, the relationship is shown to be tragic. Literary critics
of the poem unanimously agree with this interpretation of a dark, nightmarish relationship.
Hughes’ metaphors of the lovers’ behaviors are most illuminating to this theme of
violence and force. He compares innocuous exchanges such as words, laughs, looks, and
whispers to “occupying armies,” “assassin's attempts,” “bullets daggers of revenge,” “whips and
jackboots,” and “a great trap.” Hughes’ deployment of action verbs also greatly contributes to the
theme of violence. Such verbs as “sucked”, “nailed”, “gripped” and “dragged” add to the
subversive undercurrent. By including such a wide array of descriptors, Hughes is insinuating
that the relationship is violent on several fronts. In so doing, he makes his case for violence more
compelling. Each of the words resonates differently, yet intensely, on the violence spectrum.
Indeed, Bentley describes "the pathological violence of its language, its anti-human ideas,
and its sadistic imagery." He is not only describing “Lovesong,” but also all the poems included
compilation. As the metaphors exemplify, there is a strong anti-human motif
occurring, resulting in “a somewhat inhuman, even brutal book” (Bentle
y). In “Lovesong,” the
two persons are likened to weapons and tools of war, dehumanizing the lovers and their actions.
They are also compared to animals, “their deep cries crawled to the floor the floors…like an
animal dragging a great trap.” There is a dehumanization occurring, their bodies acting out their
own roles in this wretched encounter.