The Pike by Amy Lowell Short Summary

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Amy Lowell’s “The Pike” is a smooth, fast poem that mirrors its subject.

Its form reflects it content. Its meter is irregular and the poem does not rhyme; but it contains within it a certain musical quality which is drawn from word choice and the occasional alliteration. This technique was emphasized by the early imagist poet, Ezra Pound, in his “Three Rules. ” 1 The poem, read aloud, produces a delightful cadence which serves to impress upon the reader a certain response to the pike’s rhythm.

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As an imagist poet, Lowell’s description of the sudden flicker of the pike’s movement expounds sensations.The poem repeats phrases of color, action, light and refraction to produce very vivid bursts of natural imagery. Lowell juxtaposes brown and green, darkness and gleam as well as a pair of metallic elements: silver and copper. These juxtapositions serve to represent the fish through an objective lens.

The descriptions are brief, yet seem to perfectly encapsulate a fleeting flash of transit in a tiny eco-system. Lowell’s poem combines a fiercely eloquent id with a calm and graceful ego, but rejects the notion that “thinking” is of a higher order than “feeling.It presents that “intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time. “3 The first stanza serves to frame the poem’s primary action; the flicker of a pike in a pool.

Lowell immediately uses very potent words of sensation to begin her poem. The reader can see “the brown water, Thick and silver-sheened in the sunshine”. This is the primary image of the first two lines of the poem. It is a simple, universal image that can be easily observed, smelt, heard and even felt.

A reader could dip a hand in this image and feel it on their fingertips.The day is bright; the reader is brought to a small pool, and the soft ambient sounds of nature surround them. The second two lines of the first sentence introduce the titular pike. The speaker’s first description is “A pike dozed” which gives the impression that the environment is exceptionally quiet.

Establishing the pike with this image is curious; the imagery combined with the following “Lost among the shadows of stems He lay unnoticed” suspends the pike outside a linear temporality. To doze, to be lost and unnoticed is to be outside the realm of sensation.The rhythm of the two sentences also functions to disrupt the speed and tempo of the rest of the poem. The final sentence of the first stanza as well as the two sentences in the second stanza expresses acceleration in the poem.

The pike’s sudden flicker, his brightness and his run hasten the poem’s pace. So while both stanzas are identical in length – each is nine lines – the second sentence in the first stanza drags the rhythm. That drag works to make the second stanza that much more distinctive in its speed.Throughout the poem the fish is never particularly personified, but rather romanticized as pure light; as brightness and flash, as a gleam.

This kind of romanticization is alternative, however, to Coleridge’s Nightingale, as the speaker does not attach any grandiosity to the pike’s nature. The deft mobility of the pike through the thick water is clearly seen and faintly heard, and that is all it is. Whereas “The Nightingale” seeks to reframe the bird’s literary texture, “The Pike” is detached from that phenomenology. Coleridge interacts personally with the Nightingale; he mediates its reality through his own perception.

Lowell and her pike do not have the same relationship. Lowell desires an unmediated reality through her imagery, the power of which is the “appeal of unmediated communication. “4 There is no invitation for metaphor as there is in Coleridge. It also is not man and animal that interacts in this poem.

The interactions are much more elemental. It is the fish and the sun that relates and creates a new dancing light in the water. At first a “green-and-copper brightness” then an “olive-green light” then the pike’s movement generates an orange flash on the surface of the water.It as though the pike forms a bridge of light between the dark depths of the pool and that silver-sheened surface.

For the pike to have been dozing on one bank, sprint across the brown-watered pool and be received into “the blurred reflections of the willows on the opposite bank” creates a spark of light for the speaker. This instantaneous transit is reminiscent of a shooting star streaking across the dark vacuum of space. It is that random, freedom filled burst of spontaneous movement that is so attractive to Lowell. The pike’s movement is a lyrical narrative delivered in sequences of imagery and careful diction.

The break between the first and second stanzas even seems to evoke the sound of a fish squeezing through water. It is an instruction or an invitation to take a moment and listen. The color-filled sentence that follows is the emotional peak of the poem. Lowell’s diction throughout the poem feels light and impulsive, not a single phrase seems self-conscious or verbose.

The only word that might be held up as referential is the title itself. A pike, other than the fish genus, is a term for a long thrusting spear that was used by infantry until the eighteenth century.The fish itself is long and pointed and moves in thrust-like motions. The lean mode of diction chosen by Lowell is reflected in the themes of the poem: speed, freedom, movement and transit.

The pike seems to exist as a supernatural lightness coming through a thick and murky space. In terms of time, Lowell takes great advantage of the possibilities of poetic diction with “The Pike. ” She uses the verbal singularity of poetry as an experience in temporality. 5 There is a sense of real-time progression in the poem, however compressed.

The poem invites a rapid reading through its diction which, in turn, enters the experience and meaning of the poetry. The unique and particular imagery of a pike moving quickly between two banks of a pool reveals an essence of movement. More than half the poem is concerned entirely with the movement and action of the pike. The presentation of how the pike becomes and subsequently interacts with light is economical in its language and visceral in its image.

The general lack of self-conscious description in the poem narrows the delay between action and words which lends to its rapid reading.The vivid bursts of color and movement imagery are designed to invite the reader into the moment of experience. Through implication of certain sensations and outright definition of others, Lowell has contributed an intensely imagistic poem. This form of imagism does not seem an aggressive rebellion of the Georgian Romantics, but rather a polite alternative.

The attraction and wonder towards nature exists in both genres, but Lowell’s descriptions do not apply human theory. Lowell’s pike works objectively within itself and its environment.

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The Pike by Amy Lowell Short Summary. (2017, Dec 22). Retrieved from

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