To Paint a Water Lily

740 Words3 Pages
“To Paint a Water Lily” A rolling, green hill dotted with yellow flowers; a raging fire in a forest; a serene lake framed by mountains; the carcass of a dead bird on the side of the road: nature is at once beautiful and horrifying. The constant equilibrium between creation and destruction leaves us in awe, enthralled by the passion and artistry while shocked by the unbridled violence. Ted Hughes explores this distinct parallel, with emphasis on the brutality, in his poem “To Paint a Water Lily.” In this how-to for painters, Hughes scorns human ignorance of nature’s wrathful persona and uses the flight of a dragonfly to emphasize this fury. Claude Monet’s water lilies are famous. Serene, pastel images of beautiful lilies floating on lakes, pleasing to the eye and without the hint of unrest. Hughes disputes this in his poem, claiming that the very spirit that moved Monet to paint nature’s beauty moves mankind to ignore its savagery. To enforce this idea, Hughes recounts the flight of dragonflies he sees near water lilies: the pond is their “furious arena”. He makes special note of the fact that dragonflies eat meat, an idea which implies bloodshed and assault. He claims that it “bullets by or stands in space to take aim”, distinct images of war. “There are battle-shouts and death-cries everywhere”, writes Hughes in describing the implications of warfare as the dragonflies chase and capture their prey. Hughes sets up a concrete image of violence and fierceness among the dragonflies, but he contrasts this with the human perspective of the scene. Because the cries are “inaudible”, the human eyes “see the colours of these flies”. The human mind and eye is blind to nature’s true turbulence, so instead of killers we see elegant, gentle creatures with rainbow wings. The artists rendering of the pond will include beauty and grace when depicting the dragonflies, not rage
Open Document