The island is a harsh desolate rocky landscape, which the alliteration provides an embodiment of, “rough with rocks”. The tawny fox, the vital part of the poem is the inhabitant of this grey island. We realize that after millions of years of evolution – a further irony to the poem about evolution, the fox is at the top of the food chain with no trepidation, “… the brush curled /Demurely as a pennant furled, /Signal of peace and self-won ease. ” The first sign of something is going to happen is the rather ominous line, “… resting half anchored.
Which is appropriate as the Beagle is anchored as well but the fox is ready to change according to circumstances – rather like evolution. But as we see as the humans work with their instruments we are gently immersed into the mind of the fox as we notice the rather animal naivety or to be put more bluntly, stupidity of the fox as it assumes that the humans are either hunting or playing. This is what evolution is about, this is why we are different to a dog; we have the ability to reason beyond the animal intuition, which binds the fox.
As the fox is craning his neck out as if to be executed a hammer falls with precision and ferocity, “… from his back, descending hiss, /The hammer falls… ” that only an animal could have which only sharpens the ideas of the astute poet as he implies that we are animals as well. The brutal act carried out from behind is a cowardly one, but evolution has given us the reasoning needed to carry out this atrocity since the fox is too fast to be captured, brutal intelligence aided with a scientific instrument to further the man’s knowledge did the job – what twisted irony, as “…
Mr. Darwin, with a cough, /Scoops up the body… ” The scientist casually and unconcerned scoops up this pile of skins and bones to be, “… another link to show /The fine mesh of his theory. ” It is as if that the animal is just an exhibit, another evidence to show for his theory of evolution. This metaphor is a poignant remainder of another one of the poet’s themes that science without hindrance is always going to be up against moral issues.
After the death of the fox we see the “inquisitive eye” glazed over in death as it still ponders what the humans were doing down at the beach, this is a sad remainder that the animal who is below the humans in intelligence will always going to be persecuted even if they do possess some intelligence. The heart of the poem is in the last 8 lines, as we finally hear the subdued voice of the poem’s themes flood as in a torrent of sarcasm for the scientist. “Dies the live fox. The living man /Somehow will prove this nature’s plan.
It sounds as if mocking Darwin to kill so many innocent animals to prove a theory that links us being animals and so why should we kill our fellow animals? This is a subtle reminder of human nature and greed as we are lead to believe that just for the Nobel Prize and fame Darwin did the deeds of killing the animals to prove the point of the nature of evolution which the poet with his economical use of words summed it up in a rather sarcastic and poignant line “Selected by his larger skull to crack the other.
The next few lines symbolises the start of the “dilemma” of moral right and science. Since we are animals ourselves we must have “invaded life”-like rats, not just nature but the world’s. “The wise and brave /are nothing or corrupted. ” This rather sums our society up, driven by greed, fame and human nature our society commends the liars, the foolish, the rich but oppresses the wise who say the hurtful truth, the tree-huggers and the poor and therefore they will never be in a position of power. The poem is ended with a poignant line, “The mushroom cloud begins to grow.
This of course is the nuclear bomb aftermath where unchecked science would leads us, to destruction of all life on earth. This is also linked with, “As a small cloud on a smooth hill,” a description of the fox. The language of the poem is very fitting, onomatopoeia is used, “descending hiss”, which gives a clearer image of the brutal death of the fox. Oxymorons are used with great eagerness to symbolise death, “Dies the live fox. The living man… ” this is powerful because it creates a very bleak atmosphere of science.
There are a lot of key points that the author points out, science will lead to destruction if it is unchecked, science is driven by people who wants fame/fortune, the moral right versus science debate, another key point is that should we kill our fellow animal? The poem is full of strong images of pity and suffering, “For ever, the inquisitive eye /Starting and glazing to eternity. ” The poet seems to suggest that science is the main cause of suffering. At the same time he makes it clear that he believes that human nature has a part in it as well. The rhyme consists of full and half rhymes, the moral is inferred through delicate hints.
The poet had he not put the extract from Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle would have written a very misunderstood poem indeed. If you remove the extract, you seem to see parts which looks like that the fox is being hunted and that the hammer is actually a hammer on the gun, e. g. “stand earnestly about a post… peer along a tube,” this could be misunderstood as a gun on a tripod with a range finder. “The hammer falls,” this is very easily misinterpreted as a hammer on a gun. So one can see the importance of the extract of the Voyage of the Beagle.