Study Guide

Big Poppy Stanza 2

By Ted Hughes

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Stanza 2

Lines 3-5

She sways towards August.
A Bumble Bee
Clambers into her drunken, fractured goblet –

  • Last time we checked, you couldn't physically move towards a month. It's not like you can climb up some stairs and suddenly be in September. So "swaying towards August" must mean something else. But what?
  • The verb "swaying" often implies a breeze. This makes sense. We're outside, it's summer, and if we look at a poppy again, it's this big honking flower on top of a long, tall stem. It sways pretty easily, in other words. In fact, it probably always kind of looks like it's swaying.
  • So, let's think about this "towards August" part, then. Well, we can't literally move towards August, but what we think this implies is a kind of metaphor for the passage of time – like, with every passing breeze, time passes too, and so with each sway of the poppy, we're moving temporally towards the end of summer.
  • The last part of this stanza introduces a new thing into the poem: a bee.
  • The bee promptly ends up on the poppy itself, but not particularly gracefully. "Clambering" implies that the bee is moving both hastily and a little clumsily – think of how a toddler might try to climb into a chair, or up a few stairs. That's the kind of motion that "clambering" implies.
  • Whoa, and now we're drunk and broken? Let's look at this.
  • The petals of a poppy are large and form a kind of cup shape, but there are breaks in the cup – that is, there are individual petals. Between them, there's space – hence the "fractured goblet."
  • But what's up with the drunken part? That's a little more ambiguous, but we think that maybe again it has something to do with the fact that poppies are used to make opiates, which are depressants, just like alcohol. So the poppy flower then becomes a kind of fractured container that could potentially contain something intoxicating. That's what the bee is headed for. Apparently, our bee is a party animal!

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