Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men
Thistles spike the summer air
And crackle open under a blue-black pressure.
Every one a revengeful burst
Of resurrection, a grasped fistful
Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up
From the underground stain of a decayed Viking
They are like pale hair and the gutturals of dialects.
Every one manages a plume of blood.
Then they grow grey like men.
Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear
Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.
Thistles are everywhere in summer and are often seen as a nuisance. As Ted Hughes makes clear, they are armoured, have been around for quite a while, and can be hard to get shot of. They are also beautiful, and very good for butterflies and moths.