Full Moon and Little Frieda Poem by Ted Hughes Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


“Full Moon and Little Frieda ” is a poem by Ted Hughes that was published four years after plath’ s suicide. The poem is packed with heavy imagery and written in second-person narrative to explore the perspective of his daughter after her mother’s death. 

About the Poet 

Ted Hughes was a children’s writer and an English Poet. HHe was married to Sylvia Plath but also had an affair which led to her miscarriage and chronic depression, although Plath was depressed since her childhood. Hughes is considered as one of the best poets of the twentieth century. His poems mostly involve themes of nature, animal life, and internal problems faced by a man. 


“Full Moon and Little Frieda” consists of three stanzas where there are two quintents and one couplet. The poet does not carry a consistent metre. The poem is meant to be from a child’s perspective but composed in a second-person narration. The overall tone of the poem is curious, like a child’s mind. 

Summary and Analysis 

Stanza One 

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket -

And you listening.

A spider's web, tense for the dew's touch.

A pail lifted, still and brimming - mirror

To tempt a first star to a tremor.


The poem starts as the poet describes the quiet winter evening. The evening is so silent that there is no sound except of the barking dogs and the clanking buckets. Frieda, the poet’s daughter, is listening to these sounds. She notices the spider’s web that is stretched under the dew. The poet wants the star that is reflected onto the surface of the pail filled with liquid, to tremble at the sight of his daughter out of admiration. 


The poet begins the poem by describing the chill evening he is experiencing with his daughter, Frieda. On this cool wintry evening, the surrounding is so silent that there is no sound to be heard apart from a dog barking and the clank of a bucket. The next line is where the poet addresses his daughter, Frieda, who is listening to these sounds of the evening. 

Hughes uses heavy imagery right in the first stanza of the poem. There are three powerful images formed in these lines. First is the “Dog and the Bucket”. It pertains to the sound of the quiet evening that is disrupted by the barking of the dog and the clanking of the bucket. These sounds are heard by young Frieda, his daughter. 

Hughes wants this poem to be from his daughter’s perspective, therefore he focuses on details that only a child would notice. Hence, the poem starts with auditory stimulations, as these senses are developed first in a child. Also these two sounds are the most familiar to a child as they are aware of dogs and either found or scared of them, and buckets they use to play often. 

The second image that is formed is of the “Spider’s Web”. This spider’s web is built so discreetly by the spider that it can hold a drop of dew despite how delicate it appears. The web is stronger than the dew drop and so is little Frieda. Although she is an infant, she is stronger despite her fragile appearance. A spider’s web is also what a child would notice and be curious about. It also reflects how tense a child can be by a little drop of harm or ignorance. 

The third image that is formed is of the “Pail as a Mirror”. A pail is similar to a bucket that can be filled with water or used to gather milk. This might refer to his wife Sylvia Plath who went through chronic depression throughout her life, it may suggest the distanced feelings or lack of affection from her mother as the pail is filled with milk for his daughter, instead of her mother’s presence. 

The bucket is filled with milk which is so still that it can reflect the shiny star of the night sky, therefore the poet refers to it as a mirror. It shows the connection of humans and nature, as one is tied down on earth with responsibilities, and the other is free with no worries at all. This is the connection Hughes makes that is a recurring theme in both Hughes and Plath’s poems. 

Hughes wants the star to tremor with excitement as Freida glances upon it. It is usually opposite as a kid can get excited seeing a star’s reflection but he believes that his daughter holds the power to make the star tremble. This reflects how much Hughes adores his daughter that he believes it is possible she can make anyone tremble with her innocence. 

Stanza Two 

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm

wreaths of breath -

A dark river of blood, many boulders,

Balancing unspilled milk.

'Moon!' you cry suddenly, 'Moon! Moon!'


Cows are walking in a lane to go home, slowly they pass the hedges that appear to be blurred due to their warm breath. The cows are referred to as boulders and their blood flows like the dark river. They balance themselves and prevent the milk from spilling. And Frieda cries “Moon!” thrice. This stanza reflects the death of Sylvia Plath, Frieda’s mother. 


The second stanza reveals that the poet lives in the countryside as they can see cows passing by. These cows are going home in a lane. This again forms a strong image as cows leave their heavy warm breath by their passing which blurs the hedges. The cows coming home suggest the slow passing of time as for a child, the time passes by slowly and it takes longer for them to understand and get over things. 

This stanza again creates powerful imagery. “Blood and Boulders” creates a menacing image as the cows pass by the hedges, blurring its view yet the blood is still visible clearly. The cows are referred to as boulders. 

“The dark river” that Hughes mentions can be allusion to Sylvia Plath’s death as the poem was published after her suicide. Some critics say it refers to the miscarriage that Plath experienced. Therefore, the boulders may also refer to the mental and physical struggles that were experienced by Plath. 

“Unspilled Milk” refers to the time that Plath was unable to spend with her children after her death. It more largely may refer to the time she could not spend with the unborn baby due to her miscarriage. It also creates a connection between the two stanzas. Therefore, the milk is unspilled as the child never got to taste his mother’s milk. 

The way Hughes placed unspilled milk next to the dark river creating a highly contrasting image is very appealing. As the colours of these two terms differ from milk being white to the dark river referring to rufous reddish colour. These two colours mean contrasting things as well, as white is more symbolic of peace and here motherly love. And red is of death and violence. 

“The Moon” is another powerful image that is formed in the next line. Here, Hughes tried to create a serious tone at the start of this stanza by referring to the death of Sylvia Plath but since the poem is meant  to be from Frieda’s perspective. She is not old enough to grasp the concept of death and therefore she exclaimed when she saw the moon. 

It also tells that Hughes was so lost in his thoughts after Plath’s death that he only saw the negatives and everything reflected her death except Frieda, who was excited to see the Moon. The Moon also works as a symbol of femininity and motherhood. Therefore, Frieda is excited to see the Moon as she can never see Plath again. 

Stanza Three

The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work

That points at him amazed.


The moon that Frieda points at has stepped back for a better view. Like an artist stepping back to view his work. The moon is amazed by his work, as it points at him with excitement. 


In the last stanza, Hughes refers to himself as the Moon. The Moon that steps back to look at his creation like an artist steps back to look at his painting. Hughes is observing his daughter, who he gave birth to. He gazes at his work, at his daughter as she excitedly points at him with amusement. 

The moon is as impressed by Frieda as Frieda is impressed by the moon. Frieda, instead of lamenting over the loss of her mother, is excited to see her father. She feels secure and comfortable around him. It creates a sensual image of father and daughter accepting and adoring each other. Therefore, on this note, Hughes concludes the poem.