Analysis of Hawk Roosting, Ted Hughes
This is a dramatic monologue in the character of a hawk. Hughes dramatizes the hawk’s thoughts and attitudes to the majesty of creation, creating a character of self-focussed, god-like arrogance, of brutality and beauty.
The structure of the poem is regular, with verses of four lines each and similar length lines which creates a feeling of tight control that adds to the theme of power and perfect balance in the hawk. The punctuation is equally tight, with many sentences contained within the line, which gives an abrupt, sharp, controlled feel. However, there is some enjambement which breaks free of the stanza to run across the line break, as if the hawk can disregard the rules, creating a flowing effect as he lists his powers.
THEMES - IMAGERY
Many nature poems deal with the beauty of nature and God’s power as creator. This poem subverts these expectations. Here, nature is brutal: it ‘kills’ and ‘eats’. What’s slightly disturbing is that the hawk views these as ‘perfect’ and ‘rehearses them’. This almost gives the feel of a psychopath, yet he is only fulfilling his natural function. The repetition of ‘hooked’ from his head to his feet creates a feel of being captured, evoking his sharp, deadly beak and claws. These are the parts that the hawk emphasizes when he describes himself.
The hawk deals in ‘death’. Hughes uses the metaphor of the bird flying direct ‘through the bones of the living’. The uneasy juxtaposition of bones with living creates an unsettling effect, and makes the bird seem almost supernaturally powerful: as if he exists beyond this one moment in time.
The voice of the bird displays god-like arrogance [hubris]. He judges that earth ‘holds itself upwards for my inspection’, as if the world only exists for his benefit. The Hawk frequently uses ‘me’ and ‘my’, which shows a possessive, self-focussed streak. He says he holds ‘Creation in my foot’. This is a literal, visual image of the bird in flight and the earth seeming small below, but also a metaphor of power.
Hughes deliberately subverts [turns upside down] traditional nature poems on the majesty of creation. The hawk lists natural features: ‘sun’, ‘air’ and the ‘tree’, which he thinks exist only in as much as they are of ‘advantage to me’. He also says it took ‘the whole of Creation’ to produce his ‘feather’ and ‘foot’: the juxtaposition of something so huge and old, and biblical against a tiny foot/feather, shows how magnificent the bird thinks he is: as if he is the reason creation exists. This is interesting because it twists the traditional anthropocentric world view (i.e. humans are the peak of creation, the whole point of it all), that is set down in Genesis. When he flies up he says he will ‘revolve’ the world slowly - as if he is making it turn.
He gives the gift (‘allotment’) of death, which is an ironic juxtaposition as no one would want to receive this gift. It is as if he’s the god of death. He says he has ‘permitted no change’ and ends with a final, simple declarative statement ‘I am going to keep things like this’. The use of ‘am’ stresses his power. He doesn’t say ‘will’ or ‘might’; he’s certain.
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The author, Melanie Kendry, is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher and of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post. She offers private tuition in the Haywards Heath area, West Sussex.