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Poetry Commentary- ‘Hawk Roosting’ by Ted Hughes

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“Hawk Roosting”, by Ted Hughes is a poem that focuses upon a benevolent hawk, who believes that the world belongs to him. The poem written in first person as a dramatic monologue, creates a comparison in the readers mind, between the hawk and an egoistic dictator.

In the opening lines of the poem, a very negative impression is given, beginning with the visually threatening lines: “Between my hooked head and hooked feet”. This image has a strong effect, because sharp claws and sharp beaks are often associated with fear, or the idea of evil. The phrase “no falsifying dream”, has a large significance to one’s impression of the speaker, expressing that he is a realist and a pragmatist, and that he shows no mercy towards anyone, or anything. The lines 3 and 4 reinforce this thought, showing that the hawk is a malevolent creature, and single-mindedly violent.

The second stanza of Hughes’ poem describes the beauty of the earth, and how it is of advantage to the speaker. This is ironic, because the Hawk is proven to be an insensitive killer, who uses his advantage of strength to kill and damage others; and is now insisting that the earth and its beauty belongs to him. Line 8 begins to develop the idea of the hawk’s superiority and control, as “the world lies below him for inspection”. This image also gives the idea of the speaker’s omniscience.

In the third stanza, the speaker clearly describes himself as having the role of God, or Creation. The hawk explains how it took all good efforts of Creation to create him, in fact so flawlessly that now he has taken over the role of the Creator. To further develop this idea, the poet describes the hawk as “locked upon the rough bark”. This gives the reader the impression that the hawk has extreme stability wherever he wished to be, and that there is no force on earth which can remove him against his will.

In contrast, in the next stanza the speaker describes himself in motion; the image created here is again one of control, as in line 13. The rest of this stanza conveys a powerful image of a creature who is both arrogant and violent. In line 15 he states that he needs no verbal reasons to persuade anyone that he is right. The final line of this stanza, “my manners are tearing odd heads”, emphasizes his power and aggression.

In the penultimate stanza, this concept of omnipotence, total control, is again strengthened. The predominant image created is one of life-threatening power which cannot be opposed or contradicted.

The final stanza reveals his supercilious attitude in terms of maintaining the ‘status quo’. The last line states clearly and directly his confidence in his ability to do so. This ending is formulated as an incontrovertible fact, rather than a possibility.

In conclusion, Hughes cleverly portrays the possible dangers and downsides involved for a country ruled by a tyrant with a fascist psychology, in a large metaphor, using the poem. I believe that this message is brought across very successfully, using the powerful image of an insensitive yet very powerful hawk.

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