Hawk Roosting By Ted Hughes Today we are learning to … • Understand and analyse the poem ‘Hawk Roosting’ • Born 1930 in Yorkshire , growing up in the countryside which influenced much of his poetry – many of his poems feature animals. • Served in RAF before studying at Cambridge University. • Famously married to American poet Sylvia Plath and had 2 children. Many regarded him responsible for her suicide. • Spent much time after Plath’s death editing and publishing her work rather than his own writing. His final work was a collection of poems about his relationship with Plath. • Was named Poet Laureate in 1984. • Died 1998 from cancer. Ted Hughes I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed. Inaction, no falsifying dream Between my hooked head and hooked feet: Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat. The convenience of the high trees! The air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray Are of advantage to me; And the earth’s face upward for my inspection. Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes My feet are locked upon the rough bark. It took the whole of Creation To produce my foot, my each feather: Now I hold Creation in my foot Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly – I kill where I please because it is all mine. There is no sophistry in my body: My manners are tearing off heads – The allotment of death. For the one path of my flight is direct Through the bones of the living. No arguments assert my right: The sun is behind me. Nothing has changed since I began. My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this. CLICK HERE TO PLAY Ted Hughes made the following comment about the poem in an interview in 1971: The poem of mine usually cited for violence is the one about the Hawk Roosting, this drowsy hawk sitting in a wood and talking to itself. That bird is accused of being a fascist … the symbol of some horrible totalitarian genocidal dictator. Actually what I had in mind was that, in this hawk, Nature is thinking. Simply Nature. It’s not so simple maybe because Nature is no longer so simple. Consider the representation of the hawk : • In what ways is he merely a product of nature? • What other qualities has Hughes ascribed to him? • How do YOU see his character? Hughes was recognised for his affinity with the natural world, and here he views the world through the eyes of a hawk. The hawk inhabits a cruel and brutal world, and many readers have drawn analogies with human nature. Interestingly, in the Iraq War, the Americans who promoted military intervention in Iraq were called ‘hawks’. Don’t limit your thinking. Poetry is a two-way process and it’s not ALL about authorial intention: the reader’s interaction and response is very valid! Always try to broaden your thinking and analysis, rather than looking narrowly at a poem. Just make sure you support all your with evidence and explain your points clearly. CONFLICT • Potentially 2 ways of interpreting this poem in terms of conflict: 1. The hawk represents natural order: the unseeing, unfeeling law of natural selection which states that the strongest will survive – and that this is an inescapable part of human nature as well. Here, the desire for power and dominance are primal instincts, essential for survival, but the cause of conflict in both animal and human worlds. 2. The hawk represents humans: shows the arrogance that lets them see themselves as the dominant species on the planet exploiting natural resources for their benefit; they have assumed godlike powers. Omnipotent: having universal power above all others. The hawk it at the top of everything where it believes it belongs – contrast to the final line. I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed. Inaction, no falsifying dream Between my hooked head and hooked feet: fully alive in a real world; no illusions or deceits, just does what is necessary. Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat. Rhyming couplets: draws attention to how skilful and powerful it is? Repetition: highlights cruel shape, its appearance is designed for dominance STYLE: dramatic monologue From the hawk’s perception of itself and the world, the reader understands the hawk’s nature or character. The convenience of the high trees! The air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray Are of advantage to me; And the earth’s face upward for my inspection. Everything is there for the benefit of the hawk − even the personified earth looks up to the bird, emphasising its strength and power Arrogance an awareness of the natural detail and perfection of the hawk. My feet are locked upon the rough bark. It took the whole of Creation To produce my foot, my each feather: Now I hold Creation in my foot Hawk now commands everything, taking precedence over God? Has power over creation? Repetition of ‘Creation’ draws attention to the hawk turning into a godlike power from being the ultimate product of all God’s work? To play God, feels it owns the right to act as it wishes – no higher order. Arrogance - from the hawk’s perspective, it turns and controls the world. Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly – I kill where I please because it is all mine. There is no sophistry in my body: My manners are tearing off heads – The imagery becomes increasingly bloody and brutal . ‘sophistry’ – a seemingly plausible argument which is misleading or false. The hawk has ultimate authority: the power of life and death, and to retain that authority it mercilessly chooses death every time. Look at the combination of simple, direct language (e.g. stanza 1 – ‘I sit in the top’, ‘tearing off heads’) with much more sophisticated vocabulary such as that here. This implies both the simple cruelty, in the straightforward physical words, and the authority, in the more conceptual presentation of ideas, of the hawk. Language as power? The allotment of death. Metaphor: For the one path of my flight is direct Through the bones of the living. No arguments assert my right: Perhaps the most significant line of the poem in terms of conflict? Hawk draws pride and satisfaction from its unchallengeable position. It will do whatever has to be done to maintain that position, because it perceives that as its right. Such is the natural order of things … which may apply to mankind’s conquest of nations and empires, as much as it does to the hawk…? Again places the hawk in a position of pre-eminence, literally and metaphorically – high in the sky. Does this suggest the hawk casts a shadow? The sun is behind me. Nothing has changed since I began. My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this. Hawk takes command of time itself in this stanza – hubris (lost touch with reality)? End-stopped lines: series of simple statements emphasise authority. No arguing! Repetition of personal pronouns: throughout the poem emphasises the hawk’s arrogance and its self-centred view of the world. Questions to consider: 1. This monologue focuses only on the hawk’s point of view, giving its attitude or philosophy, but the reader doesn’t have to accept this. How is the hawk’s attitude right? How is the hawk’s attitude wrong? 2. The poem is very different from other poems in the cluster, which generally show speakers who are upset or negatively affected by conflict and seek to question it, whereas ‘Hawk Roosting’ perhaps tries to explain it and embrace it?