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Hawk Roosting -- Ted Hughes

(Poem #42) Hawk Roosting
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.

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.
-- Ted Hughes
Hughes published a number of animal poems during his long and
distinguished literary career; these were often (in fact, almost always)
harsh and vigorous, painting a picture of Nature 'red in tooth and claw'
- violent, grim, and unsentimental, but at the same time remorselessly
true to itself.

In today's poem, Hughes uses the thought-processes of the hawk as a
metaphor for the mind of every megalomaniac who ever lived - the poem
resonates with dictatorial phrases and turns of expression. The hawk
lives according to the rules of its own morality ('No arguments assert
my right'), in a world where might is right. 'I kill where I please
because it is all mine' - violent, yes, but also chillingly insightful.
The massive egotism running through the poem is, again, telling in its
implications for the human world.

Yet the unstated theme lying underneath the hawk's soliloquy is this -
that the hawk is a product of Nature; its 'personality' is (ultimately)
dictated by Nature, and hence, somehow, proper to itself. On the other
hand, for human beings, untrammelled power is (Hughes seems to say)
twisted and sick, leading only to tyranny and oppression.

A final note: the stark contrast between the imperial majesty of
Tennyson's eagle and the vicious tyranny of Hughes' hawk is striking -
using virtually the same basic image, the two poets paint drastically
differing pictures which are, nonetheless, no less true for being worlds
apart in their truth.


PS. Hughes died last year at the age of 68, soon after publishing 'The
Birthday Letters', a deeply moving recollection of his troubled marriage
with the equally celebrated poet Sylvia Plath (who committed suicide).
His successor as Poet Laureate has not yet been announced.

PPS. A minor milestone: the Minstrels reaches its 42nd poem!

33 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Y95.WoolrichC said...


i doing this poem at school and i agree with all your insights...good work

Greg & Wendy Jones said...

this poem displays irony within humans as we find ourselves relating to the hawks attitude and behaviour. very well written. a poem i admire!

ElNombres said...

Mr Durrheim...was this you? Maximum Respec'! Wish me luck in't exam...Oli
(P.S I've learnt this word for word...nae probs!)

LE SOMMET said...

When did Ted Hughes write hawk roosting?

DonnaCooper282 said...

thts bra like, im doin this for my specialist study.......sorted!

Akbarsuccess said...

i think this poem has sex attraction , igot a big boner blaadz

admin said...

after reading the comments that u've written, I have a greater
understanding for the poem. my view point is that the hawk could
actually be relating to religion and how man created it to cause great
destruction to himself now

UserBr5902 said...

This poem is about the Hawks at the pentagon make no bones about it

Jessica Morrissey said...

This poem exhibits a significant, arrogant tone. The hawk feels that although he was created by God, he is now above Him. This is shown in lines 10-12, where Ted hughes writes, "It took the whole of Creation/ To produce my foot, my each feather:/ Now I hold Creation in my foot." Combined with cold, sharp expression, this provides absolute indisputable evidence of the hawk's arrogance.

ross coron said...

it made me cry

Zaraah said...


Have to Do this poem as the start of our English GCS project L

Angela Medadues said...


Angela Medadues said...

I was glad

Anonymous said...

I think he is describing himself.

Anonymous said...

Matrix said...

Hawk Rosting is nothing but arrogance of all living beings, apparantly, superior to others in a race or in a corner of the world.

The men in power oft take themselves for granted as powerful as god, so does the Hawk, (Now I hold Creation in my foot.) as he is unchallenged (which is relative and partially true, for eagles or vultures can easily give creeps to a hawk, lol)
but his proclamations are not all sophisticating as_
Nothing has changed since I began,
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.
_whereas in human world, a dictaor, no matter the powerful he is,
his fall is...inevitable *wink*

Anonymous said...

What is the theme of this poem?

Anonymous said...

I' m italian, so sorry for my english... you should remember Eugenio Montale' s image of the "hawk high in the sky" in "Spesso il male di vivere ho incontrato"( Ossi di seppia written in 1924. The hawk in Montale is an objective correlative of the "indifference"( he doesn' t care about humanity). Hughes uses some different images but i think the meaning is similar because the consequence of "indifference" is in both of them negative for the human being( Montale's MALE DI VIVERE).

Anonymous said...

i think, this poem is about vitality of the animal which is instict of them and brutality of the man

Anonymous said...

i think, this poem is about vitality of the animal which is instict of them and brutality of the man

Anonymous said...

Hughes was fasinated by Animism- belief spirits live inside all living things. So he was a Hawk God in his head while he was writing this. The HAwk is personified, but also thinks himself higher than god as "I hold all of creation in my foot" God created me and now I kill him. Everything is made for him, for his convienience and he's arrogant about it. Plus I also think it to be about man aswell how some of the human race dictators...

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