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Critique of Ted Hughes's ³Hawk Roosting´
The hawk has been a source of inspiration for many literary works throughout the ages. Its agility in flight, rapidity in sighting a prey and fierceness as a solitary predator has made it a versatile imagery in literature. Ted Hughes was quick to exploit this timeless appeal of the hawk. In his poem, he enters the mind of this bird of prey, not in the conduct of a demon invading a human body, but in a kenotic fashion, much like how the Christian god emptied himself of himself to take in humanity. By doing this, Ted Hughes bestowed upon the hawk the gift of poetic language. Almost all lines of the poem are set in simple-structured complete sentences. This somehow suggests a military cadence to each stanza, quite reminiscent of cadets reciting maxims in a monotonously masculine manner (³snappy,´ as an old drillmaster would say). This military mood is further reinforced by the fact that the thought-process of the hawk-poet exhibits a thorough indifference to the presence of violence and death around him, just as soldiers are conditioned to a cold-blooded regard of existence. But the hawk in the poem is not a warrior in the midst of combat action. He is rather pictured in the immobile position of a meditating bodhisattva. It is with perfect stillness that the hawk indulges in his sense of supremacy over all creatures. Though at rest, he does not dream of lofty and fanciful dreams, for there is no need of such. He, in his own right, is the epitome of murderous perfection. His hawk-logic tells him that all nature is in harmony to serve his purpose. How else can he explain the perfect synchronicity of his immediate surrounding? It is as if the whole of creation converged to bring forth a god, in the same miraculous way a messiah is born in the fullness of time. And when up high he spreads his wings to glide in circles, it seems that the whole expanse of the world can be rotated on his claws, strengthening his deified view of himself. Since he is king of creation, it only follows that he has all the right to do as he pleases with his subjects. He is plainly a despot, and a ruthless one, too. His nature and sole purpose in life is to kill. That is what evolution has caused him to be ± the master of all killers. And he does so without the slightest hint of flinching, just as he described in a straightforward statement: ³There is no sophistry in my body: my manners are tearing off heads.´ Bathed in an aura of glory (³the sun is behind me,´) he conclusively declares the immutability of his supreme dominance. This seems to be alluding to the ancient Egyptian god Horus, the hawk-headed deity, whose all-seeing eye ensures that the universe continues to trod its predestined path. This is the final unfolding of the hawk's theriomorphic attributes (³theriomorphic´ as opposed to ³anthropomorphic,´ since the hawk is exalted as a deified
Ted Hughes wanted to capture nature in its naked form. but rather. just as he asserted in the last stanza. This is not egotism in the sense that egotists believe that they are more important than everybody else. in a style similar to the National Geographic Channel. Their only instinct is to survive. in which he expressed his will to resist change. Ted Hughes unveiled a transfigured creature whose grandeur can only be matched by the gods themselves. violence and raw brutality can only inspire a mixed feeling of reverence. although they admit that other rational beings exist around them. No animal prepares for death. everything else is objectified. to say that the hawk is a metaphor for the mind of a megalomaniac does not do justice to it. although they see it happening all around them. I believe that the intent of Ted Hughes is not to set forth an allegory for dictators. This absence of contemplation of death is more akin to the immortal gods than men. although he speaks or thinks in the language of men). primarily because those are psychological conditions exclusive to rational beings. To put it simply. Thus being said. can we accuse the hawk of being a megalomaniac and an egotist? First of all. the hawk has an illusion of immortality. dear and wonder.beast. Secondly. And like the gods. . his logic is still bound to his limited intelligence. it is out of his unadulterated admiration for the majesty of the hawk that he writes the poem. By presenting the inner workings of a hawk's mind. it appears that from the point of view of the hawk. Also. It is his goal to show in broad daylight the inherent beauty of a creature whose ruthlessness. the only thinking creature in the world is himself. To him. Although the hawk in the poem is given the faculty to intelligibly speak his mind. these two terms do not apply to any animal.