Hawk’s Monologue by Ted Hughes is a poem on a very compelling idea. Another title of this poem is Hawk’s Roosting. The poem tells us that power needs no justification for its enforcement. The people with power and authority take it as their prerogative to exploit the weak. The hawk is a symbol in this poem. In a monologue, he expresses his thoughts about his dictatorial behaviour. He is the most powerful of all the birds. Therefore, he considers it his right to subdue, kill, and eat other birds. Through this symbol of power among the birds, Ted Hughes inspires the reader to think about human societies. Any observer with a keen eye will find the same being practised in every community of the world. This article, Hawk’s Monologue – Summary Analysis Questions, is an attempt to look at different artistic aspects of the poem. It will help teachers and students.
A Brief Biography of Ted Hughes
One of the greatest 20th-century English poets, Ted Hughes, was born in Yorkshire England on August 17, 1930. Hughes had two siblings – a brother, Gerald, and a sister, Olwyn Marguerite. In 1956, he married an American poetess, Sylvia Plath. She encouraged and inspired him to make his poetry public. Hughes submitted The Hawk in the Rain, his first book manuscript, to a competition organized by The Poetry Center in 1857. The judges who were famous poets of the time awarded Hughes the first prize. From here started a career of achievements. Lupercal (1960) earned him more fame and recognition. In 1963, Plath committed suidice. Following it, Hughes did not write anything for nearly three years. But after this, he wrote prolifically. Wodwo (1967), Crow (1970), and Wolfwatching (1989) are his remarkable books. Hughes became the Poet Laureate of England in 1984. He died on October 28, 1998.
Text of the Poem Hawk’s Monologue by 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.
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.
Summary of the Poem Hawk’s Monologue by Ted Hughes
Hawk’s Monologue by Ted Hughes is one of his poems based on his observations of wildlife. Ted Hughes is famous for his control of sentiments while penning down the lifestyle of wild animals and birds. He presents the shrewdness and savagery of his subject with exquisite artistry. Hawk’s Monologue is an apt reflection of his creative abilities. The poem revolves around the thoughts of a hawk who is power-drunk and arrogant. The hawk expresses his thoughts in a monologue. He is immersed in a sense of superiority and takes pride in his brutality toward other birds that are weak.
The Confidence of the Hawk
While sitting on the topmost branch of the tallest tree in the jungle, the hawk expresses his confidence. With his closed eyes, he seems inactive. But his brain is working perfectly. His dreams are not deceptive. He is well aware of the power of his beak and his talons. Even when he seems asleep, he is rehearsing or pondering upon the techniques of his hunting other birds.
The Support of the Nature
The hawk in his monologue describes how different elements of nature support him in his hunting. The high trees offer him a big advantage. He can monitor the flight of other birds from the high branches of tall trees. The air helps the hawk to soar as high as he desires. The rays of the sun that fall on the surface of the earth assist him in locating his target.
Hawk’s Pride in His Creation
The hawk takes pride in his creation. He believes that his feet with which he can clutch the bark of the branch are matchless. Each feather on his body reflects the uniqueness of his creation. He thinks that his creation must have taken a lot of time and contemplation. Now that the Creator has created him thus, he holds all other creations under control through the power of his talons.
The Brutality of the Hawk
The hawk continues his monologue and goes on to tell the reasons for his pride. He is proud of his high flight and praises his measured curves in the air. At the same time, the hawk claims his liberty to kill any bird anywhere he wants. He flaunts his strength and power and says that there is no weakness in his body. It is a part of his hunting manners to crush the head of his prey.
Dictatorial Nature of the Hawk
The hawk is a dictator among the birds. He claims that he can allot death to any bird whenever he desires. Furthermore, he asserts that one of the objectives of his flight is to break the bones of his prey. He needs no justification for his act of killing weaker birds. This part of the hawk’s monologue reveals his dictatorial approach and autocratic attitude.
The Hawk’s Aversion of Change
The hawk’s monologue ends with his expression of aversion to change. He says that he has always been of the same nature. There has never been any change in his routine. Moreover, he asserts that he will not allow any change to take place. The cycle of life as it goes on is of great advantage to the hawk.
Hawk’s Monologue by Ted Hughes is evidence of the poet’s deep insight into wildlife. Through this monologue, Ted Hughes unveils the thoughts of a hawk. At the same time, the poem is a comment on the people who care more for authority and less for welfare. The sole object of their lives is to exercise power to extend their hegemony.
Q1: What are the themes of the poem, Hawk’s Monologue by Ted Hughes?
Q2: Write an analysis of the poem Hawk’s Monologue.
Hawk’s Monologue by Ted Hughes shows the poet’s exceptional knowledge of wildlife. He can seek and show the beauty in an otherwise routine affair in the life of a bird. Hughes’s composing a monologue with a hawk as a speaker is an individual idea. The poem covers not only the thoughts but also the life cycle of a hawk. However, the poem is much more than a simple delineation of the thoughts, attitudes, and instincts of a hawk. It is a depiction of human societies where power and authority matter a lot. The poem is an exquisite amalgam of knowledge, philosophy, and creativity.
Themes of Hawk’s Monologue by Ted Hughes
Violence as Instinct
Ted Hughes depicts the hawk as a violent creature. It may seem that the hawk has assumed this brutality and violence in his behaviour. However, it is only natural. The hawk is representative of the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest. If he does not kill the birds for his diet, he may not survive. So, this instinct of violence is necessary to meet another instinctive necessity of the hawk, that is, his hunger. It is also important to note that nature itself helps the hawk in his spotting and killing his prey.
Power and Freedom
The hawk, in his monologue, thinks that his extraordinary power grants him the freedom to kill other birds. It is a symbolic representation of human societies across the globe. It also refers to prevailing political scenarios all over the world. The people in the seat of power and authority rely more on force than on reason. They manipulate the weakness of others. Their only objective in life is to prolong their rule whether by hook or by crook. They think that they are not answerable to anyone for what they do. It also seems to endorse the fascist opinion that freedom to live the way one wants depends upon power. In the world of humans, one finds many dictators and hegemonists possess the same tendency. They use power to terrorize and control the masses. Power stands no checks of morality.
The Analysis of the Poem Hawk’s Monologue by Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes has given the hawk of this poem human qualities. The hawk of the poem can soliloquize his thoughts. He can put his thoughts into words which is a unique idea itself. In the third line of the first quatrain, the hawk does not use words like beak and talons. Instead, he uses the phrase ‘hooked head and hooked feet’ for them. Instances like this stand for the employment of personification of the poet. This use of personification by Ted Hughes is not without an end. Through this literary device, Hughes accentuates the similarities of approach and action between human and wild worlds.
Form of the Poem
Hawk’s Monologue by Ted Hughes does not follow any fixed rhyme scheme or strict meter. The poem is in the form of free verse. This form serves Hughes the purpose of expressing a nonlinear pattern of thought. The poem is a monologue. It starts with the pronoun ‘I’ for the hawk. It reflects the subjectivity and individuality of the idea of the hawk as of the poet. The diction employed by Ted Hughes suits the topic and setting of the poem. He does not use highly emotive words.
Ted Hughes has shown remarkable imaginative and creative faculty in this poem. Hawk’s Monologue is as much a poem of nature as is To the Cuckoo by William Wordsworth. Both the birds live in the same world, though with different attributes and characters.