“Hawk Roosting” is one of the many poems published by Ted Hughes during his literary career dealing with animal and nature. In this poem we have a Hawk who thinks that everything in nature is inferior to him and he will allow no change in his life. The stylistic devices used by Hughes make this poem harsh and dynamic showing us an aggressive, unsentimental and gloomy image of the Hawk and at the same time realistic, which help to mirror the character of the Hawk.
The poem is written in six regular stanzas, each consisting of four verses (quatrain) and this emphasize on the uniformity of thought on the part of Ted Hughes and the Hawk. The world of the Hawk is regimented, neat, well organized, controlled and the regularity in the form of the poem matches those qualities very well. The fact that there is no development in the form at the end of Hawk Roosting indicates that the Hawk will not compromise till the very end of the poem:
“Nothing has changed since I began. My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this.”
Since the poem has no discernable rhyming scheme, it clearly indicates that the life of the Hawk too does not have any restrictions and he has full freedom. The physical representation of the poem is strictly directed by the haughtiness of the Hawk as it prevents several attempts at punctuation, for example, the end of stanza three continues into stanza four without any punctuation. Through the use of stylistic devices like end stopped line and enjambment, Ted Hughes makes the manifestation of the superciliousness of the Hawk in the poem more evident.
The Hawk is the speaker of the poem and we see the world through his eyes via a soliloquy and this makes the poem a subjective one. The poetic tension is launched right from the very first verse of the first stanza: distinct from other birds the Hawk can close his eyes without feeling endangered when he sleeps. Since the Hawk makes an auto description of himself as an embodiment of autonomy and that he can kill fearlessly shows the element of conflict in the poem. The Hawk’s tone of voice is proud, egoistical and domineering and this is stressed by the enhancement from the viewpoint of the first person narrative:
“I sit in the top of the wood…”
The I-figure, which is the Hawk, is very much dominant with “I”, “me” “mine” and “my”. The selfish attitude of the Hawk makes the tone possessive and violent:
“I kill where I please because it is all mine”
The tone of Hawk Roosting is menacing, confident, absolute and boastful because of the proud outlook of the Hawk:
“My manners are tearing off heads”
The tone of the poem ties in with the authoritative attitude of the Hawk seeing himself as a killer, a God or a king. The Hawk expresses himself in short and snappy words and sentences:
“The sun is behind me”
This makes the tone of the poem as powerful as the Hawk. Almost all verses in the poem are short with uncomplicated language. For instance, the Hawk uses simple but potent words like “perfect kills” and this underlines his arrogance about his excellent body and actions. The four verses in the last stanza are quite short and all end with full stops. This technique corresponds with that of the Hawk who too uses direct and simple method to kill. The realistic tone and the end-stopped lines hint that the bird will not make any concession and this brings a sense of menace to the reader. These short, down-to-earth and sounding statements with lot of full stops enable to suggest the certainty of the Hawk. The immodest nature of the Hawk is obvious when he uses ordinary language to say that even in his sleep he “makes no falsifying dream”. The vocabulary uses by the Hawk is a mixture of ordinary and unusual words such as “rough bark” and “sophistry in my body” and this shows us turmoil in nature with the conceited attitude of the Hawk in the forest. The Hawk in Hughes Hawk Roosting is vigorous, very much healthy, determined and lofty and this is stressed through assonance (“arguments asserts”) and repetition (“foot”, “feet”). The physical description the Hawk gives of himself through alliteration confirms his ego:
“Between my hooked head and my hooked feet”
There is much powerful imagery in the poem, which helps to reveal the character of the bird. The Hawk is presented as being destructive, primitive and merciless and this is expressed through violent images. These stylistic devices makes the arrogance of the bird becomes more heightened.
The technique of anthropomorphism is very much poignant in the poem with the attribution of human feelings to the Hawk as Hughes writes in an imagined voice of the Hawk. We have figure of speech whereby the bird is given human quality. The Hawk is personified with his human nature characteristics and this reinforces his authority. Through the personification of the Hawk, the poet describes the bird as a survivor and a killer and this scheme enables him to compare the independence of the Hawk to act on impulse with the way we are controlled by thoughts and set of laws:
“My manners are tearing off heads”
The use of figurative language makes the poem and the arrogance of the Hawk more vivid. The Hawk sees himself as the core of the earth and the summit of creation and this is put into accent with the use of metaphor:
” Now I hold creation in my foot of fly up, and revolve it slowly”
The Hawk humanizes a leader who controls everything around him and this is emphasized with his condescending language. The use of metonymy makes the poem intense:
“I sit on the top of the wood, my eyes closed”
The metonymy makes obvious the noble rank of the Hawk who is like a king in the human royal monarchy. The figure of speech where the Hawk is substituting the king underlines the power rulers especially dictators believe they have and all creatures of God are symbols of inferiority that must serve them. The authoritative tone and metaphor of the poem even depict the Hawk as God:
“Now I hold creation in my foot”
The Hawk can be compared to God when we see the vast stretches of the earth revolves under him while he swivels in the air above and like God he reins everything and takes life whenever he wants and this is seen in his patronizing tone:
“No arguments assert my right”
Through anthropomorphism in Hawk Roosting Ted Hughes makes a satire on the arrogant attitude of human beings especially the callous leaders, those who are craving for power and the people who wants to replace God.
Hence we can say that the stylistic devices used by Hughes are very much eloquent as reinforces the arrogance, supremacy and ruthlessness of the Hawk. Both in form and content there is much parallelism between Hawk Roosting and Hurt Hawks of Robbin Jeffers.