(Benjamin T 444. Nankeen Kestrel)

6. Hawk Roosting: Ted Hughes 1960 

Section
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
Chapter
1.9 Poems
Page
1.9.6

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.

 

Heavens – what a contrast with the comfort and joy of Shaw Neilson, Hopkins or Keats! Ted Hughes shocks us with the hawk’s stark honesty, his alien and immutable brutality. “I kill where I please because it is all mine…My manners are tearing off heads – “.

His hawk is as untouchable to us as it is arrogant and uncaring: “The air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray/Are of advantage to me; And the earth’s face upward for my inspection”. This is a cold, cruel and utterly unapologetic creature that is the embodiment of ‘the other’, the non-human world: “It took the whole of Creation/To produce my foot, my each feather:/Now I hold Creation in my foot.”

His hawk is so perfectly made, so fit-for-purpose, that its “flight is direct” and “Nothing has changed since I began./My eye has permitted no change.” This is intrinsic Nature at its strongest – it exists on its own terms whether we like it or not. It is ancient, it is “perfect”, but there is no place for soppy sentimentality or wishful projection – “There is no sophistry in my body”. There is much of Williams’ and Drysdale’s eternity here (see Paintings 1.7.7, 1.7.5), and the cold fear of the flat, unflinching eyes of Rousseau’s lion (1.7.3). Nature to Hughes is amazing, yes, but a place for the human heart, no.

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1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship 1.1 Articles 1.2 Art Installations 1.3 Books 1.4 Buildings 1.5 Film, Documentaries, Podcasts 1.6 Music 1.7 Paintings 1.8 Photographs 1.9 Poems 1.10 Spiritual Responses
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