Dictators as pictured in Hawk Roosting [Archives:2003/664/Education]

September 1 2003

Radhwan Al-Sharif
English Dept. Level 4
College of Education,

Ted Hughes is a great English poet. Majority of his writings are concerned with strong and violent forces of nature. He has written a whole lot of animal poems. Hawk is the bird in which Hughes is so interested that he has written several times about it. “Hawk Roosting” is a very interesting and significant poem which highlights superficially for enjoyment, and deeply for thinking. The symbolism of the poem gives it richness and depth to generate different themes and ideas. Therefore, it can be considered as a comparison between the nature of human beings and the forces of nature or as a symbol of the dictators whose qualities, attitudes and behavior become similar to these birds of prey.
So let us identify the characteristics of the dictators through this powerful bird-how he views and treats the people and the whole world. The poem starts with how describing the postures of the hawk sitting on the top of the wood as if he were an arrogant king who boasts of his throne and power, in the second stanza, the poet portrays the dictator's vanity. So the bird (dictator) claims that all components of the nature are designed for his sake-sun, earth surface and air (Are of advantage to me ) in the third stanza, the dictator increases his vanity to go beyond the standard of people. What's more, he shows off his greatness and power, imagining that he is equal to God since he controls God's creatures. Here the dictator's vanity exceeds the allowable bounds (“It took the whole of creation to create my foot. Now I hold the whole creation in my feet”).
After that, the poet shifts to picture the imperious and oppressive attitudes and features of the dictator. So he regards himself as the ruler of the whole earth. (“I kill where I please because it's all mine”). Further he completely has no conscience so he does not feel guilty of committing crimes and massacres. But he enjoys killing others, as if killing them where his favorite art or sports.
In the rest of the poem Ted Hughes shows us one of the noticeable features of all dictators, which is the pride of their power of determining the death of others without justifications. (“The allotment of death for one path of my lights is direct.”) The poem ends in a strong determination of the tyrant to keep on ruling his states through his dictatorial order without any change, (“I'm going to keep things like this”)
“Hawk Roosting” is replete with splendid aspects that beautify and strengthen its language and theme. First, the diction is simple and formal which makes the poem readable. The poet uses forceful metaphors and personification that depict the excessive boastfulness of the dictator. (I hold the whole creation in my foot- the earth's face is upwards for my inspection. The manners tearing of heads etc.) Actually the whole poem is an extended metaphor of all the dictators.
Now we will mention some beautiful points in this poem. For instance, the connection between the phrases “whole creation” and “in my foot” implies the maximum degree of the tyrant's contempt towards people and the world. There are two exciting images, which reflects the absurdity and illusion of the dictator's view that arise from his extreme arrogance. In the first image the hawk mistakes the earth's surface for a deliberate reaction and submission from the earth for the hawk to help him look for his preys. “The earth faces upward for my inspection”. The hawk in the second image thinks that it is able to rotate the whole earth during his flight in the sky although it is the natural movement of earth. “Or fly up and revolve it all slowly.”
We find a lot of symbolic words and phrases in the poem such as, top of wood-highness, leadership, hooked head, hooked feed-mind, emotion, in my foot – under my control, allotment of death – massacres and ruin, no argument- no freedom of opinions.
It is said that language is the mirror of the mind, so the poet skillfully selects the proper words that reflects the dictator's haughtiness successfully. The poet employs the syntax and structures in the poem to suit and emphasize its subject and meaning. Thus, he focused on the first person “I” and its relevant pronouns (am, my, mine, me) so as to show the egotism and selfishness of the dictator. So every stanza includes most of these pronouns.
Finally, we notice the excellent use of the various tenses, which asserts the unchangeable resolution of the tyrant through different stages of reign without alteration. These tenses are: present – I kill, I sit, past – it took the whole, future – I'm going to keep things like this, present perfect – nothing has changed, my eyes have permitted no change.