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Poetry - Hawk Roosting

Ted Hughes was a twentieth-century English poet. His work was highly-regarded: he received many awards and much praise for his poetry during his lifetime, and was made Poet Laureate in 1984. Much of his earlier poetry explores the natural world, focussing on its primal, non-romanticised essence. This poem, 'Hawk Roosting', is a good example.

Read the poem slowly, then test your analytical skills with this quiz.

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Hawk Roosting

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.

Ted Hughes
 

  1. Who is the 'I' of the first line?
    The voice of 'Hawk Roosting' is that of the hawk
  2. What is the hawk doing at the beginning of the poem?
    Always remember to think about the title and how it relates to the rest of the poem. Here, 'roosting' is what we find the hawk doing at the beginning of the poem; he is in a state of repose
  3. Find examples of the language Hughes uses to express the violent mood of the poem.
  4. The mood, while violent, is also one of...
    The hawk kills because that is its nature. From its 'hooked head' to its 'hooked feet', the hawk is the deathly pinnacle of creation
  5. Looking again at the words which express violence and comparing these with the poem, you will see that it is the images, more than individual words, which fully convey the mood. Which one of the following images does NOT contribute to the violence of the poem?
  6. 'Juxtaposition' is to place two things / ideas / words side by side in order to invite comparison or contrast. In which line(s) do we find juxtaposition?
    The hawk, who presents this juxtaposition, seems amused by the thought that 'Creation' formed his foot and that he is now master of creation, holding it in his claw
  7. What is the significance of these words: sophistry, manners, allotment, arguments, assert, right, permitted?
  8. Considering the answer to question seven - this is an example of which poetic or literary device?
    Hughes is writing about more than a hawk in nature. The hawk is personified, which will make the reader think about people who have the attitude the hawk has been given in the poem. Who do you think Hughes is referring to here? Killers? Tyrants? The landed gentry throughout history?
  9. Why does the hawk say 'I am going to keep things like this'?
    The hawk believes he can stop change; he does not 'permit' change
  10. The hawk believes himself to be...
    The hawk's self-image is all powerful, almighty; he views the world, god-like, from on high

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