Understanding “Hawk’s Monologue” by Ted Hughes

hawk's monologue by Ted Hughes Poem Translation Explanation Summary Review

Hawk’s Monologue is a symbolic poem about power politics. Hawk stands for such a powerful dictator who suffers from delusions that he is born to rule. He can’t be humiliated and lowered. The top is his destination. He becomes senseless in the intoxication of power and considers himself immortal. The unawareness of the reality of such a fellow is highlighted. He forgets that everything in the world is the object of death, decay, and destruction. It is the law of nature. Nothing is constant and mortal except God. (Hawk’s Monologue)

Such fellow is megalomaniac, egotistical and ferocious in his behavior, thinking, and acting like a hawk. It is an acknowledged fact that an influential person always finds himself at the seventh heaven. In his view, weak is rubbish as compared to him who is a monarch, in every walk of life. He is on a high pedestal. His pride always prevents him to accept the fact of life. He only follows the law of jungle: “Might is right”.

Hawk is convinced of God’s gifted abilities that are the ingredients of his real personality. He is great by nature. He says that he builds his nest at the great heights. Even this initial fact and act is of great help to him for maintaining his superiority in the domain of birds. Sitting in his nest at such dazzling heights, he can easily survey the atmosphere beneath him.

All other elements of the universe, as the earth facing upward, the air pressure helping smooth flight and the unhindered sun rays contribute a lot to hunt his prey successfully. Apart from these natural factors, God has endowed him with unusual abilities, like powerful sharp claws, hooked fierce break, and sparkling unfailing eyes to mark his prey and strong wings with a unique ability for straight and speedy flight.

Thus natural factors and personal characteristics equip him with extraordinary qualities and the ability to hunt his prey. Once, he intends to assail upon birds, his intention turns into reality like a death warrant for the bird. He has been gifted by God to execute his decisions in his own domain like a king. God used His wonderful creative powers and ingenuity in giving the shape to his talons, beak, wings, eyes, and hooked head. Hence his unmatched hunting ability in the scheme of the universe is not meaningless. Different creatures in the universe have to follow different rules in their own realms so are for Hawk.

Since the beginning of this world, he is acting on the rules of his own realm. This rule urges him for a swift and speedy attack on his prey. The route of his assault passes through Death Valley. He directly assails his prey killing and tearing him into pieces. No logical argument can stand in the way of his undeniable right to kill his prey. The hawk says the sunlight guides him in the fast and speedy flight towards his prey. (Hawk’s Monologue)

Since the beginning of this world, nothing has changed in his universe. His eyes which are quick and flawless in making the prey do not permit any fundamental change in the process of hunting. And for the sure killing of his prey, he is determined to keep things unchanged.

Explanation with Context

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.

In this stanza from the poem “Hawk’s Monologue”, the poet has described the grandeur of the hawk through his self-talk. He has enumerated hawk’s extraordinary qualities, which show his overbearing nature. The hawk sits on the topmost tree in the forest to examine everything beneath him. The very word ‘top’ indicates his haughtiness. During his sitting on heights, he shuts his eyes for leisure and relishes peaceful movements. He dreams about the practice of victimizing other small and weak creatures faultlessly. It is his instinct to prey. In his sleeping condition, his beak is between his curved head and feet. The poet has used the symbol of a hawk to pinpoint the delusion of a power-drunk dictator who thinks, he is born to rule. He does not want to bow his head. That’s why he maintains his superiority and authority even in dreams.

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

This stanza gives the reflection of the egotistical attitude of a hawk. The hawk praises his every quality. HE says he has extraordinary feet, which have a tight grip over bark and branches of trees. For the formation of his claws and wings, Nature took great efforts and labor.

Moreover, he is exalted by saying his claws possess enough power to prey on any bird because the entire ‘creation’ is in his hold. Here ‘creation’ is personified and has a double meaning, the skill lies in his foot or Creator’s skill found in his foot and the second meaning stands for the world of birds that are other creation. It shows the hawk’s megalomania and egotistic feelings. Hawk is the portrait of a dictator to whom the excitement of powerful forces to think that every extraordinary and splendid quality is gifted to him. So, he becomes demy-god forgetting his own death and destruction.

The allotment of death
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living
No arguments assert my right

Hawk’s ferocious behavior of self-exaltation is made clear in this stanza. Hawk asserts that the death of other birds is left to his discretion. He is an expert to prey as he flies directly and sharply to the body of living birds. He has the freedom to act according to his will. His confidence and egotistical way of thinking reach at height when he says for his actions. He is not bound to justify himself being a superpower. In Ted Hughes’ picture of a hawk, we can well notice the originality of an influential person. He can rule, think and act the way he likes. And, he can victimize others for his own designs. He is answerable to no one in all his doings. Yet ironically enough, he forgets his own death and decay because ‘Beauty is short lived’.

The sun behind me
Nothing has changed since I began
My eyes have permitted no change
I am going to keep things like this

The concluding stanza of the poem “Hawk’s Monologue”, gives an account of the hawk’s unyielding mind. He claims nothing has changed since the time of his rule. The sun is always behind him to support and guide him with its bright light. His sharp eyes have sen no change. “I am going to keep things like this”, shows his inflexibility.

Nature will be his supporter. His body will never become weak. His claws will be forceful. But he is wrong in his perception because change, decay, destruction is the law of Nature. The rigidity of habitually strong is highlighted, who wishes to see himself always on the top. Such a person lacks an understanding of life and its limitations. If at one time one is ruling at another time one is no more. Then the time of another person starts who will also be in the clutches of death. The intoxication of the powerful rule makes man deaf and dumb to the stark realities of life. (Hawk’s Monologue)

Conclusion

The poet has tried to convey a significant message based upon acceptance of reality and humanistic qualities. Nothing is constant. Everything is subject to death, decays, and decadence. Under the intoxication of authority, we should not forget the contrary facts of life. We should not be egoist, oppressive and haughty on the basis of temporary difference.

The life and world are based upon “Vanity of vanities”. Mighty is a tyrant and he creates rebels. It is in the sphere of society in which man can be vicious or virtuous. Without society, he is nothing, no power, no right, no greatness. He can make or mar himself within the boundary of society. Moreover, what is built on power, and pride has a shaky footing. We should not be inflexible in our attitude like a hawk in accepting the limitations of life. In addition to this, The Creator bestows every extraordinary quality. Therefore, we should be grateful to Him for His benedictions.

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