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Commentary on “Hawk Roosting”

2021-03-29 来源: 51Due教员组 类别: Essay范文

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Commentary on “Hawk Roosting”

 

Written in 1957, "Hawk Roosting" is included in Hughes' second collection of poems Lupercal (1960). The poem depicts a hawk, characterized by its energy, ferocity and cruelty. It sits on a branch, standing in despise of everything in the world, being filled with desires for dominance, blood, and power. It is considered as one of Hughes’ greatest works.

 

Hughes' masterpiece "Hawk Roosting" aims to inspire people to think deeply about the relationship between animals, man and nature through the description of the special images of animals. With his poetic keen insight, he clearly realized the potential crisis that modern industrial civilization had brought upon human beings, which affected the survival of mankind itself. In "Hawk Roosting", Hughes directed the criticism directly to "anthropocentrism" by granting a hawk human emotions and desires. The entire poem is a reflection on the cruelty and the loss of peace and harmony in the human society, due to the unnatural desire for violence and power. Through this power Hughes hoped to alert people that they should work hard to build a harmonious relationship within the human species.

 

The present, the past, and the future tenses are used alternately to demonstrate the dominant nature of the narrator. The past, present and future events are linked, showing from multiple levels and angles the ambition of the hawk to control everything. The flexible use of tenses made the narrative space of the poem three-dimensional. The first two stanzas, the beginning of the third stanza, and the fourth and fifth stanzas are of the present tense, depicting the hawk's usual, regular and habitual states and movements: resting on top, looking down on and controlling everything. the second sentence of the third stanza uses past tense "It took the whole of Creation to produce my foot, my each feather". The creator created the foot of the hawk first, and now it attempts to control all things in the universe. Not only is the hawk not grateful for its creator, it returns grace with revenge instead. The last sentence of the last stanza uses future tense, "I am going to keep things like this." This indicates that the hawk wants to continue controlling the universe. This arrangement of time and space viewpoints enables readers to follow the observer hawk's vision, to feel the aura of its dominance and to enhance their understanding on the theme.

 

A dominant point of view of the observer, the hawk, carries through the entire poem. Within a short poem, there are more than 20 instances of first person perspectives in "Hawk Roosting", such as "I sit, I kill, I please" "My eyes, my hooked head, my foot, my body, my manners, my flight, my right", and "of advantage to me, behind me" etc. The narrator's self-centeredness can be considered as a form of anthropocentricism, or egocentricity. In the egocentric narrative, cognitive agents play a central role in the perception of time and space and the construction of language. The observer, which is the hawk in this case, places itself at the center of the universe, and then takes this as a reference to form a perspective. It defines concepts such as up, down, left and right, height, distance, center, and periphery. For example, the “convenience of the high trees”, “earth’s face upward for my inspection”, and “the one path of my flight is direct” are all indicative of the fact that the hawk places itself at the center of the universe. The unique arrangement of perspectives fully embodies the narrator's egocentricity. Centering around the hawk, the ambition of controlling the earth is revealed, taking the readers closer to the theme of poem. Meanwhile, the use of a single, dominant perspective also binds the entire poem together, making the story authentic, complicated, yet not chaotic.

 

The poem adopts the first-person internal perspective narrative style, but the character created by the author is not a living person, but an animal. However, the hawk is granted the complete cognitive and thinking abilities. Like human beings, he is able to observe, think and act as well. Anthropomorphism is embodied in the entire poem, such as "rehearse perfect kills", "for my inspection", "the allotment of death", "no sophistry in my body", etc. Dreaming, killing, inspecting, arguing, and so on, are all behaviors and thoughts possessed by human beings. Anthropomorphism in this poem is considered as a metaphor. The metaphor allows one to comprehend one event as another, regardless of whether the two are objectively identical or not.

 

The animal hawk as one concept domain is installed with the characteristics and ideas of another concept domain, human beings. That is, poem has projected the concepts of human beings onto an animal. The use of the anthropomorphic narrative perspective enhances the beauty and expressiveness of language, so that the narrative becomes more vivid. The actions of a hawk to kill are only natural and instinctive. However, the fact that this specific hawk develops a philosophical perspective regarding its behaviors is not natural at all. Phrases such as “falsifying dream,” “kill where I please,” and “assert my right” obviously point to something much deeper than a natural predator. By letting the reader go deep into the animal world and experience the thoughts and feelings of a hawk, they would reflect on the human world. In the natural environment, the strong survives and the weak gets eliminated. The poet hints that this is becoming the case for the survival in the human society as well, with increasing wildness and violence in the world. The animal world is a true portrayal of the human world, revealing the profound connotation of the theme in a deeper sense.

 

“Hawk Roosting” is only one of Hughes' animal poems. In general, it has a modern style with sharp brushstrokes and a gloomy tone, reflecting the poet's incomplete but well-founded sense of crisis toward the capitalist world. The poet not only described the appearance and form of the hawk, but also penetrated into the hawk's inner world. The hawk's mentality is vividly demonstrated by first-person inner soliloquy. Under the description of Hughes, the hawk disdains the world, it is dominant, violence and graceful at the same time, like a king of the universe. It sits “in the top of the wood”, all things are “of advantage to” it, as it “hold Creation in my foot.” This vividly mirrors the mindset of certain class of the society, or certain leaders. The Hawk indulges in its killing habit, biting off the head of prey, and then slowly taste their flesh and blood. These descriptions may seem appalling and unacceptable for the common readers. However, it isn’t surprising combined with the historical background. In the context of the WWII, the hawk in poem symbolizes fascists. With an understanding of the brutality of the Nazis and their crime against the Jews, Hughes used this poem to reveal the cruelty of war to the readers.

 

In conclusion, “Hawk Roosting” is more about humans than it is about the nature. With the adoption of multiple tenses, a dominant narrator perspective, and anthropomorphic descriptions, the poet uses the hawk to criticize the emerging anthropocentrism mindset and cruelty within the human society. Through “Hawk Roosting”, Hughes showed a strong sense of responsibility and urgency to restore harmony and eliminate brutality from the human society.


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