Summary of Ted Hughes’ Hawk Roosting

Hawk Roosting is a poem by Ted Hughes.


In this poem, a hawk is imagined as speaking and expressing his own thoughts. The word “roosting” means “resting” or “lost in thought just before falling asleep”. This hawk is comfortably perched in his nest on a high tree, and he is expressing his happy state and his perfect satisfaction with his existence. He says that he is sitting on the top of the wood, with his eyes closed. In his imagination, he thinks of the many birds whom he had killed and eaten, and of the many birds whom he would kill and eat in the future. There is nothing false about this view of his activities, he says, because he actually does this sort of thing. He then thinks of the comfort of his nest which is situated on a high tree around which the air is light and on which the rays of the sun fall to warm him. The whole earth below lies open to his inspection, he further says.

The hawk then thinks of his feet and his feathers and says that the moulding of his feet and the creation of his feathers were no easy matter. Great pains had to be taken to give him the shape which he possesses, particularly his feet and his feathers. And now he is so important that he holds all Creation in his foot, and that he can fly up from his nest and go round all Creation, killing any prey whom he likes to kill because the whole of Creation now belongs to him.

There is nothing illusory or deceptive about his shape and his body, he says; and his only concern in life is to kill the birds whom he feels like killing. His only concern is to cause the death of the birds who attract his notice. He flies directly towards his prey, and pierces, with his beak or his claws, through the very body and bones of the living creature who is his prey. He does not have to argue his case or assert his authority by means of any arguments. His authority has to be taken for granted.

Finally, the hawk says that the sun is shining behind him and that nothing has changed since he came into this universe because he never allowed any change to take place. In fact, he would permit no change in the universe even in the future because he would like to keep things as they are.

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