Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes (193O-1998) served as the British Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death, for which he was awarded the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II. Born in West Yorkshire, he studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and then spent much of his time in Devon. This is one of the many poems he wrote on nature and the natural world. At the time of writing Hughes was living in America with his wife, Sylvia Plath.

Key points

The poem Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes is an animal poem. The speaker of this poem is a hawk. The hawk is looking down on the earth beneath him. He starts the poem perched on the top of a tree, preparing to swoop on his next pray. His actions and tone are exceedingly arrogant, and he compares himself to God. He is very proud of his position in the food chain and his right to choose who survives and who dies. He doesn’t want to mess with the normal order of life.

Ted Hughes writes this poem in which he places himself in the hawk’s body and mind. The hawk is depicted as an arrogant megalomaniac, and Hughes is very good at demonstrating how the hawks’ mind functions in several different scenarios and locations.

n the title of the poem ‘,” roosting” suggests the hawk is still, not a swooping bird of prey as we may imagine. This gives a sense of the hawk meditating on his powers of destruction

 The tone is haughty. The hawk is focussed and not distracted – “no falsifying

The language creates an arrogance to the hawk – “I hold Creation in my foot”, “it
is all mine”

There is a sense of control and that the hawk is playing God throughout the poem – “allotment of death”

Final words – “I am going to keep things like this” shows the power that the hawk has. It is a statement suggesting he is king of the animal kingdom and untouchable

The poem is about the hawk bragging of his power. The hawk assumes he’s the one with the most significant and strong creature in the universe, manipulating the universe. The hawk explains how he wants to kill his victims in an, especially aggressive manner. It may be a symbol for the actions of politicians or citizens in general.

READ ALSO:  Ode On Solitude: Summary and Questions Answers

Thus, the hawk is portrayed by the poet as powerful and damaging. He’s proud of his own perfection and quality. The hawk’s attitude is vain and arrogant. It’s all-powerful in its own eyes. However, Hughes said the poem was not about cruelty – he only tried to reveal the hawks a ‘natural way of thinking’

Theme of Hawk Roosting

The themes of the poem revolve around power, arrogance, and self-indulgence. The hawk reflects dominance and arrogance at the same time because he believes he’s the most powerful animal in the woods and he’s unaware of the fact that he can’t have it all, the Hughes poem illustrates this very well by using a lot of emotive languages and a summary of how the hawk believes.

Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes Summary, Analysis and Solved Questions 1

SUMMARY OF Hawk Roosting


‘Hawk roosting’ is a significant example of Ted Hughes’ love for nature and his special bonding with the natural world, which leads him to place the Hawk at a special pedestal.

The title of the poem ‘Hawk roosting’ upholds the position of The Hawk as the protagonist and the speaker in the poem. Written in the first person, The Hawk has been personified as it proclaims its superiority over the human world. All through its length, the poem follows a consistent structure, each stanza being a quartet, which suggests the indisputable supremacy of the Hawk. The Hawk becomes a metaphor for power.

The opening line “I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed,” signifies the exalted position of the Hawk. The poem strikes a meditative and ruminating mood as the Hawk seems to take a pause and justify its superiority. The use of caesura that holds the pace right at the outset in the opening line signifies the tone of quiet contemplation, also suggested by the ‘closed eyes’. The repetition of the word “hooked”, “Between my hooked head and hooked feet”, suggests how the Hawk takes pride in its special ability as a bird of prey and whether in sleep or action the Hawk is aware of its special talent.

READ ALSO:  The Tyger by William Blake - Summary & Explanation

As it says, “Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat,” the poet seems to suggest that the Hawk is not being hypocritical or making any false claims. “Inaction, no falsifying dream” projects the fact that the Hawk achieves what it stands for and claims to be its own. It does not need to indulge in any falsification.


The second stanza strikes a note of self-satisfaction and attainment; “The convenience of the high trees!” marked by the sign of exclamation connotes how the Hawk takes the entire nature to be at its service. The “air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray” are all “of advantage” to the Hawk. The tone of pride and arrogance signifies the hawk’s confidence in its own superior vision; the earth seems to be at an inferior position as it ‘faces upward’ for the hawk’s “inspection”; so, the Hawk thinks.


The third stanza follows the process of creation as the word “Creation” is repeated and personified which takes the Hawk once again to contemplate upon its position. As the Hawk sits perched up upon the tree with its feet “locked upon the rough bark,” the Hawk considers the entire Creation to have been involved to produce ‘its foot’, its, “each feather”. The tone of arrogance is highlighted in the words, “Now I hold Creation in my foot.” The personification of the Hawk through the entire length of the poem brings the bird of prey into a unique significance.


The enjambment in the lines at the start of stanza four, continuing with the concluding line of the preceding stanza, “Now I hold Creation in my foot/ Or fly, and revolve it all slowly” Suggest the superiority of The Hawk in all circumstances whether sitting with its feet “locked upon the rough bark” or encircling in the sky to sight its prey. “I kill where I please because it’s all mine” reinforces the truth that the Hawk does not deviate from its claim of being a killer and states it honestly and bluntly that it kills where ‘it pleases’ and it seems that the entire world and Creation is under the Hawk’s control. It proclaims it’s godlike position as it announces how it holds creation in its foot considering itself to be no example of “sophistry” as suggested by the use of the negative, “There is no sophistry in my body:” The Hawk is brutally honest and the use of the language of aggression supports its brutal honesty and its brutality. “My manners are tearing off heads” The Hawk takes a brutal pride in its brutal strength. As an undertone, the poet seems to suggest the difference between the Hawk and human cruelty as they do so under the garb of the facade (cover) and the veil of hypocrisy. The blatant truth spoken by the Hawk symbolizes its honesty and bare reality in contrast with the duplicity exercised in the human world.

READ ALSO:  Acrostic Poems - Definition and Examples


The 5th stanza opens with the simple declarative statement, “The allotment of death.” The Hawk’s words resound the command of the ruthless dictators as it is seen to define its role as a creator and a destroyer who decides who lives and who dies. The absence of caesura accompanies the hawk’s projection of the uninterrupted headlong ‘path of its flight’ through “the bones of the living”. “No arguments assert my right:” make use of the negative to reinforce the hawk’s authority and domination which does not accept any arguments, confrontation or negation.


The concluding stanza once again makes a simple declarative statement: “The Sun is behind me.” The use of the negative, “Nothing has changed since I began” supports the hawk’s unprecedented position. “My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this.” leads the concluding stanza to justify the hawk’s might, power and authority. The concluding lines assert the Hawk’s might and position that the Hawk maintains to be all of its own. It is not willing to exchange it with anyone else. Even the mighty sun is seen to play a secondary role and supports its presence. The poem acquires symbolic and metaphysical interpretation as the poem links to the circle of life, suggesting that the superior position of the Hawk and its reign (Rule) will never end.

Model Question Answers

This section will be added soon.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter

Have something to say

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.