Nature Poems

Nature Poems #

Ted Hughes wrote a lot of poems centring on the primaeval passion of the natural world that combusts us into the supernatural. Gerald Hughes, his elder brother by nine years, in his book, Ted and I, recounts an anecdote at school, where a teacher commenting on Ted’s description of “a wildflower’s gun breaking in the cold with frost chilled snap” - That’s poetry! Ted’s response, “Well if that’s poetry, that’s the way I think and I can give you no end of it”. Already there is evidence of the coiled violence Hughes perceives in nature.

Medieval writers placed man between the angels and the animals and extoled the virtures of us aspiring to the level of the angels. Hughes celebrates the animal is us.

This dramatic monologue personifies a majestic hawk addressing us in an imperious manner asserting its instinctive purpose in nature – to hunt and kill without remorse or answering to anybody. Like Hopkins, Hughes celebrates the ‘brute beauty’ of nature.

In lucid, simple and commanding language Hughes makes the bird come alive to us. “I am” is an assertive declaration of being; a certitude of self without shame, contrition or negotiation. The hawk assumes god-like being- absolutely omnipotent, roosting high up, dominantly looking down on all he owns with total control. It comes across as arrogant, ruthless, brutal yet dignified and beautiful.

Hawks are symbolic of warmongers, while doves are peacemakers.

How much of Hughes’ poem is appropriated from Tennyson’s The Eagle?


He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

These are some of Hughes earlier poems.

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.

This is the natural world of the survival of the fittest in a hierarchical food chain. Unapologetically the Hawk instinctively does what it is programmed to do - kill to survive. Mankind does so too, but we manage to cloak it with more acceptable, but false rationalisations and justifications. **Genesis 1. 28 **““Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air.. and over every creeping thing….

The Hawk appears superior, dominant and arrogant - but it has cause to be so. Is this a self caricature of the poet?

Sophistry is a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning - a false argument; sophism.

Casuistry is the application of general rules and principles to questions of ethics or morals in order to resolve them, often used to justify infringing a treaty to justify waging war. It involves the use of subtle, sophisticated, and sometimes deceptive argument and reasoning, especially on moral issues, in order to justify something or mislead. Also called Eristic, sophistry or specious reasoning, perception management, propaganda, brain washing, mind bending or a bewitchment of our intelligence.

“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, the Chaplin saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” Heller in Catch-22.

The Hawk in the Rain #

I drown in the drumming ploughland, I drag up
Heel after heel from the swallowing of the earth’s mouth,
From clay that clutches my each step to the ankle
With the habit of the dogged grave, but the hawk
Effortlessly at height hangs his still eye.
His wings hold all creation in a weightless quiet,
Steady as a hallucination in the streaming air.
While banging wind kills these stubborn hedges,
Thumbs my eyes, throws my breath, tackles my heart,
And rain hacks my head to the bone, the hawk hangs The diamond point of will that polestars
The sea drowner’s endurance: and I,
Bloodily grabbed dazed last-moment-counting
Morsel in the earth’s mouth, strain towards the master-
Fulcrum of violence where the hawk hangs still,
That maybe in his own time meets the weather
Coming from the wrong way, suffers the air, hurled upside down,
Fall from his eye, the ponderous shires crash on him,
The horizon traps him; the round angelic eye
Smashed, mix his heart’s blood with the mire of the land. *

Sylvia Plath’s: Black Rook In Rainy Weather #

On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain-
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident
To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall
Without ceremony, or portent.
Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Lean incandescent
Out of kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then —
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent
By bestowing largesse, honor
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); sceptical
Yet politic, ignorant
Of whatever angel any choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant
A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content
Of sorts. Miracles occur.
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance
Miracles. The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent.