What are some language features used in the poem "Hawk Roosting" by Ted Hughes?  

In "Hawk Roosting," Hughes uses repetition, a keen ear for sound, and complex syntax to convey the power of the hawk.

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Hughes uses repetition, alliteration, and syntax in this poem to suggest the elemental power of the hawk. This language turns in on itself and, in a sense, becomes about itself; in this sense, Hughes is not writing about a hawk at all, but his own hawk-like prowess as a...

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Hughes uses repetition, alliteration, and syntax in this poem to suggest the elemental power of the hawk. This language turns in on itself and, in a sense, becomes about itself; in this sense, Hughes is not writing about a hawk at all, but his own hawk-like prowess as a poet.

One use of repetition is with the word "hook," which appears twice in line three, suggesting that the body of the hawk is a kind of symmetrical arrangement of hooks (head and feet). The poem returns to the idea of the hooked foot in the third stanza, in which the hawk's "feet" are "locked" in the "bark"; the image of the foot (not, interestingly, the more appropriate "talons") returns over and over, a symbol of the hawk's evolved nature and his absolute dominance.

Hughes's use of repetitive sounds, especially the hard k sounds alternating with the softer fricative f sounds, as in the third stanza's use of "locked" and "bark" as contrasted with the "foot" and "feather" two lines later suggests the double nature of the hawk's world, in which the bird is both remote and passively watching and immediately present ("For the one path of my flight is direct / Through the bones of the living").

Finally, Hughes's syntax in the poem is remarkably obtuse. The complex and convoluted structure of his sentences and the reading rhythm they create suggest the power and vigilance of the hawk and his sudden action. Take, for instance, the sentence "No arguments assert my right: / The sun is behind me." First, the sentence is split between two stanzas, so even though it is one sentence, we can read the beginning of the sentence as the end of one stanza and the end of the sentence as the beginning of the next, a move which encourages the reader to not think of the two parts as connected at all. The colon suggests equivalence or cause and effect between the two statements, as if flying out of the sun is all the argument the hawk needs.

The hawk's elemental sense of power ("I am going to keep things like this") is also, in my view, an expression of Hughes's sense of poetic power. While it could be argued that the hawk's sense of independence is a kind of self-delusion, in a way, Hughes's handling of language in this poem is his way of asserting that "no arguments" are needed to assert his hawk-like authority.

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Hughes uses repetition in this poem to reinforce the sense of the hawk's repetitive life of hunting and eating that will not change. In the first stanza, the word "hooked" repeats. The hawk also asserts that he even practices killing and eating his prey in his dreams: "in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat."

Hughes also repeats the words "foot" and "creation" in the third stanza, "all" in the fourth stanza, and the word "change" (or "changed") in the final stanza.

The hawk's language is crude and to the point in order to reflect an unrefined and brutal mind focused on killing and consuming. Hughes does not romanticize this bird as noble or exalted. Hughes's hawk thinks in blunt terms, not mincing words:

My manners are tearing off heads

Hughes does use rhyme at least once, in the poem's first stanza, in "feet" and "eat," but mostly, feeling his way into the hawk's mind, he dispenses with such niceties to focus on the hawk's singleminded obsession with the hunt. 

 

 

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First let's try to define what is meant by "language features." Usually this refers to diction and vocabulary, but, when used in reference to poets, it can take on the broader meaning of "poetic devices." Poetic devices include diction and vocabulary but also devices like metaphor, simile (a type of metaphor), imagery, symbolism, onomatopoeia, rhyme, and more, like irony and alliteration. We'll examine one or two language features to get you started.

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.

First of all, the poetic speaker in this poem is a personified hawk. When personification is applied to nature in this way, it is sometimes called "pathetic fallacy." Both terms are accurate while pathetic fallacy is more specific as it can only apply to personification of nature.

Since the poetic speaker is a hawk, the syntax of sentences (sentence structure) is simple, and the diction is not high poetic diction. Instead the diction is middle everyday conversational diction: "My feet are locked upon the rough bark." You'll note though that this is not a simplistic hawk even though his syntax is simple. Hughes has opted to endow this hawk with intelligence and a sophisticated vocabulary: e.g., falsifying, rehearse, convenience, buoyancy, inspection, revolve, sophistry, allotment.

Imagery that repeats is giving a sense of height: e.g., "top of the wood" "high trees" "earth's face upward for my inspection" "flight is direct." These are some of the most striking language features of this poem, yet these are not the only features. Knowing what is needed, you can analyze more of the language features like the descriptors used for the hawk itself (words used to describe the hawk) and the language that describes what the hawk does. You might also ask whether you find a metaphor in the description of what the hawk does.

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