Comparison of Hawk Roosting on the theme of power with one other poem from the anthology.
A poem which contrasts ‘Hawk Roosting’ is ‘Valentine’ by Carol Ann Duffy. The poem explores the loss of independent power in a relationship. It is a poem that was written for Valentine’s Day. ‘Valentine’ follows untraditional rules if a love poem, and depicts love as a reality, and not the fake love you see on Valentine’s Day.
The introductory stanza dismisses any traditional gifts, such as a ‘rose’ or a ‘satin heart’ and brings forward an ‘onion,’ which, ‘promises light’. This implies a concept of traditional gifts promising darkness, and therefore lost power and control of the love in a relationship. Furthermore, the ‘onion’ has many layers, highlighting love’s complexity, and possibly also the depth of power you obtain in the layers of an onion. This isn’t present in Hughes’ poem, as the hawk looks at power on a very simple level - simply inspecting the ‘earth’s face’. This implies that the bird can almost glorify the physical expression of the ‘face’, and the make-up he uses could be the ‘kills’- displaying his power. This is contrasted in ‘Valentine’, as the repetition and therefore emphasis of ‘not’ a traditional gift shows that power is what you have on the inside - possible the ‘brown paper’- not the fancy wrapping paper you would expect a gift to be in. The undressing referenced in ‘Valentine’ could be a sexual notion, or possibly the peeling of the layer of the onion. If the layers represent power, Duffy could be implying that as you become more intimate, you lose power over the control of your love. This articulates Duffy’s lack of fear towards being bisexual in 1993, as she wants to get across what love really is - feeling vulnerable.
There is a sense of permanence in both poems. ‘Hawk Roosting’ narrates the hawk’s ‘manners tearing off heads’ implying that his power has permanent, deadly consequences for the animal kingdom. However, this is Hughes explaining the innocent savagery of animals, referencing to the fact that they can’t help being savage as they need it to survive. This can be mirrored in ‘Valentine’ as the adjectives ‘possessive and faithful,’ show a major juxtaposition as they are opposing ideas. Duffy could be implying that relationships are only ‘faithful’ because of the possessiveness of a partner, as you want to know what they’re doing every day, making sure they stay in place. This idea of ruling over the relationship regarding power can be in seen in ‘Hawk Roosting’ as the hawk seems to own an ‘allotment of death’, implying that, like a partner in a relationship, he can always be monitoring the activity of what he needs to be happy. In this case, it is ‘death,’ another reference from Hughes showing that innocent savagery of animals, but in a life cycle, or a food chain.
The hawk is placed at the top of every hierarchy imaginable - food chains, physical elevation, and possibly race. This can be reinforced with the reference to natural selection in ‘It took the whole of creation’ – it is the pinnacle of its species. Written in 1960, 15 years after the end of WWII, and therefore the end of Hitler’s Fascism, many believed this was a nod to the hawk being a metaphor of the Aryan race, with everything below it. In 1971 Hughes denied this and claimed it was nature speaking through the hawk, and the power was naturally given to him by mother nature. This could be because the hawk is trustworthy as a bird of prey to obtain such a power. This idea of trust can be mirrored in ‘Valentine’ as the heart of the poem is ‘I am trying to be truthful,’ suggesting that without trust, a heart can’t beat for your partner. The hawk is very trusting of nature as he has his ‘eyes closed’ suggesting that he knows nothing can touch him as he is the superior being.
‘Valentine’ implies that any relationship leads to a memory that stays with you forever, as the ‘fierce kiss’ implies a forceful act of love - it isn’t enjoyable. Duffy proceeds to say ‘for as long as we are’ breaking the stereotypes of love here by saying that love can end, however the memory will stay on your lips. This ultimately gives love power that forges memories that could be dreams or nightmares - positive or negative, love always makes you change, as seen in the ‘tears’. This implies that love always leaves you vulnerable, and the power of independence you have when you are single is handed over to mutual control in a relationship; there is nothing you can do about that. This is directly contrasted in ‘Hawk Roosting’ as the hawk never mentions a family of sorts, and the mutual power of love he could’ve had for his mother was then handed over to himself as he became self-providing. The fact that the hawk is so individual with there only being references to ‘I’ and ‘my’ contrasts Duffy’s ideas of devoting your love to a marriage in the word ‘lethal’ possible hinting at a death to individuality as you marry.
Power can be seems to have gone to the hawk’s head in the last stanza of Hughes’ poem, and this arrogance could’ve been placed by Hughes to again depict the innocent savagery of animals, but in this case, the innocent obtaining of unwanted characteristics like arrogance. This is seen in ‘the sun is behind me,’ hinting at an eerie glow that is radiated around the hawk’s figure, and casts a shadow on everything below him - no light. This could be to imply that things can’t grow and love isn’t possible when the hawk is around, as his arrogant power kills it all. This idea of love being destroyed is present in the end of ‘Valentine’, as the reference to a ‘knife’ at the end could be the slicing of the primary onion, which is true destruction of power due to love. This leads me to believe that the hawk’s traits are very similar to love’s traits, as they have the power to make and break life and emotion, and destroy nature and relationships.