The Hawk in the Rain Summary and Analysis
Ted Hughes’ poem, The Hawk in the Rain was first entitled as The Hawk in the Storm and written in 1956. It is dramatic to a certain extent in that we recognize two voices conversing as in an interior monologue. The two voices are represented in the form of a ‘still eye’ and a moving ‘human eye’. The still eye refers to a strange, complex feeling of mental arrest. It cannot be taken in the literal sense of calmness or equanimity. The human eye registers fear and intimidation caused by the prevalent situation. The poem reveals a conflict between the two persons in the narrator or the two voices in him that are in tension.
The narrator in the poem, as he gazes around, notices a man drenched in the rain, drowning into the plough land. His eye is the human eye that reflects things as they are. The eye of the hawk, the still eye, seems to be a part of the narrator, making him wonder at himself. He is drawn towards the eye and also repelled by it. He considers himself a victim of the hawk that frightens him and yet holds him in its power and attracts him to itself. The still eye is so powerful that he feels mesmerized by it.
Bloodily grabbed dazed last-moment-counting
Morsel in the earth’s mouth, strain towards the master
Fulcrum of violence where the hawk hangs still .”
The voice that speaks here, in the above lines, is the victim’s voice rehearsing an imaginary suicide. This tone is maintained until the final destruction of the still eye. Hughes calls the point of balance the master-fulcrum of violence’. It is the point between what raises one high and what destroys him. Life principle rests at that point of balance in space. It is the diamond point of will’.
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The hawk’s eye is destroyed by the powerful storm, forcing it into the field below. The poet is conscious of the frightening stare of the world around him and he seems to master his fears by presenting them and destroying them in his imaginative work. One is reminded of D. H. Lawrence who said that an artist sheds his sicknesses in his books, repeats and presents them to master them.
The myth in the poem is a story of psychic healing. The second vice unites the strange experience of the hawk’s eye and the drowning man. The poet’s mythic task lies in bridging the gulf between the inexplicable, great power of Nature, and the helpless, powerless, drowning man. Hughes tries to remedy the sense of exclusion and the feeling of isolation, implied by the still eye of the hawk, by writing this poem. The two voices merge through the myth, the story in this poem, and the reader realizes along with the poet that he can identify himself with both the voices freely, without any fear of being conquered.
- I drown…ploughland- A man who is drenched in the rain walks through the cultivable land.
- 1-2. I drag my/Heel after heel…mouth-The area is slushy, marshy and full of wet mud. So he has to drag his feet heel after heel while walking.
- From clay that…ankle-Every time he puts forth a step, the earth caves in and pulls him into the deep slush. So he has to drag his foot repeatedly from the wet clay that covers his foot up to the ankle.
- With the habit…grave-This dragging in of his feet reminds him of the grave that swallows man into itself stubbornly without a care for the victim.
4-5. …but the hawk/Effortlessly…still eye-But the hawk that is also drenched in the rain remains balanced at a great height unaffected by the storm.
- his wings…quiet-The hawk hangs steady and unperturbed in their as though its wings can bear the entire weight creation calmly.
- Steady as a hallucination…air-The air all around seems to be pouring down streams of water but the unaffected hawk holds its balance as though it were a hallucination.
Hallucination-delusion; a false conception; illusion.
- While hanging…hedges-The stormy wind hits against strong, thick hedges and destroys them.
Stubborn-rigid, hard to destroy.
Hedges- close row of thick bushes or trees planted to form a fence.
- Thumbs my eyes…heart-The rain rushing through the air hits his eyes as though someone had pushed his thumbs into his eyes. Throws my breath-suffocates him, preventing him from breathing normally, tackles my heart-comes to grips with his heart, i.e. affects his heart-beat adversely.
- And rain hacks…bone-When the heavy rain fell on his head he felt as though someone was cutting his head roughly up to the bone.
10-12 endurance-The stormy wind tilts the balance of the speaker but the hawk is unaffected by the power of nature. The hawk seems to hang there steadily with a will power that is as hard as diamond, which is the hardest of all minerals. The strong will is like the Pole Star that guides the travelers in the right direction. The hawk’s endurance can guide the drenched, depressed speaker to look up optimistically.
12-15….and 1,/Bloodily grabbed…hangs still-and I
While the hawk, a bird, is so strong-willed, man who is considered the crown of creation, is scared stiff. Bloodily grabbed-He has been roughly handled by the rain and wind so that he bleeds here and there. This leaves him depressed. Last-moment-counting The speaker is convinced that he is going to die and waits for the moment of destruction. Morsel in the earth’s mouth- The earth swallows all those who are burried and disintegrates them into elements. Hughes personifies the earth and predicts speaker is going to be just a morsel of food in the earth’s mouth because he will die soon. He is a morsel, the morsel that is waiting for the last moment of death. So he is a ‘last moment-counting/ Morsell for the hungry, devouring earth
14-15. …strain towards…still—The man drenched in the rain struggles hard by using violence as the fulcrum, the point of support towards the sky, where the hawk stands still
16-20. That may be…mire of the land-The speaker watches the unperturbed hawk and despite his fear, realizes that the hawk will also have to meet with death when the time comes. Yet, the power and strength of the bird in the face of a storm is amazing. One is reminded of the fact that the death of a Shakespearean hero is not depressing because we marvel at his power and strength to look up and face extreme tragic conditions with vigorous courage. Shakespeare was one of the prominent influences on Ted Hughes.
- …in his own time-when the time comes for the hawk’s death.
16-17 Meets the weather/Coming the wrong way- meets with a weather that is adverse to his balance.
- …suffers the air, hurled upside down- suffers the impact of the strong wind and is pushed down.
- Fall from his eye-his staring eye is pushed down; he falls down from the upward gaze of the speaker.
- The horizon trap him- The hawk is trapped at the horizon because he is unable to make out what it is.
19-20. …the round angelic eye/Smashed…land-The powerful, round angel-like eye is destroyed and the blood of his heart gets mixed with the marshy area of the land. It is interesting that he compares the staring eye to that of an angel.