The Hawk in the Rain – Ted Hughes – Analysis

Looking in detail at one of Ted Hughes’ most famous poemsThe Hawk in the Rain – Ted Hughes (from The Hawk in the Rain 1957)

A line-by-line progressive commentary …

Hawk and Rain are the two operative words in the title.

I drown in the drumming ploughland, I drag up

I can imagine Ted Hughes walking along the edge of a ploughed field in Yorkshire on a rain filled day. The nature of the rain is clearly stated by the two alliterative words drown and drumming. It is heavy – enough to drown and persistent and dominating as the continual sound of a drum. There is no tin roof sound, but we don’t know what noise is being made against the clothing Ted might be wearing. There is a nice pause after I drag up, enjambment text, text which must flow on to the next line … to be continued … as the rain continues. It gives us time to absorb the on-going background to the poem.

Heel after heel from the swallowing of the earth's mouth,

We now have a picture of movement, of difficulty in walking and the earth becomes a mouth swallowing, what it is exactly swallowing besides water is not known at this stage.

From clay that clutches my each step to the ankle
With the habit of the dogged grave, but the hawk

It is now quite clear that the sodden ground is engulfing Ted. The alliterative clutching clay gives personification to the earth. If you say these two words it has a sticky feel and my each has an awkward construct.

Ted now extends his thoughts to the grave and the ground that will inevitably conquer him. The earth has this habit of taking or absorbing people. But the hawk … again we have enjambment text which must continue, this time to the text of the second stanza.

Effortlessly at height hangs his still eye.
His wings hold all creation in a weightless quiet,

Eye and height define the hawk. In great contrast to Ted who has been focusing on the ground. The hawk has the entire world below him and moreover it is effortless for him to hover in adverse conditions. His eye is still in contrast to the wind and rain.

Steady as a hallucination in the streaming air.
While banging wind kills these stubborn hedges,

We do not know what has drawn Ted to look at the sky but in doing so we sense a degree of envy for the Hawk while the wind destroys below. By choosing hallucination Ted wonders whether this is real and whether the hawk can resist nature in this way.

Thumbs my eyes, throws my breath, tackles my heart,
And rain hacks my head to the bone, the hawk hangs,

Emphasis is given to what is happening at Ted’s level, the wind and the rain taking on the dimension of a murderer, and then he returns his vision to the hawk. We must wait after hangs to go to the next line.

The diamond point of will that polestars
The sea drowner's endurance: And I,

The ability of the hawk to withstand the weather is emphasised by taking the diamond shape confronting the wind and that diamonds are used for cutting. Polestars is a wonderful choice of word it gives eye to the sky and the polestar is a guide and safety symbol. It is used as a verb giving action to the scene. The weather is such that anyone caught at sea is likely to have a most unpleasant time. Then returning to Ted’s predicament, the stanza ends with another pause. It is though the background rain continually interrupts.

Bloodily grabbed dazed last-moment-counting
Morsel in the earth's mouth, strain to the master- 
Fulcrum of violence where the hawk hangs still. 
That maybe in his own time meets the weather

The stanza splits in two again between the hawk and Ted. Ted is about to be devoured akin to the hawk devouring a morsel from the ground. The key word in this stanza is master fulcrum. Fulcrum – the support, or point of rest, on which a lever turns in moving a body.

In the last line consideration is given to the mortality of the hawk and a question is started with a pause at the end of the stanza.

Coming the wrong way, suffers the air, hurled upside-down, 
Fall from his eye, the ponderous shires crash on him, 
The horizon trap him; the round angelic eye 
Smashed, mix his heart's blood with the mire of the land.

In time the hawk will be caught by nature and meet the same fate and the earth will conquer. The ponderous shires crash on him. This bottom-up expression gives strength to the power of the earth to greet the fate of the hawk. Note how this links to the wrong way in the first line.

The angelic eye shows the beauty of the hawk and gives religious tones as of the falling of an angel – even the most perfect of creatures will meet the fate of all – a cry on the nature of nature from one who had so great an affinity with natural world.

Going back to the first line and the first words … I drown in the drumming. This could be translated to life and time. And time is mentioned later in the poem when the hawk meets his downfall – in his own time meets the weather. A negative thought that we are all drowning or dying but drumming does have that repetitive nature like the ticking of a clock. Indeed, we will all be caught by nature and from nature return. There seems to be an emphasis on violence in nature, so again a negativity in the poem. But of course, there is beauty in nature even if the vase is shattered one way or another.

So, ending on a positive, it is good to appreciate beauty and have an angelic view of life. And a case of going back to whence we came giving thanks for existence.

Today the weathering of life has taken on a new dimension as we come to terms with our treatment of the environment and how nature adjusts. Rains and storms have certainly been a feature in recent months across eastern Australia.

Requiem – Robert Louis Stevenson

Requiem
Under the wide and starry sky, 
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894)

Requiem – an act or token of remembrance

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and was a sick child and lived with a debilitating bronchial illness for much of his life. In his last four years he lived in Samoa where he died at the early age of forty-four. And these are the lines he wanted on his grave – this be the verse you grave for me. Grave meaning to be indelibly written. So grave takes on a double meaning. And they are on his tomb at Mount Vaea, Samoa.

He was near death before when he was in California where he first thought out these lines. The last lines have become the most memorable.

He was glad to die at the same time equally pleased with his life – glad did I live and gladly die.

Looking at the last two poignant lines –

Home is the sailor, home from sea, 
And the hunter home from the hill.

Death is home and all that home represents a lasting place of convivial comfort. And like the sailor coming home to land after being at sea. Sea being equated to life. The sailor and the sea go together in the same way as being human and living. And it is a positive thought equating death to returning home. A sailor obviously comes home many times so return is appropriate. And RLS is returning.

And in the hunter home from the hill RLS equates life to hunting. There is a hill involved so there is difficulty to overcome in coming back with a catch. He is happy with his catch; what he has achieved in life and the difficulties he has overcome.

All the best in your hunting!

Robert Louis Stevenson on Wikipedia Robert Louis Stevenson – Wikipedia

And for a detailed analysis of this poem –

Analysis of Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson – Poemotopia

Piano – D. H. Lawrence – Analysis

Piano
Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me; 
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.
In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song 
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour 
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.
D. H. Lawrence (1885 – 1930)

The poem consists of rhyming across each double line. And much thought has gone into the choice of words … some key words …

appassionato is an Italian term used in music … telling the musician to perform with a great amount of emotion. A love duet in an opera is an example of music that is sung appassionato.

insidious – proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects.

vain – too proud of your own appearance, abilities, achievements

vista – sweeping view

cast – to form a particular shape by pouring ‘it’ = life, into a mold

Occasionally something happens in daily life to take us back in time to our childhood. Something that triggers a memory. In this poem it is a woman singing and her singing is the start of a trigger that leads to the piano. This is the object of childhood reflection and hence the title of the poem.

S1 … The memory comes at dusk in the fading of light. And here DHL is focusing on a different time, bringing light from the mind. The vista of the years is recalled. We do not know where the singing emanates but this is immaterial. We might assume that DHL is alone with his thoughts. And then we have that personal image of a small child at the foot of his mother while she plays the piano. The mother is happy and unperturbed by the pressing at her feet.

S2 … It is insidious how the singing and the music penetrates DHL. He cannot avoid owning up to his past. He would like to avoid this, but he is betrayed by the continuance of song and piano, so he succumbs to recollections of his childhood. The warmth of a convivial home life in winter is emphasised against the cold outside. And the strong personal link with his mother is evident, both physical and spiritual. And he weeps as his mind and heart relive the past. Tinkling and tingling are onomatopoeia.

S3 … DHL is overcome and weeps again and is so swamped by emotion that he has no regard for the singer and the presentation; vain for her to try. The great black piano appassionato is translated into a great black emotional recollection. Black because there can be no return. And the poem ends in this emotional state; DHL crying like a child – a pointless cry.

The present happenings in life can betray who we are and where we come from based on our own background. The past completes us as we drop away each day creating new dimensions and aiding and abetting the reshaping of the mold. DHL poses the question of how to deal with the past in on-going life. There may be times when we should allow the past to return with all the related emotion?

D. H. Lawrence on Wikipedia – D. H. Lawrence – Wikipedia

Tell me not – A New Year Poem

Tell me not
for those a little advanced in age

Tell me not of all your pain 
what you can’t afford and more 
of that dropped litter in the lane 
about that sister you disdain.
Tell me not of times now fled 
when every bird sang at your will
of lost days that swamp your head
where you squander with the dead.
But from the window of your seat 
dance your mind up to the sky 
sweep the sun around your feet 
with your eye this moment meet.
Let a smile come to your face 
greet the New Year with gentle grace.
Richard Scutter 31/12/21

Sharing a Christmas Letter …

… sharing a Christmas Letter from a close friend –

Christmas Letter
I know you appreciate a Christmas Letter. And I guess you have been sending out a few to family and friends. Look guys, I wrote this letter to you a few years ago now, I’m not sure whether you understood what I was trying to say and whether you remember the essence.
Well, I just want to reiterate that I do love you dearly and I will be there for you throughout 2022. You are that bit special!
And yes, I know you think of me at times. And you are good at remembering birthdays; I thank you for that.
How could you forget my name LOL. We do have that unique relationship!

Love, as always … be in touch +

Performance – Les Murray – Comments

Performance
I starred that night, I shone:
I was footwork and firework in one,
a rocket that wriggled up and shot
darkness with a parasol of brilliants
and a peewee descant on a flung bit;
I was blusters of glitter-bombs expanding
to mantle and aurora from a crown,
I was fouéttes, falls of blazing paint,
para-flares spot-welding cloudy heaven,
loose gold off fierce toeholds of white,
a finale red-tongued as a haka leap:
that too was a butt of all right!
As usual after any triumph, I was
of course, inconsolable.
Les Murray (1938 – 2019)

fouéttes = a pirouette performed with a circular whipping movement of the raised leg to the side
haka = a ceremonial dance in New Zealand Māori culture, with quite an aggressive end-shout

Well, it is approaching the year end and a time to reflect on goals achieved. How have we performed. Although in this poem we probably think of performance in relation to stage and audience.

It is a list poem, a list of superlatives in self appraisal in terms of originality in word expression. Brilliance and fire feature throughout with a nice butt ending as in the throwing away of a cigarette.

I do like that word inconsolable in the last two lines. It has a certain ambivalent mind feel. It usually refers to a person unable to be comforted. Perhaps inconsolable because of the immense empty hole that follows such flaming achievement that can never ever be repeated. And perhaps comfort is needed to bring down from the heights of self-emotional gratification.

My advice is to have a succession of goals to keep you on your toes. And I will in no way elaborate on my successes over the year!

I am reminded of a wonderful poem by Thomas Hardy concerning a superb church performance by an Anglican Minister – In Church – Thomas Hardy – Analysis | my word in your ear

Irrespective of his quick minded erudite nature there is a certain irony about this poem in that I attended several readings by LM and from the recipient end I found his readings and repour with attendees not akin to justify such extravagant words.

Les Murray was arguably of that standing in Australian Poetry to be considered a de facto Australian Poet Laureate but Australia does not have a ‘Poet Laureate’ as such. In 1998 LM received the Queen’s Medal for Poetry.

Les Murray on Wikipedia – Les Murray (poet) – Wikipedia

The Christmas Word – An Advent Poem

What word is this

what word is this that sullies forth
its annual opening of eye
that generates such hope that more
meaning such to the hopeful gives
bandied before the year does end
but no end if known of knowing blend

what word is this that bleeds the heart
to pray suffer such indigent love unknown
yet same vein courses all life through
in never-ending beauty, unveiling of
eternal body splendid, that imperfect
diamond creator spirit shines

tis Christmas
Christmas!
where the forever gift is born
and in the perpetrators mind 
becomes again that one great joy
everlasting in the flesh absorbed

Richard Scutter Advent 2021

The Moon and the Yew Tree – Sylvia Path – Comments

The Moon and The Yew Tree
This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary 
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky --
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness -
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness - blackness and silence.
Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963)

This poem was composed in October 1961 when SP was living at ‘Court Green’ cottage North Tawton, Devon. At that stage her marriage with Ted Hughes was still intact. The cottage was close to St Peter’s Church which was visible when she was writing. And at some stage she would have ventured inside.

A carefully designed poem of four seven-line stanzas with distinct sentence punctuation.

S1 … Clearly written at nighttime where SP invokes a ghostly graveyard presence. And there was a mist evident to add to such a scene. The moon has that association with the mind and lunacy. The griefs being the gravestones in rows. As if I was God – well, SP is not God and cannot perform miracles on the dead. The trees stand out black and the light from the moon blue. She cannot see the path through to the Church

S2 … This stanza has two distinct parts. SP personifies her emotional state on to the moon – white as a knuckle and terribly upset. I like the image of the moon dragging or sucking up the sea like a thief. It conjures up a rain squall coming off the sea. SP says this is where she lives, and she knows the sound the church bells make every Sunday morning.

Christianity and resurrection then come to mind in relation to the dead and the gravestones. But the bells only bong out their names – the names on the gravestones. SP is clearly dead to the thoughts of any resurrection to an afterlife.

S3 … The yew tree points up. Gothic shape implying dark and morbid.  It is worth considering the symbolic representation of the yew tree –

Christian stories of resurrection led the tree to become a symbol of eternal life. As the trunk of the tree begins to decay, a new tree can form. This represents the cycle of life that makes Yew trees a symbol of rebirth as well.

But there is no tenderness, sadly only a Mother Moon image associated with a wild nature represented by seeing bats and owls fly up unleashed against the ghostly blue light.

How SP would like it to be otherwise.

S4 … It looks like clouds are causing the firmaments to be seen and not seen. The inside of the church is the scene of fixed figures and maybe the stained-glass windows can record saints seen above the pews. Again, a cold dead image of being stiff with holiness as in no resurrection. The moon is wild and full of life unknowing of such human quandaries concerning death. The message of the Yew tree is black. SP is displaying her view on religion and the resurrection. The poem ends with a dark depressive feeling.

See this link for a video of Court Green and the Church – Sylvia Plath Video & Picture Post: Court Green (sylviaplathinfo.blogspot.com) … and courtesy of this Site –

Court Green – from the Church of St Peter’s
at North Tawton, Devon