Poetry Analysis

The playful thoughts of a dog’s mind are contrasted with the severe thoughts of a powerful hawk in Mark Doty’s poem “Golden Retrievals” and Ted Hughes’ poem “Hawk Roosting”.  The poets utilize different techniques such as imager and syntax to present the animals’ unique view of the world.

both poems include details of imagery that describe the animals’ actions, but use the imagery in distinct ways.  Hughes has the hawk describe its own action–“I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed./ Inaction…”(1-2)–that introduces the large bird as powerful, yet calm and confident, as he sits in the canopy of the woods, unconcerned about his inaction or surroundings.  The hawk goes on to describe his advantageous perspective: “And the earth’s face upward for my inspection” (8).  this makes the hawk seem cocky, as he says the entire earth exists for his scrutiny.  The hawk then describes his flight– “Fly up, and revolve it all slowly–I kill where I please because it is all mine” (13-14)–and still acts confidently, circling the area without showing any anxiety and claiming ownership over it all.  as he says this, and continues, “There is no sophistry in my body: My manners are tearing off heads” (15-16), he is characterized like a relentless king of nature.  The hawk then describes his attack: “For the one path of my flight is direct/ Through the bones of the living./ No arguments assert my right” (18-20).  This image of his flight make him appear inconquerable, facing no competition, as only “one path” is necessary for him to effortlessly dominate “the bones of the living”.

Doty also includes imagery of the dog’s actions in his poem.  He scans his surroundings–“Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who’s…” (3)–and then gets distracted–“Sniff the wind, then/ I’m off again” (4-5).  He then scans his surroundings again, presenting the typical image of a distracted dog, roused by acute incidents around him: “Muck, pond, ditch, residue…” (5).  The stream of consciousness and imagery of his actions characterize the golden retriver as easily-amused and having a short attention-span.  His stream of consciousness at the beginning also includes rhetorical questions, to highlight this playful, short attention-span: “Fetch?  Balls and sticks capture my attention seconds at a time.  Catch?  I don’t think so” (1-2).

Hughes choice of syntax–lacking any rhetorical questions–further demonstrates the hawk’s confidence.  The speaker’s descriptions and slow, careful statements contrast him with the crazy, fast thoughts of the dog in “Golden Retrievals”: “My feet are locked upon the rought bark./ It took the whole of Creation/ To produce my foot, my each feather:/ Now I hold Creation in my foot” (9-12).  This scene descriptoin and inversion of subjects slows the hawk’s words, highlighting his power and confidence.  His carefully planned words and synechdoche in “My eye has permitted no change” (23) characterize him as an arrogant creature aware of his power.

Ted Hughes and Mark Doty both utilize imagery and syntax in their poems, and both present animal-eye views of the world.  Hoewver, Hughes uses these techniques to chracterize the hawk as a confident, overbearing, relentless king, while Doty uses the techniques to convey the playful, distracted, easily-amused golden retriever whose only concern is thrill in the present.


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