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Monday, April 2, 2012

Critical Commentary on “Crow” by A. MacLean and “Hawk Roosting” by T. Hughes

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Indre Kunigelyte


September 0, 00


Critical Commentary on “Crow” by A. MacLean and “Hawk Roosting” by T. Hughes


The first of the two poems � “Crow” by A. MacLean has six stanzas of unusual three lines each. “Hawk Roosting” by T.Hughes also has the same number of stanzas, however they consist of four lines of about the same length.


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The first poem has an odd rhyme structure � ABA. The lines are generally of the same length. Short sentences, in which it is written, help to emphasise the content.


“Crow” is a descriptive poem in which the bird crow is described. It starts with the repetition “Crow, crow, crow” introducing the subject and the image of the very first day of the Earth, in which the bird is already flying around, suggesting that it had been there before anything else. The second and the third stanzas describe the physical appearance of the crow. The fourth and the fifth talk more about its mental characteristics. In the last stanza we are told about only one kill of the bird. The voice of the poem is a third person, which is describing the bird with a certain tone. The tone is admiration and awe since the bird is regarded as a very strong animal. Descriptions like “Knocks limpets off rocks”, “Cracks lobster claws” show this narrator’s attitude towards the subject. Such language used in the poem is powerful because it powerfully creates an image of the crow to the reader. It is not complicated, but the adjectives and verbs used are very carefully picked to give the right impression. For example, “Roars with laughter” gives a stronger impression � it is more than just a simple laughter of the crow.


One of the main figures of speech used in the poem is personification, for example, “can tell a shotgun from a walking stick”, “knows a trick”, which help to create the image of the crow being a clever bird. This characterization is very similar one as of a human. The poet uses metaphors such as “a sort of airborne vacuum-cleaner” or “could use a dead crow for a pickaxe” to complement and to reinforce the image of the bird.


The key subject of the poem � the crow � is described as a creature that had been on the Earth before anything else and had not evolved since then.


“Did not evolve. Started off this way.”


This says that the bird stayed the way it was, which means that it is already perfect as it is. However, it is not the most pleasant creature -


“Gets fatter as the world gets leaner”


That is, it feeds off the others. It also lives on dead flesh, adders and frogs, therefore the narrator calls the bird “airborne vacuum-cleaner”, that is, removes all the animals and remains that are unpleasant or dangerous. The crow is said to be very strong physically-


“Bill is the hardest substance known.


You could use a dead crow for a pickaxe.”


The metaphors suggest that the bird has the strongest bill and the whole body. But not only is it well-built, it is also mentally very powerful. The following quote suggests what a cruel animal it is


“Takes the eyes from a sheep in labour”


The crow is unemotional and serious, it doesn’t care about anything else in the world but itself, and it doesn’t gratify to anyone. With these features one “would do well in the City”, as the narrator suggests, that is, would outlive in the corrupt society. The crow is also a clever bird


“Won’t come near an armed man.


Can tell a shotgun from a walking stick”


Namely it can tell the differences and so recognize possible danger to itself. In this way it is as almost immortal, since there has been only one “ancient kill” ever, and a feather of the bird is kept as an heirloom. These given characteristics are mostly human therefore the crow could be regarded as a symbol for a certain type of people � strong, impassive, detached and egoistic, living off others (“gets fatter as the world gets leaner”). Like the crow in the poem, they do not evolve, they are born like this and they stay so all the time therefore with confidence presenting themselves as perfect.


In contrast, “Hawk Roosting” by T. Hughes is a longer poem without any regular rhyme structure with longer sentences. Here, a hawk talks from its point of view.


In the first stanza we are introduced to the setting, which is the nest in the top of the woods from where the hawk talks about himself. It is high in the trees, higher than everyone else and therefore with much more power. In first, second, third and fourth stanzas it introduces to itself and usual activities � resting in the trees inactively, “rehearsing perfect kills” and eat, or flying slowly around and killing.


The tone of the hawk, in contrast with the one in “Crow”, is rather arrogant and the hawk sounds very confident just like the crow in the first poem. As in “Crow”, in this poem the author also uses personifications which give the subject many human features, for example, “I sit in the top”, “my eyes closed”, “I am going to keep things like this”.


The main subject of the poem, also the bird as in “Crow”, is high up in the trees above the Earth, higher than everyone else, real killer resting quietly.


“The convenience of the high trees!


The air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray


Are of advantage to me;


And the earth’s face upward for my inspection ”


The stanza suggests that the whole earth is under its control, and that the bird uses it as it pleases for they are convenient to him. The hawk regards himself as a perfect creature when it says


“It took a whole of Creation


To produce my foot, my each feather”


Which suggests that it took many efforts to finally create it, but the hawk doesn’t feel neither thankful nor inferior at all, in opposite, he now has all under control. However, he admits being a non-sophisticated creature by saying �


“There is no sophistry in my body”


It sees himself as a killer who has all the powers and who is perfect in what it is doing. The hawk regards the present situation as a perfect one and it wouldn’t allow any change, it wants to keep its power. Like the crow, the hawk is both physically and mentally very strong, that is self confident, nonetheless it is much more straight-forward than the crow


“My manners are tearing off heads”


This shows that the hawk is much more rude and primitive than the crow however it is still very powerful. The hawk is as if an authoritarian ruler who does not allow any changes and does not tolerate different from its ideas.


Both “Crow” and “Hawk Roosting” are poems in which style reflects the content. Figures of speech, of which personification is the most common one, help to convey the characteristics of the two subjects. In both poems the tone is important, and although it is different, it still creates similar impression of awe. The two poems have powerful imagery and language, which work well and successfully convey the ideas intended by both authors.





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