Ted Hughes – ‘Hawk Roosting’

(No.63 of my favourite short poems)

Ted Hughes, born in Yorkshire in 1930, was Poet Laureate in the last years of the 20th Century, from 1984 until he died in 1998 at the age of 68.   His tempestuous marriage to the American poet, Sylvia Plath, lasted only six years.   Hughes explored this difficult relationship in his last major published work, ‘Birthday Letters’.

As much of his work demonstrates, Hughes was intensely interested in and affected by the natural world.  In ‘Hawk Roosting’, one of his early published poems, he conveys the commanding presence of the hawk looking down on the world, his world, from a place of eminence.  He considers himself as monarch of all he surveys, conveyed so powerfully by Hughes in this poem.

The Hawk

‘The Hawk’ … WHB – Pen & Wash,  2017

Hawk Roosting

I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

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.

My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot

Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly –
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads –
The allotment of death.
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living.
No arguments assert my right:

The sun is behind me.
Nothing has changed since I began.
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.

 

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What The Sea Discards

Detectorist2bWhat The Sea Discards:   Life with a Beach Metal Detector

The sea still surged,
The storm still raged,
The wind incessant,
A beast uncaged.

Amidst the tempest,
Calm, intent,
Body taut
And forward bent,

Moves this figure
With steady tread,
Seeking gold,
His daily bread.

Sift the shingle
Trawl the shore,
Seashore scavenger
Beach troubadour.

Autolycus, his
Ancient counterpart,
Plying his trade
With bleeding heart,

To find amongst
The sea’s debris
His longed for love,
Life’s golden key.

Something to clutch
Dredged from life’s tide;
A token wish,
Beatified.

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Photographs by WHB:  On a West Sussex beach – October 2017   ©

 

 

Mount Etna, Sicily

[ Photo Blog  #65 ]

 

Giardini Naxos is a small town situated on the coast of the Ionian Sea at the foot of Mount Etna, in north-east Sicily.  This is the town outside which the cruise ship I was on in 2006 anchored enabling us to go ashore.  The approach from the sea is dramatic with the continually smoking volcano looking very close and dangerous to the town.  In fact the volcano does erupt regularly but appears to find a different exit point each time along the crest of the hill range, thus leaving several old craters which it is now reasonably safe to visit, or so we were assured!   In the past Etna has deposited its lava all along this coast and the evidence is easy to see in the long-since cooled and solidified lava floes now forming shelves of rock jutting out to sea all along this coast.  I have included two photographs of this below. 

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The sea approach to Giardini Naxos with Mount Etna smoking in the background

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Lava outcrops, now solidified spill into the sea all along the coastline

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Close-up of the lava deposits

My wife and I accompanied a group from the ship to take a coach to the mountain top – a journey of about 30 miles which takes approximately one hour along the winding uphill roads.  I include further  photographs of this dramatic journey below.

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A Giardini Naxos beach looking towards the ancient town of Taormina and its Saracen Castle

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Another idyllic beach and rocky outcrop near Naxos

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Looking back from the road leading to the summit

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Several views of the craters of old eruptions

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Flora gradually reclaiming a foothold on the barren earth

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The tour guide serenades us with Italian operatic arias as we descend the mountain on the return journey

 

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Summer Geese

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Painting in acrylic by Canadian artist, Alma Kerr – October 2017  ©

SUMMER  GEESE

 

I walk not with the summer geese

but I follow them

as they make their stately way

along the water’s edge

through the incoming waves

towards the seagrass

 

So beautiful

this sense that Nature and I

Are aligned

Working to the same end

Coupled in a determination

To follow our will

Into whatever the future will bring

 

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Poem composed in collaboration between Alma and Roland – November 2017

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Rainer Maria Rilke -‘The Panther’

 

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‘The Panther’ … Pen & Wash – WHB: 2017

The Panther 

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly … An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Stillness

 

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‘Solitude’: Rydal Water, Cumbria, The Lake District, UK … Pen & Ink – WHB 1991  ©

 

STILLNESS

 

This stillness and the beauty all around me

Bring with them peace and grace for which I yearn;

For here among the lakes and mountains resting

I sense my hopes and dreams will now return.

 

For now I’ve reached a time when life has bitten,

Reminding me of pleasures once enjoyed;

Since lost in cares and daily obligations

How Nature can supplant and fill the void.

 

Its healing powers I know and cannot question;

They bring delights I cannot bear to miss.

They sing to me of other loves and places,

And speak to me of other times than this.

 

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Nature’s  Beneficence

NATURE’S  BENEFICENCE

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Tall the grass grows in the thicket
Thriving without a thought of me
Each blade designed in Nature’s wisdom
Green and graceful, firm and free.

Strong the sapling stretches higher
Gathering strength to reach the sky
Intent on proving ever taller
Just as worthy as you or I.

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Soft the thistle drenched in down
Welcoming wind to spread its seed
Calling to the listening heavens
For its force to feed its need

High in the sky the blackbird singing
Passing judgement on the day
Once again the evening thrilling
Sweeping all my cares away

rambling rose

Perfumed the scent of rambling rose
Drifts across my consciousness
The natural world brings me its joy
The surest cure for worldly stress

For as the day draws to its close
Such thoughts as these bring me content
As night-time comes and daylight goes
I count my blessings, heaven sent

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Poem and photographs by WHB … 2017 ©

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Walking With Ducklings

In 2004, one of my daughters lived on a farm overlooking the Exe Valley in Devonshire, England. The ducklings which I write about below had imprinted themselves on her shortly after their incubated birth, and they would regularly follow her as she walked around the farm and on to the farm duckpond.

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WALKING WITH DUCKLINGS

Ducklings,
greet my world,

meet your world,
sometimes mild;
oft times wild –
do your best to love it.
Now let’s go for a walk
… while I talk

No, don’t duck out of my suggestion,
just follow me and I’ll show you life,
you’ll take to it
like a duck to the waters;
pretend you’re my daughters.

For you are Devon ducks,
yes, Drake Country, I know,
but every drake needs a duck,
as they say in these parts;
not your Cockney ducks
they’ve very hard hearts.

Don’t believe them when they say
“out for a duck”;
don’t take it personally;
it means Nothing –
just innocent banter,
small-scale sledging,
they know you’re a fledgling.

No, “out with the ducks”,
now that’s more like it.
So don’t be glum,
think of me as your mum,
and follow me to the pond
there’s a duck house down there,
painted duck-egg blue,
just the home for you.

You’ll like it there
even though
and I do know
when you grow up
you may lose a few eggs
shell shock they call it
all in good cause
because
we humans enjoy them
try not to condemn
it’s just
nous les adorons
ces sont si bon

and when at the pond
just watch out for Jethro
our farm dog you know
he’s a bit of a barker
a real nosey-parker
duck down when you see him
or go for a swim

and, talking of duck down,
better put your coats on
it’s going to get chilly
no, not chilli hot
chilly cold
so be good as gold.
now, will you be told!

Let’s pause for a selfie
no, don’t make that duck-face
pouting doesn’t suit you
the camera will shoot you

If you are good
then later
as your mater
i’ll let you loose
on the web
you’ll learn so much there
but please do beware
best avoid Mr Blumenthal
all duck and waffle
your feathers he’ll ruffle
he’d feed you too well
making you swell
for his ‘Fat Duck’ menu
I’d better not continue
… but remember …
it’s not yet December
I could get 250 pounds for you there.

that’s 500 for the both of you
so don’t annoy me
I’m not your employee

Just follow me
and remember
i’m your funny mummy
just imprint that on your
duck brains
just remember you’re mine
and we’ll get along fine.

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Westonbirt National Arboretum

[ Photo Blog #60 ]

Westonbirt Arboretum can be found near the historic market town of Tetbury in Gloucestershire, England.  It is the UK’s National Arboretum, managed by the Forestry Commission, and is perhaps the most important and widely known arboretum in the United Kingdom.  The arboretum’s 18,000 specimen trees and shrubs sourced from all over the globe provide a remarkable place for people to enjoy and learn about trees. It has 17 miles of marked paths which provide access to a wide variety of rare plants.

When I visited there in 2003 there happened to be an exhibition of what, only in the broadest sense, could be called ‘garden sculpture’.   I offer below some of my photographs taken at the time . . . 

 

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Westonbirt 01 (1)

Just taking a work break

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A pointed remark

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Tear-drop Tree

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All wired up …

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… and suitably pigeon-holed

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Water-glass

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A hairy situation

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‘The green trees transported and ravished me, their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap and almost mad with ecstasy.’

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Mirrored garden #1

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Mirrored garden #2

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Mirrored garden #3

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The Double Rainbow

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Photograph:  ‘Double Rainbow near Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England’  – WHB – July 2009   ©

 

The Double Rainbow

 When the double rainbow comes
In all its lustrous splendour,
Then will I sing of my true love,
How sweet and kind and tender.

Her beauty sings the sky’s delight,
Gently she shows her grace;
I love the light within her soul
Which permeates her face.

For me fond Nature’s miracles
Cannot describe suffice
The beauty which I find in her,
My love from Paradise.

 

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