In his most anthologized poem. ‘Hawk Roosting’, Hughes represents the consciousness of an animal, the hawk expresses its animal single-mindedness with an unmistakably human arrogance (‘There is no sophistry in my body: My manners are tearing off heads’).
Hughes’s language seems from the wild men of the woods of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) but his earlier experiments with the violent meshes of animal and human sense culminate in gnomic sequence of poems Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow (1970, amplified 1972).
Crow himself plays pranks, refuses to learn the word ‘love’, and re-enacts aspects of the stories of Adam, Oedipus, Ulysses, and Hamlet. The poems intertwine and redefine established ideas by means of brash assertions and intense, even brutal stabs at meaning.