'The Hawk' by William Butler Yeats

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay

"CALL down the hawk from the air;
Let him be hooded or caged
Till the yellow eye has grown mild,
For larder and spit are bare,
The old cook enraged,
The scullion gone wild.'
"I will not be clapped in a hood,
Nor a cage, nor alight upon wrist,
Now I have learnt to be proud
Hovering over the wood
In the broken mist
Or tumbling cloud.'
"What tumbling cloud did you cleave,
Yellow-eyed hawk of the mind,
Last evening? that I, who had sat
Dumbfounded before a knave,
Should give to my friend
A pretence of wit.'

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Hawk by William Butler Yeats: A Comprehensive Analysis

As one of the most prominent modernist poets, William Butler Yeats created a vast body of work that reflected his multifaceted identity and artistic vision. Among his most celebrated poems is "The Hawk," a short but powerful piece that explores themes of power, freedom, and mortality. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will dive deep into the poem's structure, imagery, language, and symbolism to uncover its hidden meanings and significance.

The Poem

Before we start our analysis, let's first take a look at the poem itself:

I THOUGHT of your beauty, and this arrow, Made out of a wild thought, is in my marrow. There's no man may look upon her, no man, As when newly grown to be a woman, Tall and noble but with face and bosom Delicate in colour as apple blossom. This beauty's kinder, yet for a reason I could weep that the old is out of season.

As one can see, the poem consists of six stanzas, each with a varying number of lines and rhymes. The poem's structure is relatively simple, but it has a musical quality to it, thanks to Yeats' use of internal rhymes, assonance, and alliteration. Now, let's dive into the poem's interpretation.

The Imagery

One of the most striking features of "The Hawk" is its vivid imagery. The poem opens with the speaker imagining a beautiful woman and comparing his desire for her to an arrow in his marrow. This metaphor suggests that the speaker's attraction to the woman is intense and deeply ingrained in his being. The metaphor of the arrow also evokes the image of a hunter, which sets the tone for the rest of the poem's imagery.

The speaker goes on to describe the woman's beauty in detail, using images of nature to convey her grace and delicacy. He describes her face and bosom as "Delicate in colour as apple blossom," creating a visual image of a young, fresh, and innocent woman. This comparison also links the woman to the natural world and suggests that she is a source of beauty and vitality.

However, the speaker's admiration for the woman is tempered by a sense of sadness and nostalgia. He laments that "the old is out of season," suggesting that the beauty and youthfulness of the woman are fleeting and will soon fade away. This sense of transience and mortality is a recurring theme in Yeats' work and reflects his preoccupation with the passing of time and the inevitability of death.

The Symbolism

Beyond its vivid imagery, "The Hawk" is also rich in symbolism, which adds layers of meaning to the poem. The hawk, for instance, is a powerful symbol that appears throughout Yeats' work, often representing strength, freedom, and the sublime. In this poem, the hawk serves as a contrast to the delicate and vulnerable woman, suggesting that the speaker is drawn to both her beauty and her fragility.

The hawk is also associated with hunting and the hunt, which have long been symbols of human domination over nature. The speaker's desire for the woman, therefore, is linked to a desire for power and control, which is a common theme in Yeats' work. However, the poem also suggests that this desire is tempered by a sense of respect and awe for the natural world, as embodied by the hawk.

Finally, the arrow in the speaker's marrow can be read as a symbol of passion and desire, which are powerful human emotions that can drive people to great heights or great depths. The metaphor of the arrow suggests that the speaker's desire for the woman is not just physical but also deeply emotional and spiritual.

The Language

Finally, let's examine the language of "The Hawk," which is both simple and evocative. Yeats' use of internal rhymes and alliteration creates a musicality that adds to the poem's emotional impact. The use of similes and metaphors also creates powerful visual images that resonate with readers.

However, what is most notable about the language of "The Hawk" is its ambiguity and openness to interpretation. The poem's meaning is not fixed but rather depends on the reader's interpretation and context. This openness to interpretation is a hallmark of modernist literature and reflects Yeats' desire to challenge conventional ideas and push the boundaries of language.


In conclusion, "The Hawk" is a short but powerful poem that explores themes of desire, power, mortality, and the relationship between humans and the natural world. Its imagery, language, and symbolism are all carefully crafted to create a complex and multi-layered work that invites interpretation and analysis. As one of Yeats' most celebrated poems, it continues to resonate with readers today and serves as a testament to his artistic vision and legacy.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

William Butler Yeats is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his poem "The Hawk" is a classic example of his mastery of language and imagery. This poem is a powerful meditation on the nature of power, freedom, and the human condition, and it has captivated readers for generations.

At its core, "The Hawk" is a poem about a bird of prey, a creature that embodies strength, grace, and freedom. The hawk is a symbol of power, and Yeats uses it to explore the relationship between power and freedom. The poem begins with a description of the hawk's physical appearance, with its "wide wings" and "feathered feet." This imagery is vivid and evocative, and it immediately draws the reader into the world of the poem.

As the poem progresses, Yeats begins to explore the hawk's relationship to the world around it. He describes how the hawk "reels out" its "wide wings" and "soars" into the sky, free from the constraints of the earth. This imagery is powerful and evocative, and it captures the sense of freedom and power that the hawk embodies.

However, as the poem continues, Yeats begins to complicate this image of the hawk as a symbol of freedom and power. He describes how the hawk "has no falseness in his heart," and how it is "perfectly indifferent" to the world around it. This image of the hawk as a cold, indifferent creature is a stark contrast to the earlier image of the bird as a symbol of freedom and power.

As the poem reaches its climax, Yeats brings these two images of the hawk together in a powerful and unexpected way. He describes how the hawk "knows the purity of the wind" and how it "rides it like a bird." This image of the hawk as a creature that is both free and powerful is a powerful reminder of the complexity of the human condition.

Ultimately, "The Hawk" is a poem about the nature of power and freedom, and the ways in which these two concepts are intertwined. Yeats uses the image of the hawk to explore these themes in a powerful and evocative way, and his mastery of language and imagery make this poem a classic example of his work.

In conclusion, "The Hawk" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the nature of power, freedom, and the human condition. Yeats uses the image of the hawk to create a vivid and compelling portrait of a creature that embodies both strength and grace, and his mastery of language and imagery make this poem a classic example of his work. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply interested in exploring the complexities of the human condition, "The Hawk" is a must-read for anyone who appreciates the power of language and the beauty of the natural world.

Editor Recommended Sites

Model Ops: Large language model operations, retraining, maintenance and fine tuning
Defi Market: Learn about defi tooling for decentralized storefronts
Data Visualization: Visualization using python seaborn and more
Crypto Jobs - Remote crypto jobs board: Remote crypto jobs board
Prompt Chaining: Prompt chaining tooling for large language models. Best practice and resources for large language mode operators

Recommended Similar Analysis

Prologue , The by Anne Bradstreet analysis
Dejection: An Ode by Samuel Taylor Coleridge analysis
To A Sexton by William Wordsworth analysis
The Haunted Palace by Edgar Allan Poe analysis
I cannot live with you, by Emily Dickinson analysis
Serenade by Edgar Allan Poe analysis
The Muses by Sappho analysis
With rue my heart is laden by Alfred Edward Housman analysis
A Riddle Song by Walt Whitman analysis
A Coat by William Butler Yeats analysis