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“Hurt Hawks” by R.Jeffers

“Hurt Hawks” is a poem by American poet Robinson Jeffers in which an unnamed narrator describes the injuries a hawk has sustained and what it faces while waiting to die. Additionally, the author provides insight into his involvement in the (attempted) rehabilitation of the hawk. Through the poem’s narrative and imagery, the reader is allowed to understand the narrator’s perspective of the hawk and its natural environment and the impression the hawk leaves on him.


“Hurt Hawks” is divided into two distinct sections, each with its own setting. The first section of the poem focuses on the hawk and its natural environment. In this first section, the hawk must battle with nature. Jeffers writes, “%uFFFDat nor coyote will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons” (Jeffers 1998). Through this observation, the narrator notes the hawk will not give up easily despite its broken wing, a trait the narrator attributes to pride. The narrator states, “He is strong and pain is worse to the strong… [but] no one but death the redeemer will humble that that head,/The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes” (Jeffers 1998). While it is in the hawk’s nature to fight to live, it is in the narrator’s nature to attempt to help the hawk.

In the second section of the poem, the setting changes from the hawk’s natural environment to the narrator’s natural environment as he plucks the hawk from its home. The narrator contends, “I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk” (Jeffers 1998). This statement demonstrates that the author values nature more than humans and feels that he is obliged to take care of the hawk because it cannot take care of itself. Because the storyteller is able to successfully rehabilitate, the hawk is returned to its former glory and is “quite unsheathed from reality” (Jeffers 1998).


“Hurt Hawks” is a moving poem about the instinct for survival of man fighting versus nature. Jeffers successfully demonstrates the mutually beneficial relationship between man and nature and the ability of nature to thrive with the help of man.


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