HURT HAWKS by Robinson Jeffers
“The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawn ruins it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you
have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying remember him.
I’d sooner , except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implaccable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.”
This is the only poem I know by Robinson Jeffers, but it has troubled me since I first read it. I sense the author’s great respect for the hawk and understand how that respect led him to give it *freedom* as he did, but don’t know that others would appreciate why it was the proper thing to do. Proper isn’t the right word for it, maybe truthful or honest would be a better word. Truthful to the nature of the hawk and all birds of prey. I might even extend that to all predators in similar circumstances.
I feel a deep sense of reverence for birds of prey. For wild birds of prey. For those that are captive, like the Bald Eagle above, I feel pity. Something so great as an eagle, an owl, a Harris’ hawk, or even a little kestral is diminished by being held captive. That is a given, I’d guess. Captivity has its’ merits, but I question whether what is in the bird’s best interest isn’t sometimes lost in the name of *education*.
These birds were on display last week at the county fair. Very popular show; this guy brings his act there most years. Usually I stay away because it bothers me so. This year I waited out a thunderstorm in his tent and took some pics and tried to decide if I was just being overly critical. After mulling it over for a few days while Blogger decided if it would let me make this post with pictures (it won’t) – I’ve decided that this guy and his *show* aren’t doing right by the birds. The general public loves being able to get so close – within arms reach- and the opportunity (for a few $$$) to be photographed *holding* one of these birds is a big draw. But to anyone who knows anything about them, or who respects them and can recognize the signs of their stress; it is something very far from worthy. Their was no respect or reverence here. Very little in the way of education – all show, no substance.
There are organizations that do this right. I volunteer for one of the best and know its educators to be fierce protectors of the birds in their care. That is how is ought to be.
Note: I apologize for the links to pics on Photobucket, but Blogger just won’t load these.