Evening Hawk

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In the Evening Hawk, Robert Penn Warren makes extensive use of figurative language, imagery, and symbolism to describe a foreboding scene that calls attention to the passage of time. He uses simile and the symbol of the Evening Hawk to convey a scene in which he suggests that man is being judged. Warren calls attention to the slow, grim passage of time with simile, suggesting that “history [drips] into darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.” Were there “no wind,” he says, we might be able to hear this terrible dripping away of time—this foreboding reminder of our own mortality, and imminent death. To complete this scene in which man is held in awe and fear at forces almost beyond his comprehension, he writes of a “steady” star, which “like Plato” rises great and almost impenetrably complex above the scene. Like the theories of a philosopher to the laymen, the forces behind the inevitable passage of time are incomprehensible to the mortal man. Warren’s use of simile emphasizes the terrible passage of time that becomes apparent during the visit of the evening hawk. Warren effects this same foreboding mood with his use of the hawk as a symbol of these greater powers of time and death over which man has no control. The Evening Hawk is a figure almost divine—it knows “neither Time—nor error—and seems to hold power over the “unforgiven” world of men which it surveys with it’s “unforgiving” eye. The hawk has come to swing the earth “into shadow,” bringing down the passage of time (and with time, death) upon man as repayment for his “error.” Warren sets the speaker of the poem in a foreboding scene that reminds him of the terrible and inevitable passage of time, and the great powers that govern it. He uses the Evening Hawk as a symbol of death and of these greater powers to do so. His use of simile also facilitates the communication of this foreboding mood.
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