Tamer and Hawk

Thom Gunn’s “The Tamer and the Hawk” is a poem about the relationship between a man and his hawk. The poem describes the hawk as being wild and free, while the man is tame and controlled. The poem argues that the man cannot truly understand the hawk unless he experiences the same freedom. Gunn uses various literary devices to make his point, including metaphor, simile, and alliteration.

Tom Gunn’s “Tamer and Hawk” is a extended metaphor that portrays a wild bird of prey, symbolic of Gunn himself, as being controlled by someone weaker than him- his true love. It uses vivid language to describe the relationship between a bird and its handler (through indirect personification).

Thom Gunn uses this poem to explore the concept of being in a relationship and the idea that sometimes we can be controlled by our own desires.

The poem is written in three stanzas, each with four lines. Thom Gunn uses enjambment throughout the poem which creates a sense of movement and flight, further emphasising the image of the hawk. The first two stanzas are written in iambic pentameter, while the third stanza is written in trochaic tetrameter. This change in meter creates a sense of unease and disorder, which could be interpreted as thehawk trying to break free from its restraints.

The title ‘Tamer and Hawk’ suggests that there is a power dynamic at play between the two subjects of the poem. Gunn is using the hawk as a metaphor for his own wild desire, which he feels is controlled by his love. He personifies the hawk in order to explore the idea of being tamed by love.

The first stanza introduces the image of the hawk and its master. The hawk is described as ‘powerful’, ‘strong’, and ‘almighty’, while the master is described as ‘inferior’. This creates a sense of tension between the two subjects.

The second stanza explores the idea of being controlled by one’s desires. Thom Gunn uses the image of the hawk being restrained by its leash to depict the ways in which our own desires can control us.

The third and final stanza is written in a different meter, which creates a sense of unease. This could be interpreted as the hawk trying to break free from its restraints. The poem ends with the image of the hawk flying away, suggesting that it has finally broken free.

The poem’s main theme is Gunn’s adoration of his ‘Tamer,’ as well as his eagerness to attract her affection. It’s a powerful image since the danger and violence in the poem increase progressively, especially at the conclusion. There are three major themes in the poem: love (To fly for you and demonstrate it), loyalty (For you, I am afraid to lose), and devotion (You seeled me with your love).

Thom Gunn uses many techniques to develop these themes such as; enjambment, personification and alliteration.

Thom Gunn’s ‘Tamer and Hawk’ poem is a story of his love and loyalty towards his ‘Tamer’. The poem starts with Thom expressing his desire to fly for his Tamer and show off his skills. He talks about how he loves the attention and danger that comes with being tamed. Thom then goes on to say how devoted he is to his Tamer, even though he knows that he could be hurt. The poem ends with Thom talking about how he would die for his Tamer, even though he knows that it is not what his Tamer wants.

The first stanza explains that the Hawk is pleased to be tamed by this individual, who shows no objection to his circumstances. In order to impress his handler, he wants to demonstrate his talents in a show for him.

Gunn looks up to his Tamer, as seen through the lens of portraying him as both kind and gentle yet powerful. This is most evident in the lines “But gentled at your hands” and “I thought I was so tough.” The emphasis on the second ‘I’ attempts to demonstrate that the Tamer is more powerful than Gunn himself. Another indication of this can be found in the quotation “Upon your wrist,” which creates a image of the Tamer as an almost god-like figure who controls another’s life.

The Tamer is also seen as someone who can give life, as the Hawk was “dead” until he showed him kindness.

The second stanza looks at the relationship from the Tamer’s perspective. He sees the Hawk as a trophy that he has conquered and now has power over – “I hold you with my will”. The Tamer is not interested in any kind of emotional connection with the Hawk and merely wants to be able to control him; this is shown by his lack of empathy when the Hawk is in pain (“Your cries mean nothing to me”). The Tamer is happy to display his prowess over the Hawk in front of others and to receive their admiration, which again reinforces the idea that he sees the Hawk as a trophy and not as a living creature.

The final stanza looks at the future of the relationship between the Tamer and Hawk. The Hawk realises that he will never be free again and that his life is now in the hands of the Tamer, who can do whatever he wants with him. He has resigned himself to his fate and no longer has any hope of escape or freedom.

Thom Gunn’s ‘Tamer and Hawk’ poem is a complex exploration of the power dynamics between two individuals. Gunn uses skilful word choice and poetic devices to create a vivid picture of the unequal relationship between the Tamer and Hawk. Through this poem, Gunn highlights the power imbalance between those who have control over others and those who are controlled. This poem is a thought-provoking commentary on the misuse of power and the subjugation of those who are weaker.

Additionally, the short rhyme scheme: A, B, A, C, C ,B Without any punctuation and the quick pace of the stanza (that has no assonance or alliteration), due to Iambic trimeter emphasizes how hard the Hawk is trying he is putting into his performance to amaze his Tamer.

Thom Gunn uses many enjambments throughout the poem to keep the pace fast, and this creates a feeling of excitement, which once again would be felt by the Hawk as he flies. Thom Gunn has used caesuras a few times in this poem, for example; “He lifts / His skirts”.

This could be seen as the hawk opening its wings to glide through the air with more ease. The final line “And does his best / To please” is significant because it ties in with the title of the poem, and leaves the reader wondering whether it is in fact the Tamer who is being tamed by the Hawk. Thom Gunn uses personification throughout this poem as if the Hawk were a human character.

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