A knight and a poem

Hawk Roosting

I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

The convenience of the high trees!
The air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth’s face upward for my inspection.

My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot

Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly –
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads –

The allotment of death.
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living.
No arguments assert my right:

The sun is behind me.
Nothing has changed since I began.
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.

Ted Hughes


Hawk © John Weeks

In the Wild Wood Tarot, the Hawk is the Knight of Arrows. Impetuous, arrogant, he sits upon a branch high above the land, we can see bush and stream far below. A smoky-yellow cloud hangs behind him, shielding him from the clear blue of the sky.


A knight can often be a know-all, unwilling to learn, unimpressed by the study of the page or the discipline of the King or Queen. His energy is something to question in a reading – is it something we need more of, or less of? Is his energy harming us, or do we need more of it? Knights are black-and-white, forceful personalities, simple in their singular dimensions. This knight fancies himself a real hero. He rushes in, ‘the one path of my flight is direct / Through the bones of the living’, seizing on what is, he feels, rightfully his. He is skilled, sharp, straight-to-the-point.

The Knight of Arrows can also represent a grudge – in Hughes’ poem this is the defence of his position. It speaks of challenges crushed, ignored, of a neglect of reason and fairness, of maintenance, of conservatism. Hawk says ‘no arguments assert my right’, but do we trust this statement? Valour, heroism are strong characteristics – personally I associate these with a bull-headed vanity which brushes aside any challenge, choosing not to see them, or else having never yet had to take notice. Is he insecure? The Hawk in Ted Huges’ poem sounds so, to me – ‘My eye has permitted no change. / I am going to keep things like this.’ Rachel Pollock writes of the Knight of Swords:

He expects his enemies and life’s problems to fall under his change and he cannot so easily handle a situation which requires long, steady plodding.

His eagerness suggests a certain innocence, like a young knight who has never lost a battle. His bravery, his skill, his readiness to charge all problems, can sometimes contain a fear of losing that innocence, that strong belief in himself. For he knows inside that he has yet to face and overcome life’s greater difficulties.

Rachel Pollack, 78 Degrees of Wisdom

But perhaps I’m putting too negative a spin on the Knight of Arrows. It’s true I think if I met this guy in real life, I’d find him pretty obnoxious. But as a Tarot card he doesn’t represent a rounded personality, just one aspect of what a person could be. There are times that his energy and spirit are precisely what is needed. His perceived lack of limits, his fearlessness, his readiness to ride out into the storm are characteristics we could all do with at some point, but many of us find difficult to channel. With this knight more than any other, I think his appearance in a reading brings up questions of how best to use this energy, asking ourselves if it’s useful or harmful, and just where it needs to be directed.

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