Calvin Bedient: On "Evening Hawk"

Warren’s most strenuous "Platonic" poem, "Evening Hawk," is torn between image and idea. As image, the hawk enshrines the poet’s Nietzschean love of heroism: as idea, it is the Platonic Good, the Platonic True. The poem attempts to break into allegory with

Look! Look! He is climbing the last light

Who knows neither Time nor Error, and under

Whose eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings

Into shadow.

The poet cannot know all this except by wanting to believe it; here the mind ceases to be wholly realist, universal, and manly and becomes sharply, universally judgmental.

With its rhythmical loveliness – an evening lull quickened by hawk-motions – and its unrepentent sensory vividness, which triumphs at the end, and most of all the hawk’s animal vigor, the poem stays alive, however fought over from inside. The emotion remains true and intact, because the poet is not contemptuous of vitality per se, but only of vitality that fails. Here, vitality in its full power is consonant with Platonic freedom from death and error.

Details

Criticism Overview
Title Calvin Bedient: On "Evening Hawk" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Calvin Bedient Criticism Target Robert Penn Warren
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 20 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication His Varying Stance
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