Australian poem 2008 series #17: "Australia" — A D Hope

19 Jun

Your “Friday poem” arrives early this week, partly because I obscurely alluded to it in the post Just about everyone I know is ambivalent about the USA, and it would seem Hope was a bit ambivalent about Australia. What I think he was ambivalent about was the state of Australian culture, turning both against the bush ballad tradition and the more avant-garde aspects of modernism.

You will find another poem by A D Hope and my account of meeting him here.



A D Hope

A Nation of trees, drab green and desolate grey
In the field uniform of modern wars,
Darkens her hills, those endless, outstretched paws
Of Sphinx demolished or stone lion worn away.

They call her a young country, but they lie:
She is the last of lands, the emptiest,
A woman beyond her change of life, a breast
Still tender but within the womb is dry.

Without songs, architecture, history:
The emotions and superstitions of younger lands,
Her rivers of water drown among inland sands,
The river of her immense stupidity

Floods her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth.
In them at last the ultimate men arrive
Whose boast is not: “we live” but “we survive”,
A type who will inhabit the dying earth.

And her five cities, like five teeming sores,
Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state
Where second hand Europeans pullulate
Timidly on the edge of alien shores.

Yet there are some like me turn gladly home
From the lush jungle of modern thought, to find
The Arabian desert of the human mind,
Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come,

Such savage and scarlet as no green hills dare
Springs in that waste, some spirit which escapes
The learned doubt, the chatter of cultured apes
Which is called civilization over there.


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Posted by on June 19, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, OzLit, poets and poetry


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