Early Australian Colonialism

Today we covered a host of impressive literary and artistic figures that included the Anonymous poet of the Swan River who really “had a go” at those politically motivated tyrants who wanted to say that the taking of Western Australia from the indigenous peoples was a good thing!

We then dipped into Eliza Dunlop’s wonderful lament for the Myall Creek Massacre (Read about it by clicking on the name Myall) where she takes the part of on indigenous woman cradling her remaining baby from the ruthless settlers.

Frank the poet got a look-in with his wonderful subversion of the Heaven and Hell, in which all the nasties (clerics and politicians) end up in Hell and all the convicts end up in Heaven!

We then spent the bulk of the time on the wonderful work of Charles Harpur (don’t you love that amazing beard!):


His poetry shows an extraordinary sensitivity to the landscape, every nuance of its moods and the way that it can lead us towards deep reflection. “A Midsummer Noon in the Australian Forest” has to be one of the great early 19th Century poems in Australia. I like especially that amazing contrast between the energetic description of the sun glinting beetle and then the utter stillness of the landscape around:

Yon bright beetle gleams the air-

Gleams it in its droning flight

With a slanting track of light,

Till rising in the sunshine higher, 

Its shards flame out like gems on fire.

His powerful use of end-rhymes (flight/light; higher/ fire) just seems to bring the incandescence he is dramatizing vividly to life!

And then, suddenly, there is this totally different mood and tone:

Every other thing is still

Save the ever wakeful rill,

Whose cool murmur only throws

A cooler comfort round Repose. 

What a wonderful transition into an utterly different experience of what is around!

We then passed across to Henry Kendall, his wonderful “Bell Birds” so different to Harpur and yet such a dramatic musical poem, singing the praises of how the bush can restore us to our senses.

We then passed briefly on to Lousia Anne Meredith and had a great discussion on the literary language in her account of life in NSW (this was covered in a tutorial). Here is the white board impression of all the ideas that teemed from the class:

WhiteBoard Colonialism.jpg

We concluded with a short glimpse of that matriarch of Australian women Catherine Helen Spence who was fighting for women’s dignity and rights in Australia around the turn of the Century. And she figures, as most of us realise on the old $5 note:


So Blog topics for this week are many and varied:

1/ Charles Harpur’s love sonnets to Rosa are a model for all love sonnets. Using the style and structure of a Harpur sonnnet, write a love sonnet to your own beloved! Can you create images as fiery as his!

2/ Can you capture the seasonal quality of the Australia bush (Summer, Spring, Autumn or Winter) in a short poem that utilizes some of the techniques of Charles Harpur’s “A Midsummer Noon  in the Australian Forest”. Maybe begin your poem also with a reference to a bird. Harpur used “Not a bird disturbs the air”. You could try “Magpies warbled like water in the early dawn” or “Crows filled the air with plaintive calls”…. or something like this…

3/ Try writing a stanza that uses the punchy rhythm of Kendall’s “Bell Birds”:

By channels of coolness the echoes are calling

And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling;

Try this to discover whether the search for rhythm and musicality blocks or helps the flow of your ideas.

4/ Which of the two women authors introduced this week, Louisa Anne Meredith or Catherine Helen Spence, speaks to you most as a woman (or man). Can you say what it is you like about the author? About their message and their style. Or you might like to write a letter to either author telling them how much you have enjoyed their glimpse of experience back in the mid 19th Century.

5/ Remember you are always permitted to create and write a topic of your own. Remember also to do your weekly peer-review. And please check that your URL is on the master list and is working properly.





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