Kenneth Slessor

(27 March 1901 – 30 June 1971 / Orange, New South Wales)

South Country


After the whey-faced anonymity
Of river-gums and scribbly-gums and bush,
After the rubbing and the hit of brush,
You come to the South Country
As if the argument of trees were done,
The doubts and quarrelling, the plots and pains,
All ended by these clear and gliding planes
Like an abrupt solution.

And over the flat earth of empty farms
The monstrous continent of air floats back
Coloured with rotting sunlight and the black,
Bruised flesh of thunderstorms:

Air arched, enormous, pounding the bony ridge,
Ditches and hutches, with a drench of light,
So huge, from such infinities of height,
You walk on the sky's beach

While even the dwindled hills are small and bare,
As if, rebellious, buried, pitiful,
Something below pushed up a knob of skull,
Feeling its way to air.



Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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  • Prospero 78 (11/28/2005 6:28:00 AM)

    One of the greatest poems ever written by an Australian poet - could only dream of having an ear as good as Slessor's.

    The blanket 'anonymity' of the octave gives way to the panoramic quatrains; such a brutal, vivid description of the sky, when the 'monstrous continent of air floats back/Coloured with rotting sunlight and the black, /Bruised flesh of thunderstorms'.

    Then the momentum - and depth... looking down on a ridge as if it were a bony skull... reminds me too of that part in King Lear, when I think its poor Tom describes an imaginary cliff for the suicidal Gloucester to jump from... and Keats' rip from Shakespeare here in one of his letters... ('samphire gatherer... dreadful trade') . (Report) Reply

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