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Friday Australian poem #8: Kenneth Slessor (1901-1971)

Reading aloud this moving elegy on a dead friend and colleague of Slessor — Joe Lynch, who fell or jumped into Sydney Harbour from a ferry while drunk — became one of my better party tricks in senior poetry classes. It reads aloud beautifully.

But it isn’t just sound. I can’t stand beside Sydney Harbour without images from this poem eventually coming to mind. The art work by John Olsen is available from The Art Gallery of NSW.

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Posted by on September 28, 2007 in Aussie interest, Cultural and other, OzLit, poets and poetry

 

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Two Australian poems of World War II

Judith Wright (1915-2000) is one of my favourite poets. “The Company of Lovers” was written during World War II and I think captures the feel of the time as many lovers were separated by the war. It is not one of her better known poems.

We meet and part now over all the world;
we, the lost company,
take hands together in the night, forget
the night in our brief happiness, silently.
We, who sought many things, throw all away
for this one thing, one only,
remembering that in the narrow grave
we shall be lonely.

Death marshals up his armies round us now.
Their footsteps crowd too near.
Lock your warm hand above the chilling heart
and for a time I live without my fear.
Grope in the night to find me and embrace,
for the dark preludes of the drums begin,
and round us round the company of lovers,
death draws his cordons in.

On the other hand, the following poem by Kenneth Slessor is — or used to be — very well known.
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