The poetry of Bruce Dawe #1
Poem: Elegy for Drowned Children by Australian poet Bruce Dawe.
An elegy is a poem dedicated to someone (or something) who is dead. This sad poem is filled with pathos: â€˜The voices of parents calling, calling like birds by the waterâ€™s edge.â€™ There are touches of dashed hopes, as in the line â€˜The little heaps of clothes, the futures carefully planned?â€™ As a result I found the poem to be disturbingly sombre and oppressive.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Dawe begins the poem with a reference to â€˜the old king.â€™ The most obvious interpretation of this is to think of King Neptune. It is for the kingâ€™s delight that he takes boys down to his realm, one at a time. One wonders if Dawe has something more sinister in mind, but that is not supported by an interview with him I heard. The poem was just a response to children drowning. He stated that no-one in his family or circle of friends who had experienced the drowning of a child.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Dawe imagines what it must be like to live in King Neptuneâ€™s domain. He states that, in order to keep his subjects happy that â€˜Tender and solicitous must be his care.â€™ It is certainly a different view of drowning. Later in the poem the poet uses a stark contrast to highlight the emotions when he writes: â€˜Yet even an old acquisitive king must feel/Remorse poisoning his joy.â€™ He then goes on to imagine that families who have lost young ones dreaming that their child has returned home â€˜with wet and moonlit skin.â€™ This sad and poignant end of the poem it fitting, and in keeping with the rest of it.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â From a technical point of view, I found this poem to be an interesting one. It has five quatrains, each with a regular abba rhyming pattern, though it has an irregular meter.