The poetry of Gwen Harwood #2
Poem: Father and Child: Barn Owl by Australian poet Gwen Harwood
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I was devastated by the incident related in this poem. I am a birder (the more modern term for â€˜birdwatcherâ€™) and take every opportunity to go out and observe birds. I have written a blog about birds for over three years. This blog now numbers over 800 articles â€“ with photos â€“ about birds. I have over 600 enthusiastic readers every day from all parts of the world. I love birds. To deliberately and coldly shoot such a beautiful creature as a Barn Owl is unthinkable to me. The thought turns my stomach like the day, as a young man in the wrong company, I was urged on to shoot a kangaroo. Viewing the remains devastated me and I cannot recall having picked up a gun ever since.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Harwood relates a similar devastation at seeing her own horror at what she had done reflected in the birdâ€™s eyes: â€˜I saw/ those eyes that did not see/ mirror my cruelty.â€™ Her father orders her to â€˜end what you have begun,â€™ and she shoots again to finish off the bird, weeping at what had been done. It was an act of defiance on the part of an innocent child, an innocence shattered by that one gun shot at daybreak.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â There is a sequel to this poem. It is a two part poem, the second part being called Nightfall. It relates an incident forty years later when her father is eighty, blind and near death. The solid father/child relationship forged in the barn that morning when the owl was shot is stronger than ever. Now, however, it is the father who is the innocent one: â€˜Your passionate face is grown/ to ancient innocence.â€™
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Both poems are written in seven stanzas of six lines. Both are in iambic trimeter with a regular rhyming pattern (ababcc).
- Harwood, Gwen, 2001, Selected Poems. Penguin, Camberwell.