The poetry of Gwen Harwood #4

Poem: The Violets by Australian poet Gwen Harwood

            In this very lyrical poem the poet again harks back to times when she was a child growing up in Queensland. It had been a hot afternoon, and she had obviously needed an afternoon nap. On waking she innocently asks her mother for breakfast. She gently scolded ‘It will soon be night, you goose.’ She wonders where the day, especially the morning, has disappeared, and grieves for the lost time.

            There is a circular movement of thought within the poem. At the beginning she is kneeling to pick some violets, ‘frail melancholy flowers’ she calls them, and the poem concludes with the line, ‘Faint scent of violets drifts in air.’ They symbolise the sad feeling she has when she realises that a part her day has been stolen by the unconsciousness of sleep.

            There are some very lyrical lines in this poem. Expressions such as ‘The melting west is striped like ice-cream’ and ‘dusk surrendered pink and white/ to blurring darkness’ are quite memorable.

            The poem is written in iambic tetrameter throughout. It also has a consistent and very complex rhyming scheme (abcdcabd).


Harwood, Gwen, 2001, Selected Poems. Penguin, Camberwell.


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