Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Mixture of Bruce Dawe

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A Victorian Hangman Tells His Love

Bruce Dawe

Dear one, forgive my appearing before you like this,

live paper help

in a two-piece track-suit, welders goggles

and a green cloth cap like some gross bee�this is the States ideaĆ 

I would have come

arrayed like a bridegroom for these nuptials

knowing how often you have dreamed about this

moment of consummation in your cell.

If I must bind your arms now to your sides

with a leather strap and ask if you have anything to say

�these too are formalities I would dispense with

I know your heart is too full at this moment

to say much and that the tranquilizer which I trust

you did not reject out of a stubborn pride

should by this time have eased your ache for speech, breath

and the other incidentals which distract us from our end.

Let us now walk a step. This noose

with which were wed is something of an heirloom, the last three

members of our holy family were wed with it, the softwood beam

it hangs from like a lovers tree notched with their weight.

See now I slip it over your neck, the knot

under the left jaw, with a slip ring

to hold the knot in place . . . There. Perfect.

Allow me to adjust the canvas hood

which will enable you to anticipate the officially prescribed darkness

by some seconds.

The journalists are ready with the flash-bulbs of their eyes

raised to the simple altar, the doctor twitches like a stethoscope

�you have been given a clean bill of health, like any

modern bride.

With this spring of mine

from the trap, hitting the door lever, you will go forth

into a new life which I, alas, am not yet fit to share.

Be assured, you will sink into the generous pool of public feeling

as gently as a leaf�accept your role, feel chosen.

You are this evenings headlines. Come, my love.


Bruce Dawe is an Australian poet currently teaching in Queensland. He is particularly known for his social criticism

Bruce Dawe is a very well known Australian poet who includes different aspects of Australian life into his poems from dogs taking their first pee in the morning in ‘Dogs in the morning light’, to a hangman’s story in ‘A Victorian hangman tells his love’, to memories of a soldier going to the Vietnam War in ‘Homecoming’. Dawe writes with a casual language using everyday expressions and commonly used words frequently throughout his poems. He writes in a language that everyone can understand. Dawe has the skill of being able to use a simple word-structure and Rhythm to re-create his memories of the lifestyles of people and other aspects of life. Even though Dawe has this trademark of being such a colloquial style writer, his poems are still very serious and so should be thought about carefully to get the most out of the poems and to be able to see the seriousness of the meanings that Dawe is trying to put across. Such poems as ‘Drifters’, ‘Homo suburbiensis’ and ‘Life cycle’ are good examples of how Dawe captures the minds of the readers about things so ordinary & everydayish but which he is actually being quite serious about.

‘Drifters’ is about a family who move from place to place, as the father needs to move by the demand of his job. Dawe wrote this poem in a very casual language; however, if you read it carefully you would be able to see the seriousness of what he is saying. The young children are growing up to learn no other way of life except the life of continuously moving, as they are all waiting for the day they shall move again. The children get very excited about moving from place to place “and the kids will yell truly”. The eldest is becoming aware that their roaming lives may never change “the oldest girl is close to tears because she was happy here”. She is becoming frustrated with her life. Dawe shows pity for the wife, as she has to go through this more than once “she won’t even ask why they’re leaving this time”. Dawe writes sympathetically about the mother, like when she asks her husband Tom to make a wish in the last line of the poem “Make a wish, Tom, make a wish”. Because this is a continuous event the mother is getting frustrated as at the time of packing once again she finds that she has not unpacked from there last move. Even though this poem is written in a happy tone Dawe is being serious about the issue of how a family gets upset about being stuck in a life that is continuously moving around and not being permanently settled anywhere.

‘Homo suburbiensis’ is set at a typical suburban home which has a vegetable garden out the back. The man is a suburban householder standing alone in his backyard on a quiet evening among his vegetables. The imagery suggests that Dawe is both celebrating suburbia, while in some ways putting down the suburban householders dreams. Dawes tone seems nearly humorous. The man’s thoughts are lost escaping the pressures that come with life. Dawe shows a sympathetic look towards this man “lost in a green confusion”, as even in the retreat of his backyard he still cannot escape his pressures in life, “time, pain, love, hate, age, war, death, laughter, fever”. It can be seen quite easily in this poem that even whilst Dawe is writing colloquially a strong seriousness is coming across to the reader.

The poem ‘life- cycle’ is based on Aussie Rules Football. Football is portrayed as a religion, as its tradition is life sustaining with no other thing better to do than support football. Even though football is a very everyday, casual topic, Dawe is still being very serious, because he knows that some Australians do take football this seriously. Dawe uses the language of football freely “ barracking…carn…streamers… demons… saints…ladder…three- quarter-time”. The Slang that he uses is very catchy and easy to understand. Dawe’s manner is slightly disrespectful but gently so. He respects the strength of football and the life sustaining qualities it offers. The point he tries to state is the power and passion of Victorian football is wonderful to watch. ‘Life-cycle’ was also written very colloquially but the reader should still not underestimate the seriousness of what he is saying.

From the three poems previously discussed it can be seen that even though Dawe has the trademark of being such a colloquial style writer, it should not lead the reader to underestimate the seriousness of what he is saying. Dawe goes into the depths of people’s lives and makes their problems obvious to the reader. He faces people’s problems that are not brought up everyday and that are sometimes ignored. He is still able write about these serious aspects of life in a casual and simple language so that the reader can understand. The not so serious topics that he also writes about are also seriously written and take a lot of thought from Dawe to come up with the poem that whilst writing colloquially are still being very serious.


1. All day, day after day, they’re bringing them home,

. they’re picking them up, those they can find, and bringing

. them home,

4. they’re bringing them in, piled on the hulls of Grants, in

5. trucks, in convoys,

6. they’re zipping them up in green plastic bags,

7. they’re tagging them now in Saigon, in the mortuary coolness

8. they’re giving them names, they’re rolling them out of

. the deep-freeze lockers � on the tarmac at Tan Son Nhut

10. the noble jets are whining like hounds

11. they’re bringing them home

1. -curly heads, kinky-hairs, crew cuts, balding non-coms

1. -they’re high, now, high and higher, over the land, the

14. steaming chow mein,

15. their shadows cross the blue curve of the Pacific

16. with sorrowful quick-fingers, heading south, heading east,

17. home, home, home � and the coasts swing-upward, the old

18. ridiculous curvatures

1. of earth, the knuckled hills, the mangrove

0. swamps, the desert emptiness. . .

1. in their sterile housing they tilt towards these like skiers

. -taxiing in on the long runways, the howl of their

. home-coming rises

4. surrounding them like their last moments (the mash, the

5. splendour)

6. then fading at length as they move

7. on to small towns where dogs in the frozen sunset

8. raise their muzzles in mute salute,

. and on to cities whose wide web of surburbs

0. telegrams tremble like leaves from a wintering tree

1. and the spider grief swings in his bitter geometry

. -they’re bringing them home, now, too late, too early.


“Homecoming” by Bruce Dawe describes the homecoming of dead Australian Soldiers from the Vietnamese War, (lines -). The poem has its poet expressing his opinions on man’s response to wars, their longing need to have them brought home and the brutality and futility of wars upon the human race as a whole. Basically, “Homecoming” is a lamentation or a song for the souls lost in wars.

I chose this poem because it portrays the themes of Death, Loneliness, Sorrow and the outcome of wars. On a personal level, discussing theses themes gives me a better understanding of conflicts and how to resolve to them. The other reason why I chose “Homecoming’ was because it challenged me to think of the squandered lives of many young men at war and how many of us ignore the vitality of life.

I enjoyed “Homecoming” because it was about historical reality that plays back in the present tense. The Vietnamese War was real and is now history; however, the ritual of finding some of the dead corpses lost in wars and bringing them home, still happens today. I also enjoyed the poem because the poet had communicated his message clearly, which was, to draw forth a direct reply from me to make an effort to get into his shoes and analyse his purpose of composition.

To evoke his themes, Bruce Dawe explores certain sounds of poetry. He uses assonance in lines

� “deep-freeze” (to describe the temperature of the mortuary or where they keep the bodies of the dead before burial);

1 � “non coms” (meaning war participants who never received the commission they deserved for being out at war);

16 � “quick fingers”;

1 � “like skiers” (relating their homecoming in midair to the movement of war planes) and

8 � “mute salute”(meaning the dogs salute the soldiers quietly).

He also uses alliteration in lines

� “those they”;

� tarmac at Tan. . .” (a runway in a place in Vietnam);

1 � ”crew cuts”;

1 � “tilt towards”;

� “wide web” and

0 - “telegrams tremble” and “like leaves”.

The poem also consists of rhymes. In lines 0-, Bruce Dawe uses the end Rhyme sound

0. “telegrams tremble like leaves from a wintering tree

1. and the spider grief swings in his bitter geometry . they’re bringing them home, now, too late, too early.

“Homecoming“ has a soft but steady Rhythm. Meaning that its rhythm is not discovered by reading it once in your head, but reading it aloud twice. Examples of the lines that have rhythm are 1 �

1. “All day, day after day, they’re bringing them home,

. They’re picking them up, those they can find, and bringing

. Them home…”

The Repetition of “day” and “bringing them home” can be described as soft because it isn’t pointed out in the first reading but in the following and it is steady because the words are repeated to emphasize the rhythm and the meaning.

Moreover, the poem is structured as one long Stanza and is mainly composed of blank verses or lines that have no rhyme. In lines 6-0, the end words of the lines have no relation in terms to rhyme.

The poet also uses another poetic device known as figurative language. In line 0, he used a Simile to describe and relate “telegrams” to “leaves from a wintering tree”. Another example lies in line 10, where the poet uses another similie “the noble jets are whining like hounds”. Another type of figurative language he uses, is metaphors. In line 1, he makes the cities and suburbs of Australia a spider whose geometrical web is filled with bitterness over the death of soldiers.

Bruce Dawe’s purpose in composing this poem was to explore his opinion on the circumstance that when humans offer themselves as a sacrifice for love, they least realise that they are leading themselves to destruction. He came to a conclusion that the lives of many young men are wasted (line) rather than sacrificed, as many like to think of it. “Too late” meaning that they are already dead and there’s nothing anybody can do. “Too early” because they haven’t accomplished their duties as young men on earth, like everyone else.

In a metaphorical sense, the poet blames the wars for such bitter grief placed upon the human race. To clarify his point, he paints the following images

. “and on to cities in whose wide web of suburbs

0. telegrams tremble like leaves from a wintering tree

1. and the spider grief swings in his bitter geometry”

Meaning that telegrams about the death of the war participants are sent out to suburbs in cities and the families’ grief about such bitterness. The spider is the city, which contains the control center, whose web connects to all suburbs and to the locations and causes of war. Once the death has been told, the families and people in this web are filled with such bitterness rather than sadness, because of such inhumanity. The effects of the war have then taken over this geometry or web with the people in it, and the only one left to blame is the war.

Bruce Dawe uses a voice that is confused by the dullness of death, which is stuck in between having no relationship with someone, but then being considerate to him or her again. He arouses an atmosphere of death, sorrow, grief and loss and makes us think twice about the consequences of wars � unity or a waste and loss to the society and economy of a group.

Above all, Bruce Dawe artistically gets us to see (not only the Vietnamese War), but also the effects of all wars upon the human race through his poem’s purpose, his developed emotions and craftsmanship. “Homecoming” remains precise to its themes of death, sorrow and grief. However it is still complicated to understand and relate to the main purpose; the bitterness of wars.

A Victorian Poet Tells his Point

Bruce Dawe has a wonderfully natural way of writing, using such comfortable colloquial language and phrases, that one could be lead to believe he were telling a story, just to her. His poems range from humorous, to serious, from mocking to grieving, and each has an important point to make, however small it may be. ‘Life-Cycle’ is entirely colloquial, written about Victorian youngsters’ “lifetime of barracking”, about footy, as an Aussie way of life. ‘Enter without so much as knocking’ depicts the life of a “godless money-hungry back stabbing, miserable so-and-so”, and his “economy-sized”mum. ‘Drifters’, the tale of one nomad family, desperate for stability. ‘Homecoming’ tells the heart rendering tale of war, and missed opportunities. Whether it is a long-awaited thank-you, a tribute to nameless heroes, or a goodbye unsaid, it is meaningful, and Dawe’s point cannot be unnoticed.

Written in free verse, with typically Australian jargon and imagery, Dawe begins ‘Drifters’ with the casual cadence and spontaneity of telling an anecdote. ‘Drifters’ is a prime example Dawe’s ingenious poetry techniques as Dawe immediately sets the scene with “kids” running disorderly around with a kelpie “pup” in a house with a vegetable patch, equipped with the typical ute and trailer of an Australian country family. The vegetable patch and the bottling set add a homely feel, and “the oldest girl close to tears” provokes sympathy. But far from a simple yarn, “Drifters” is a tribute to a mother, who notices all these things, the oldest girls misery and the youngest’s rapture in mist of packing, yet again, and uprooting. A mother, in a time where women’s suffrage was still young, but, as Dawe shows, not entirely unnoticed by the people who were most important.The green tomatoes a powerful symbol for themselves, not yet ready to be picked, plucked away prematurely from, one feels the only place this woman was prepared to call “home”. Remembering their arrival, and her joy, “the first of the season”, and the berries, as though something magical, something to be wished on, she says “Make a wish, Tom, make a wish.”

A very powerful, heart rendering poem, ‘Homecoming’ explores the tragedy of war, and senseless deaths of many young men. As opposed to “Drifters’s” wistful and nostalgic tone, “Homecoming” is seriously compassionate, though still simply colloquial. Again the poem deals with domesticity, not the death itself, but the tedious acts of packaging the bodies, and sending them home. The simple images-“mortuary coolness”, “green plastic bags”, and ‘frozen sunset’ instill a horror in the reader, “Picking them up, those they can find” chillingly describes these events as nothing out of the ordinary, with familiar words and phrases. This reminds us that, unfortunately, due to the horrific amount of casualties, the packing of dead bodies, of “curly-heads, kinky-hairs, crew-cuts, balding non-coms” became routine. Dawe juxtaposes two unlikely words- noble jets, frozen sunset, telegrams tremble for superb images. At the end of the poem, he personalizes the sadness, by taking away the anonymity of the dead. Now he writes of dogs who “raise their muzzles in mute salute” in a “web of suburbs” with “spider grief”, giving the dead a home, family who telegraph, and a dog.

In a different style, Dawe uses humor, such as in “Going” to lighten a strong subject like death, and instills hope to people for a normal life after a death. Lightly plunging into the story styled as a conversation with the deceased, lightly mocking her and her death-“you would have loved the way you went!” And there is nothing more Australian, than a family barbecue, and the ill effects of a drought on the lawn. Dawe depicts Gladys in an old dress, likening her heart to a humdrum roller blind, a domestic and common Simile, though effective. He uses no complicated, high words, nor impossible statements or sentences, though in no way does he demean hi poem. It a good-bye, a closure this wonderful woman’s life whom obviously meant a lot to Dawe.

‘Enter without so much as knocking’ is, however, the most supreme example of Dawe’s ability to combine colloquialism with power, and get his point through without so much as a second thought. “Shopping in the good-as-new station wagon (£45 dep. At Reno’s)”, with kids “straight off the Junior Department rack” cannot be done without “what the (beep beep) does that idiot think he’s doing”. The whole poem is interspersed with this hectic, conversational style, largely unpunctuated language “because I’m telling you straight, Jim, it’s number one every time for this chicken”. Such colloquial language is descriptive of many lives, hectic and fast, than ends just as fast as it came. The “godless money-hungry back stabbing, miserable so-and-so” dies to have “a really first-class job done on his face (everyone was pleased)” to “ride out to the underground metropolis…no parking tickets, no taximeters ticking”, to in fact a place Dawe hints could be better than our world. In this Poem, Dawe touches on the interesting point suggested by Socrates, on the matter of life and death who said “... I to die, and you to live. Which is better, God only knows.” Dawe has looked at life, its heartaches, unhappiness, war, hunger, and has questioned which is better. He also refers to the “sameness” of mass-produced people, all alike, and predictable, moulded by society with no trace of individualism allowed.

Bruce Dawe, an ingenious poet has created a trademark of colloquial writing, but this, however, should not be misinterpreted to be that he has no important, and insightful point to make. ‘Drifters’, though written informally about kids, and a family with their keplie pup and veggie patch, is written as a recognition of a mother who, amidst her own sadness, does not fail to neglect those of her family. ‘Homcoming’uses many similes, and metaphors, and many plays on words, though still colloquially to tribute those lives lost in war, “bringing them home now, too early, too late.” Consequently, through his trademark colloquialism, Dawe points out to us that the world is full of sometimes gladness, and sometimes not.

. In “speaking for those who have no means of speaking”, Dawe has succeeded in writing poetry that has universal appeal.

In “Homecoming”, poet Bruce Dawe uses vivid visual and aural poetic techniques to construct his attitudes towards war. He creates a specifically Australian cultural context where soldiers have been fighting in a war in Vietnam, and the dead bodies flown home. However the poem has universal appeal in that the insensitivity and anonymity accorded to Precious lives reduced to body bags are common attitudes towards soldiers in all historical conflicts. Although Dawe makes several references to the Vietnam War, the sense of moral outrage at the futile, dehumanising aspects of war is a universal theme. He also speaks on behalf of the mute, dead soldiers who have no way of expressing their suffering and loss of hope. By “speaking for those who have no means of speaking”, Dawe ultimately exposes the brutal hopelessness of soldiers caught up in foreign conflicts and the shocking impact on families.

The title “Homecoming” is used effectively to contrast the traditional universal implications of the word with the shocking reality of dead soldiers flown home from Vietnam to grieving families. The word “homecoming” usually implies a celebration or Heroic reception for a great achievement, with a return to roots and family. It would further invoke a sense of anticipation for the return of a loved one whom has a real identity and a place in the hearts of those awaiting his arrival. However, the title operates ironically because the “homecoming” described in the poem is related to death, mourning and loss and the arrival of a nameless body is quite different from the heartfelt joy extended to a loved one. By establishing Irony through the globally understood ritual of homecoming celebration, Dawe generates universal appeal.

Through the use of Repetition, Dawe establishes the inhuman, machine-like processing of human bodies, a ghastly reality common to all conflicts that use innocent soldiers as cannon fodder. These soldiers will never have an opportunity to voice their protests or their sense of loss, hence Dawe offers a shocking expose of the futility of war and is able to voice his concerns of those who cannot articulate their views. Repeated use of the pronoun “they’re”, hints at the impersonal relationship between the bodies and their handlers. Repetition of the suffix

“-ing” in “bringing”, “zipping”, “picking”, “tagging”, and “giving”, describing the actions of the body processors, establishes irony. These verbs imply life and vitality, in stark contrast to the limp, lifeless, cold body that they handle each day. Repetition is used effectively to highlight the shocking brutality that has manifested in all wars throughout history.

Word choice in “Homecoming” further underpins the poem’s universal appeal where Dawe foregrounds the lack of identity and indiscriminate slaughter of young men in the Vietnam War. References to green bodies in “green plastic bags”, shows the lack of individuality. Soldiers are being categorised as “curly-heads, kinky-hairs, crew-cuts, balding non-coms”, a detached and anonymous image, establishing the idea that class, race or background is no favour in war, further reinforcing the loss of identity. It is shocking that “they’re giving them names” since a name is one of the few identifying features left on the plethora of otherwise anonymous, mutilated bodies, “the mash, the splendour”. The separation of soldiers and their identity is a worldwide concept, successfully illustrated through word choice.

Dawe uses vivid visual imagery to emphasise the emotional damage caused to friends a family through the loss of a loved one, a deep suffering that is often left unrecorded in the annals of history. “Telegrams tremble like leaves from a wintering tree” and “the spider swings in his bitter geometry”, exemplify the arbitrary grief that affects those who receive notices. Personification of the telegrams shows them as “trembling” under the burden of the news they must deliver, ending any hope for families wishing their loved ones shall return alive. The relation of telegrams to leaves falling from a “wintering tree” is a powerful image, providing the reader with some idea of the immense number of dead soldiers. Dawe further suggests that a “wide web” joins all countries, with none able to escape the “spider grief” associated with war. By exposing the destructive and dehumanising aspects of war, Dawe appeals to the masses, removing it from its falsely glorified position.

Through the further use of imagery, Dawe succeeds in writing poetry that has universal appeal by underscoring the savage nature of war. The Simile “whining like hounds” emphasizes the destructive characteristics of war, also depicting dogs as sympathetic feelers of human emotion. For these dead soldiers, there is no big parade and music, only “the howl of their homecoming”. The world famous twenty-one gun salute is also mocked, “mute salute”, further establishing the worldwide notion of dogs as mans best friend, who unfortunately cannot voice their grief in words. Although these men have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving up their lives, the fact that they get no recognition for this act except from their dogs, emphasizes the global concept of war as dehumanising.

The setting Dawe describes in “Homecoming” is characteristically Australian but the issues related to the horrors and futility of war are universal in their implication regardless of the cultural context. References to the “knuckled hills” and “desert emptiness” of the Australian landscape underscores the irony of the “homecoming” since soldiers are unable to appreciate or comprehend the unique beauty of their land. Personification further foregrounds the human qualities ascribed to hill and the landscape, whereas the soldiers are ironically devoid of all life and humanity. The “desert emptiness” not only refers to the vastness of the Australian interior, but also to the empty futility of war. With the aid of imagery, Dawe establishes the pointlessness of war, in that of all the men who have ever died in battles shall never see their homelands again.

The final line of the poem creates the idea of Paradox, further endorsing the notion of senseless life loss, a universal theme. “They’re bringing them home now, to late” because the chance to save their lives has now past. However, it is also “too early” since all these soldiers are too young, leaving behind an unfulfilled life. Unfortunately these soldiers will also never receive the true recognition they deserve for their efforts that would have been given at the end of the war. By using the technique of paradox, Dawe makes a final attempt at clarifying international misconception of war as beneficial.

Bruce Dawe successfully establishes the uselessness of war is his poem “Homecoming”. He can be said to be “speaking for those who have no means of speaking” in the way he presents the attitudes of the silent, dead soldiers being flown home from Vietnam. With the aid of aural and visual poetic techniques he arouses sympathy, carefully manipulating the audience to reflect upon his own views towards war. In this way, Dawe has created a poem that is uniquely Australian, presenting issues of global concern and generating universal appeal.


Dawe, B. (000). Homecoming. In Bernard, V. (Ed.), Sometimes Gladness (p. 5). South Melbourne Pearson Education Australia.

Smith, G. (17). An appreciation of “Homecoming” by Bruce Dawe. [WWW document]. URL http//

Salmon, K. (000). Poetry of Bruce Dawe. [WWW document]. URL http//

‘Homecoming’ was written in 168 during the Vietnam War with the intent of making its audience aware of the senselessness and tragedy of war. The poem deals with the numerous stages of bringing the dead home for their ‘homecoming’ � a supposedly joyous occasion worthy of great celebration. The title serves as a constant reminder of what may have been. Rather than coming home celebrating their Heroic survival, they are being bought home dead

they’re bringing them in, piled on the hulls of Grants, in trucks, in convoys,

they’re zipping them up in plastic bags,

Dawe uses a number of clever poetic techniques in order to express his feelings towards war. The repeated use of ‘they’ and ‘they’re’ in the first section hints at the impersonal relationship between the bodies and their handlers. Dawe shows his audience how this is the harsh reality of war � if people allowed the usual human luxury of compassion to overcome them every time they saw yet another dead body, it would be too unbearable. Rhythm is also used a great deal in the first section, making it sound almost chant-like through the use of pauses that form a direct beat. This rhythm suggests a slow, mechanical process, almost like an assembly line.

Interestingly, Dawe goes against conventional methods of breaking his poem up into different stanzas. Despite this, it is evident that the poem exists in three main sections � the gathering of bodies in the jungles of Saigon, the flight back to Australian for the dead soldiers, and finally the bodies returning home.

In the second phase of the poem, this monotonous rhythm is abandoned. Gone is the ‘human touch’ from in the jungles of Saigon; now the bodies are being lifted ‘high, now, high and higher’, suggesting that the bodies are being taken to be laid to rest in heaven. Words like ‘noble’, ‘whine’ and ‘sorrowful’ are used to express the sorrow and regret that Australian’s will feel as their dead youths are bought home. Through the use of the Personification of the planes, Dawe voices the sadness and futility of the situation ‘tracing the blue curve of the Pacific with sorrowful quick fingers’

In the final phase of ‘Homecoming’ focuses on the soldiers finally coming

home, home, home

The tone changes, and the lines echo the feeling of homesick Australia soldiers. As the planes approach Australia ‘the coasts swing upward’ to meet the planes. This is the coastline that would have been so familiar to the soldiers’ had they been coming home alive, yet now they don’t have the opportunity to see the ‘knuckled hills, the mangrove-swamps, the desert emptiness’, an environment vastly different from the jungle they had fought so valiantly in.

Dawe uses an effective Simile to remind the reader once again of the dead men ‘in their sterile housing’ they tilt downwards ‘like skiers’. A more incorrect comparison could not be formed � a skier is vibrant, full of life and vitality, quite the opposite of the stiff and lifeless corpses.

‘The howl of their homecoming’ as the plane lands and taxis along the runway can be directly compared with the final dying moments of the young men. The howling and whining of weaponry that surrounded the men in their last moments can also be compared to the cries of agony that will later burst free from the wives and girlfriends of the dead soldiers in whose hands deadly telegrams will tremble like ‘leaves from a wintering tree’.

After the return of the dead, the noise fades. The pomp and ceremony is over, and individual families are now left to privately mourn and lament the loss of their loved ones. The tone now becomes more personal, with the obvious exclusion of the words ‘they’ and ‘they’re’ that were present in the first two phases. The country is void of noise as fellow countrymen are not on hand to greet them; rather their bodies are being bought home too. Only the men’s faithful friends, the dogs, are on hand to ‘raise muzzles in mute salute’. As the soldiers have finally arrived home, they once again become human and individual, still living in the memory of those closest to them.

In this section, Dawe uses skilful imagery related to winter to create a mood that is cold, gloomy and lifeless. ‘The frozen sunset’ not only makes the reader feel chilled, but is also an ironic Paradox.

The last words ‘too late, too early’ are another contradictory statement that leaves the reader to interpret them in their own way. I feel that it may be explained by saying that it is too late, because dead soldiers can have not joy of their homecoming, but too early because their families left behind are yet to understand and cope with the grief at hand. Or possibly it is it too early for the soldiers to die and they should still be alive, considering all that they endured during the war.

The overall tone of the poem encapsulates the hopeless sorrow that Dawe feels for the young people who are killed in wars all around the world every year. His skilful use of figurative imagery arouses sympathy from the audience and cleverly manipulates the audience to understand and reflect upon Dawe’s own attitudes towards war.


Bruce Dawe was born in Geelong, Victoria. He was an altogether indifferent pupil and, at the age of 16 he left school and was employed for short-lived periods in diverse occupations. In 15, however, he finished an adult matriculation course at night school and, in 154, entered the University of Melbourne. He remained at Melbourne for only a year, but it was there that he met Philip Martin, whom Dawe acknowledges as the greatest influence in his literary concerns, and who remained a friend, and an advisor in his developing poetic skills after he left his studies. He became involved with Melbourne University Magazine (MUM), Compass, and Farrago also, at this time, and published the ‘Joey Cassidy’ stories in Farrago during that time.

After leaving university he was employed in Sydney as a factory hand, and in Melbourne, as a postman prior to joining the RAAF. While he was serving in the force, in the years 15 to 168, he published two volumes of poetry, he also married a local girl, and completed his BA. He was a teacher at Toowoomba’s Downland’s College in 171, a lecturer at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education in 17 and, now possessed of an MA. And a Ph.D., from 10 to 1 was associate professor of literary studies at the University College of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba. Dawe is a productive writer who is both aware of, and concerned with, the brevity and suffering of life. In 184 the National book Council of Australia nominated Dawe’s Sometimes Gladness Collected Poems as one of the ten finest national publications of the preceding decade.

Dawe is the recipient of the 165 Myer Award for Poetry; the 167 Ampol Arts Award for Creative Literature; the 168 Sydney Myer charity Trust Award for Poetry; the 17 Grace Leven Prize for Poetry; the 17 Braille Book of the Year; the 180 Patrick White Literary Award; the 18 FAW Christopher Brennan Award; in 10 a Paul Harris Fellowship of Rotary International; in 1 the Order of Australia (AO) for his contribution to Australian Literature; and in 1 an Honorary Professorship of the University of Southern Queensland in recognition of his contribution to the university.

“They halt at her gate. Next doors children / scatter past, laughing. They smile,. The moon, / calm as seashore, raises its pale face. / Their hands dance in the breeze blowing / from a hundred perfumed gardens . . .”

from Suburban Lovers.

Bruce Dawes work includes

1. No Fixed Address poems (16)

. A Need of Similar Name (165)

. An Eye for a Tooth (168)

4. Beyond the Sub-divisions (16)

5. Heat-wave (170)

6. Condolences of the Season Selected Poems (171)

7. Bruce Dawe Reads from His Own Work (171; poets on record)

8. Dimensions (174; editor)

. Just a Dugong at Twilight Mainly Light Verse (175; illustrated by Collette)

10. Sometimes Gladness Collected Poems, 154 -178 (178; nd ed. 18; rd. Ed. 188)

11. Five Modern Comic Writers (180)

1. ‘Public Voices and Private Feeling’, in The American Model Influence and Independence in Australian Poetry (18; non-fiction, edited by Joan Kirkby)

1. Bruce Dawe Reads from his Own Work (18; poets on record)

14. Over Here, Harv! And Other Stories (18; short stories. Repr. as a Puffin 184)

15. Towards Sunrise Poems 17 -186 (186)

16. Speaking in Parables (187; selected and edited)

17. Stage Dawe A Theatrical Adaptation (187)

18. This Side of Silence Poems 187-10 (10)

1. Essays and Opinions (10; edited by Ken Goodwin)

0. The Writer and the Community (10; non-fiction)

1. Tributary Streams Some Sources of Social and Political Concerns (1)

. Mortal Instruments Poems 10-15 (15)

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