The aspects of Australian experience is displayed in the poems ‘Widower in the Country’ and ‘South of my Days’ through the themes of loss, isolation and the relationship with the land. Both these texts are linked thematically and use features of poetry to present this experience through strong imagery and symbolism.
‘Widower in the Country’ highlights how the painful effect of a loved one can make a person so distressed. Murray’s tone in this poem is both grief and loneliness. Through the theme of loss, this poem describes how repetitive life can be after the loss of someone close or a loved one. Murray’s portrayal of a strong feeling of grief and pain in the poem, brings out empathy and compassion from the reader by expressing just how lonely he feels after his wife had died. Through the use of multiple metaphors, ‘The Christmas paddocks aching in the heat/The windless trees, the nettles in the yard’, Murray slowly reveals to us his continuous suffering. These lines imitate his own feelings, he shows us how the widower is ‘aching’ from the memory of his wife. The ‘windless trees’ imply the feeling of death, the trees are still and lifeless. The ‘nettles’ induce the pain and burning he is feeling. The reader realises the deep, melancholy feeling the widower is going through and empathises, feeling what he feels.
Murray clearly outlines how much losing a loved one will make you suffer and hurt for a long time. The poem structure establishes the routine of morning, noon and evening that widows and widowers are forced to endure through the use of metaphors and enjambment. ‘For I get up late now’, the word ‘now’ has been placed to show how the widower has changed his demeanour. Murray reveals how tedious life can be without your loved ones. ‘I’ll get up soon, I’ll go outside’. The repetitive use of ‘I’ll’ emphasises a sense of loneliness and isolation, to the point where he feels that he doesn’t want to get out of bed. He feels that he can’t live without his wife.
‘South of My Days’ deals with the nature of memory and the sense of nostalgia that it builds. There is imagery in the first stanza, ‘bony slopes’, which shows the devouring nature of the landscape and that Australia is a quite dry place. The stanza is finished with ‘and the old cottage lurches in for shelter’, which allows us to transition from the outside to the inside. The cottage becomes personified with the use of the word ‘lurches’, it somewhat hides itself inside the landscape. The blotch of green lichen shows how the nature of the landscape grows around and over the top of the cottage.
The second stanza introduces ‘old Dan’, a microcosm for Australian story telling culture, representing the way in which Australian society builds this nostalgia. The second stanza ends in ‘Seventy years are hived in him like old honey’. These experiences are what he holds as a sense of comfort and security. The imagery in ‘clutches round his bones’ again brings back that sense of comfort and security. In ‘South of My Days’, old Dan’s memories and experiences keep him warm and are meaningful, contrasting to ‘The Widower in The Country’ where his past and memories are painful.
Both Les Murray and Judith Wright’s use of symbolism and imagery delivers an understanding of their ideas of Australian experience and themes of loss, isolation and the relationship with the land, enhancing the deeper meaning of their work.