Judith Wright Poetry
Alliance and Cooperation Between People and the Landscape
A relationship of alliance between individuals and the landscape is one clearly represented within the poetry of Judith Wright and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, namely, through Moving South, Brother and Sisters, and This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison. This cooperation that occurs represents a clear connection between people and their respective environments. Though it can be positive or negative, such a relationship distinctly demonstrates mutual respect as depicted in the works of these two poets.
The persona of Judith Wright’s Moving South and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison both experience an allied, cooperative relationship with the landscape marked by deep respect and understanding, but also consistently yearn for other, differing environments. Within Moving South, kinesthetic and olfactory imagery portray an evocative, summery atmosphere that juxtapose the persona’s high-modality rejection of it, “cutting back fleshy stems, / smelling steam scented gardenias/ I think of winter.” The utilisation of first person further emphasises the individual’s connection with the cooler environment, though her vivid understanding of the summer landscape is made clear. The personality within This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison experiences a similar level of profound awareness regarding nature, capitalisation demonstrating his philosophical notions and indicating that the natural world is synonymous with life itself, “No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.” Judith Wright’s character is equally connected to nature, which is elucidated as she personally addresses the landscape, “I’m tired now, summers, / of cutting you back to size. / Where I’m going you will be more succinct”. Through metaphor, the persona’s distaste for her current environment is made clear, and she yearns for her imagined southern landscapes as a possibility for a more positive, cooperative relationship. Wright further reflects this notion in a previous stanza, “I move closer toward the pole.” The symbolism of “pole” for moving south demonstrates the persona’s conscious decision to reject the season of summer for a relationship with the southern landscape, where winter is a more predominant season. Imprisoned to a lime-tree bower and imagining the incredible landscape that his friends are experiencing, Coleridge’s persona also yearns to experience an alternate environment, desiring to “…gaze till all doth seem/ Less gross than bodily’ and of such hues/ As veil the Almighty Spirit.” Biblical allusions demonstrate the subliminal significance of the landscape to the individual, and it is one that mirrors the awe of Wright’s persona in the face of a more wintery environment.
Portraying a similar, cooperative relationship between individuals and the landscape to that of Moving South is Judith Wright’s Brother and Sisters. Samuel Taylor Coleridge also depicts this respectful alliance to an equal degree through his poem, This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison. Though the characters within Wright’s poem had many colonial ideas in remembrance of their past landscape intended to impress upon the Australian environment, they never come to fruition, and this is clearly depicted through symbolism, “now their orchards would never be planted.” Coming to a complete understanding of the harsh brutality and unforgiving nature of the Australian terrain, the personas, “never crossed the mountains to the coast. / But they stayed on.” By accepting and cooperating with their present surroundings, even though the emblematic naturalistic barrier of the mountain further prevented their colonial intentions, the individuals are able to become resilient and adaptable, a trait they learned from the Australian environment and one that is highlighted through the disjunction.
Coleridge also introduces the notion of the remembered landscape and its role in understanding the present, as the persona reminisces nature, “…of which I told; The roaring dell, o’erwooded, narrow, deep, / And only specked by the mid-day sun”. Utilising cumulative listing to describe the image of the landscape, one that is dark and impure, Coleridge demonstrates the individual’s deep knowledge regarding his environment, ultimately illuminating his positive relationship with it. In fact, even the understanding of time within This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison is completely determined by the natural world and indicated through symbolism, “when the last rook/ Beat its straight path along the dusky air/ Homewards, I blest it!” Additionally, time is discussed though natural concepts within Brother and Sisters, “The saplings sprouted slyly; day by day”. Sibilance and repetition give an atmosphere of time slowly passing as well as once again demonstrating the resilient and persistent nature of the tangible Australian landscape, as it continues to thrive despite what is put in its path. The siblings within Wright’s poem understand and respect this, and it allows them to have a cooperative relationship with their environment.
Hence, it can be concluded that individuals and the landscape experience an intense connection, one of mutual respect, alliance, and cooperation. This sentiment is absolutely distinct within Moving South and Brother and Sisters by Judith Wright, and This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Form, Style, and the Individual in Judith Wright’s Poetry and ‘The Lorax’
Through the process of exploring various representations of people and landscapes, particularly an individual’s connections to real, remembered or imagined landscape, society is enabled to unpack the complex human interaction with the world around them. The complexity of the relationship between people and landscapes is evident in its uniqueness and the consequences it has on the individual’s identity. When an individual manipulates the landscape for their own purposes, the result is the ultimate destruction of the landscape and the demise of an individual’s identity. Yet the landscape does have the opportunity to regenerate out of this state of destruction if the people sustain unity in their relationship with the landscape. These notions are represented in Judith Wright’s poems “Brothers and Sisters” and “Flame Tree In A Quarry” and Dr Seuss’ children’s picture book, “The Lorax”, which ultimately testify to how the exploitation of form and style enables composers to represent the distinct elements of the relationship between people and landscapes.
An individual’s intention of manipulating the landscape can be challenged through their relationship with the landscape. This is represented in Wright’s poem “Brothers and Sisters” and through the environmentalist and colonial context of Wright, the poem is noted to convey the ineptness of the European settlers who alter the landscape which ultimately results in the destruction of the landscape. The symbolism of the bridge and the orchards in “The blue print for the bridge was out of date and now their orchards never would be planted” suggests the lost connection in the relationship between people and landscapes, as a bridge symbolises a connection between people and landscapes whilst orchards symbolise the potential for wealth through business. Wright’s perspective to work in unity with the environment rather than seeing it as an antagonist force is represented in “There is nothing to be afraid of. Nothing at all.” Yet through the use of irony and the repetition of ‘nothing’, Wright is able to simultaneously communicate the European perspective of the Australian environment as being threatening and having the potential to kill them as their is no means of escaping, as the connotation of ‘nothing’ has been inverted to represent death.
Diverging from Wright’s poem, the acquisition of wealth without the consideration of maintaining the relationship between people and landscapes is evident in Seuss’ children book “The Lorax”. Through the benign textual form and use of simple syntax, Seuss is able to convey a complex, political idea to confront capitalism and communicate environmentalist issues to children of many generations. Through the “Thneed”, Seuss highlights the ridiculousness of people desiring to purchase products merely because they appear popular, while the environment is being destroyed, to the point where the Truffula trees are all felled, not for a product required to sustain human life, but for vanity’s sake. Seuss progresses this idea through the colours in his book becoming progressively darker and duller with larger and further dominating illustrations of the Onceler to represent to a young generation how individuals can destroy the landscape for the purposes of acquiring wealth. The fact that the Onceler’s identity is not represented in the simple illustrations conveys to children that when an individual sustains disunity in their relationship with the landscape, they lose their identity. Through this, Dr Seuss is also able to suggest, in a non-confronting format, the Faceless Corporations who ruin the environment and do not admit to their damages on the environment and people. Therefore, consequences arise for both people and landscapes, when the landscape is destroyed for mans purposes.
Although individuals may destroy the landscape for their own purposes, the landscape has the opportunity to regenerate if unity is sustained in the relationship between people and landscapes. This is represented in Wright’s “Flame Tree In A Quarry” where Wright’s environmentalist concerns are projected through an imagined landscape. Through the use of alliteration and unnatural imagery in “From the broken bone of the hill… leaps out this bush of blood”, the landscape is represented to be in a state of man-made destruction. Yet the word ‘leaps’ and the blood imagery signifies how the landscape is initiating its regeneration as blood is the necessary force to sustain life. The use of first person pronouns in “I drink you with my sight and I am filled with fire” represents how Wright feels personally affected by the destruction of the landscape. The symbolism of the fire represents how the landscape is is regenerating. The fact that Wright is ‘filled with fire’ indicates how her identity is positively shaped by sustaining unity with the landscape through its regeneration.
Similar to Wright’s poem, Seuss conveys the potential for landscape to regenerate if unity is sustained in the relationship between people and landscapes. The recurring motif of the word ‘unless’ allows the text to become simple and profound in its political and symbolic power as it infuses a children’s text with environmentalism. Dr Seuss communicates to children through the character of the Lorax that: “Unless someone like you cares an awful lot. Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” This is a powerful political statement concerning the regeneration of the landscape and reveals Dr Seuss’ brilliance in engaging children with environmentalism in a non-confronting form. Moreover, the word ‘unless’ is also noted on the brick circle where the Lorax rose to reinforce this simple message. The fact that the boy stands in the brick circle with his identity clarified suggests how he is sustaining unity with the landscape, allowing the landscape to have a positive impact on his identity. Therefore, the landscape is able to regenerate when people sustain unity in their relationship with the landscape.
Wright’s “Brothers and Sisters” and “Flame Tree In A Quarry” and Dr Seuss’ “The Lorax” represents the complex relationship between people and landscapes. “Brothers and Sisters” illustrates that when an individual manipulates the the landscape for their own purposes, they lose their identity. “Flame Tree In A Quarry” demonstrates the power of a landscape to regenerate and impact upon an individual’s identity. Dr Suess’ picture book “The Lorax” represents these notions explored in Wright’s poems yet in a different format.