South Country- Kenneth Slessor Poem Analysis
In the poem ‘South Country’ Kenneth Slessor adopts a cynical view of the Australian landscape through a series of imagery, with a judgemental tone. He takes the reader on a journey from the bushy bushland to the harsh desert. In stanza 1, he suggests their departure from the city with “after the whey faced anonymity”, metaphorically referring to the idea of a crowded city of white people, undiluted and without any other races and colours mixed into the scene, perhaps signifying his sympathy towards the indigenous Australian’s cultural exorcism from the Australian civilised society during the 19th century.
This ideology is further emphasised with “after the rubbing and the hit of brush”, which physically refers to decrease in vegetation, and metaphorically refers to the diminishing conflict between the Aboriginal and civilised Australian races. Stanza 2 sees the continuation of the extended metaphor in “argument of trees were done” indicating a change in scenery, from a bushy landscape, to a terrain of “gliding planes.
” However, there is also a second meaning, alluding to the end of plagued black-white relations in the urban life of Australia. This idea is further emphasised “The doubts and quarrelling, the plots and pains. ” Slessor indicates this rivalry between the two races do not exist in the outback of Australia through “All ended by these clear and gliding planes. ” Slessors distaste to the dissension is evident in the simile “Like an abrupt solution,” suggesting a quick resolution of the inequality in the outback.
Past the farms and the cultivated landscape, lies the desert, which Slessor conveys with bleak imagery “The monstrous continent of air floats back”, implying humankind’s quarrels are pathetic compared to the toxic desert environment. The “rotting sunlight and the black // bruised flesh” further emphasises the harsh treatment of the aboriginals. The journey through the landscape continues throughout the poem, “Dwindled hills are small and bare”, indicating they have travelled such a large distance the mountains are barely in sight.
The hills also represent the conflict amongst humankind, which he later describes as “rebellious buried, pitiful. ” The next line “pushed up a knob of skull” alludes to the landscape as if it were a graveyard, haunted by the people buried under the harsh desert terrain. Overall, Slessor has the reader go along both a physical and metaphysical journey through the outback Australia. He reminds us that the quarrels and conflicts between the Indigenous Australians and White Australians are lost and forgotten in the merciless climates of the South Country.