A nation of trees, drab green and desolate grey
In the field uniform of modern wars
Darkens her hills, those endless, outstretched paws
Of Sphinx demolished or stone lion worn away.
call her a young country, but they lie:
She is the last of lands, the emptiest,
A woman beyond her change of life, a breast
Still tender but within the womb is dry.
songs, architecture, history:
The emotions and superstitions of younger lands,
Her rivers of water drown among inland sands,
The river of her immense stupidity
her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth.
In them at last the ultimate men arrive
Whose boast is not: 'we live' but 'we survive',
A type who will inhabit the dying earth.
her five cities, like five teeming sores,
Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state
Where second-hand Europeans pullulate
Timidly on the edge of alien shores.
there are some like me turn gladly home
From the lush jungle of modern thought, to find
The Arabian desert of the human mind,
Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come,
savage and scarlet as no green hills dare
Springs in that waste, some spirit which escapes
The learned doubt, the chatter of cultured apes
Which is called civilization over there.
Asutrralia (Yup, that's what's written. Mr W) is Hope's
criticism of general Asutralian society and the country itself.
He calls the five capital cities
""five teeming sores,
Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state.""
""Yet there are somne like me turn gladly home
From the lush jungle of modern thought...""
It is interesting to note that AD Hope has both moved around the
eastern states a lot, seeinbg the various contrysides, and he lost
himself in the namred landscapes of eastern Asutralia in his later
years. Australia is a poem of seven stanzas, each stanza consisting
of four lines with the Rhyme scheme being ABAB. Little enjambment
exists in the poem, most of the stanzas stand alone as paragraphsd.
The first five stanzas talk about Asutralia, how it is both a new
and old country, geologicallky old but politcally new, and how it
is both Erupean colonial and nautally indivual.The next two stanzas
talk about the wilderness in the centre of Australia and how if
you move away from the population cnetres of he coastal plain you
""...the chatter of cultured apea,
Which is csalle civilisation over there.""
As a poem about Australian society, th main meaning present is how
bad it really is. This is quite clear in some of the words of the
text: the quotes above show this. Part of his criticism is aimed
towards the intellect of the average Asutralian, he calls Asutralia
stupid and devoid of culture, he calls Australkians second hand
Europeans, and he calls the society cultured apes.
""Without songs, architecture, hsitory;
""The meotions and suoperstions of younger land,""
""The river of her immense stupidity
""Floods hger monotonous tribe...""
""...second-hand Europeans pulluate
""timidly on the edge of alien shores.""
(References to Australia continue below. Mr W.)
Standradisation is one of many poems ever written that condemn
the sate of modern society: another poem condemning pollution, mass
production, mechanization of the workforce, etc. It also tells us,
howevr, of the mass production of Mother Nature: how 'she gathers
and repeats the cast of a face, a million butterfly wings.' Essentially
though, the poem is still just about showing the faults of modern
society. These are the main two meanings you can find in the poem:
the evil of society today:
""the house not made with hands...
vacuum cleaners and tinned soup.""
and the warning against 'complete standardization:'
""Anonymous faces plastered with her smile.""
The structure of the poem consists of 10 stanzas of four lines each,
with the rhyme scheme being ABAB. The first five stanzas show enjambment:
together they tell us about the ills of society. Then a twist, or
volta, in the poem occurs: the next five stanzas form the second
part of the poem. This next part tells us of the mass production
occurring in nature, and then finally the terrible future of complete
standardization. The effect of the twist in the poem is to tell
us of some of the things wrong with society in the first phase of
the poem, and then in the second phase a crescendo builds up every
stanza until the final one, which presents us with a 1984 -like
picture of everything being the same.
Like most other good poets, AD Hope uses fluent and detailed language
in his poems. The reason for this is to allow us to picture what
the poet is thinking more clearly, and this allows us to see the
meaning that the poets has put into place better. For instance,
the descriptive language in
""Huge towns thrust up in synthetic stone,
and films and sleek miraculous motor cars""
paints a picture of one of those modern 'horror cities:' instead
of a city being the place where people relax and meet and have fun,
it is a place where people work and factories are located. It is
a place of concrete buildings and smog.
In that sense, Standardization is much like 1984 - it is a text
that is a warning: it is a warning of what could happen. The difference
between the two is that 1984 looks at a continuation of governments
from the 1948 English Socialism era, while Standardization looks
at Australian society in the 50s and 60s.
Reading the poems from a 20th centruy context gives an entirely
different meaning than if you read them when they were written.
The poem Asutralia makes less sense now that the 'second hand Europeans'
are now just a proportion of the melting pot of cultures: multicultural
society. Australia has also got a distinct style of art, achitecture
and culture that Hope expresses as being non-existent when he writes
the poem. Other words of his still count, however, mainly those
which talk of the geogarphy of Asutrali, which would take milliions
of years to change, not three decades.
Incription for a War is also read differently due to the time between
niow and the war itself. As a young adult, I have no knowledge of
the Vietnam War other than which was taught to me. Future generations
will klnow even less and the poem will not mean much to them. How
you read the pioem all depends ion how much you know of the history
of that time. For example, people old enopugh to remember that time
and even veterans will understand the poem well and recall just
how big the fuss was at the time.
Standardization is perhaps the poem that has suffered the most in
the thirty or so years since it was written. As a criticism of society,
it is very unorginal in its form and meaniung. Since it is so common
to see and read rhese criticisms of society, people have been accustomed
to them and can condition themselves no to pay much attention to
them. Today's public do not mutter much about the conditoion of
society, and how houses are not made with hands and tinned soup
is readily availiable. The 1984 like picture of 'Standardization'
has also gone out of style since the Cold War and the 'threat of
In conclkusion, it is interesting to see how much the reading of
these three poems have changed since the time they were written.
As a poet, AD Hope shows considerable skill in his work, and it
is only the twin forces of change and time that have brought about
contextual changes in the reading of his work. As far as his critical
works go, Hope shows a large amount of scope on his ability to comment
on society, its events, and the forces shaping it.
Poems for Sixth FOrm, 1975, F. J. Allsop et. al., McGraw Hill Book
Cross-Country, 1988, John Barnes and Brian McFarlane, Rigby Hienemann.
'Aurtralia loses a literary giant,' 15 July 2000, The West Australian.