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“Elegy for Drowned Kid” is a poem written by Australian poet Bruce Dawe in the 1960’s. An elegy is an unfortunate poem or tune that regrets the death of an individual. This poem implies that the persona had a close relationship with someone who had actually drowned or loss their child to drowning.
This poem has 5 four-lined stanzas. The first and last lines rhyme with each other while the middle 2 lines rhyme with each other. This creates a song like quality to the poem.
The first 3 verses of the poem end with questions. This structures the concept of moms and dads grieving with unanswered questions. The last two verses are enjambed. This offers the effect of the parents recognizing there’s no point in questioning their deaths but to be at peace with it. This poem is providing some consolation to the individuals who have actually lost loved ones, primarily children, to drowning. The poem often describes Greek mythology.
There is an ‘old king’ whom is presumed to be the Greek god of the ocean Poseidon, who resides in the sea and looks after drowned kids.
In this poem, the old king takes a ‘shining haul’ of children with his ‘sure’ net. This suggests that lots of children have been taken by him. The usage of the word ‘sure’ implies that nobody is actually safe from him and that it is fated to happen. It could likewise mean human beings can not avoid nor control the ocean. However, the personality describes his care as ‘solicitous’ and ‘tender’.
This reveals that the king is kind and caring to the kids. In an effort to alleviate the moms and dads’ distress, using folklore communicates the notion that the children are not just gone however instead they are being looked after in a safe ‘kingdom’.
Dawe utilizes a simile when explaining the moms and dads who are, ‘calling like birds by the water’s edge”. This usage of simile produces the image of frenzied and alarmed parents consistently calling out the names of the kids who have actually drowned. The significance of utilizing birds instead of any other animal is to create an image that there are lots of moms and dads who have actually experienced their kids drowning and they collectively call out to the water for the king to return them. The personality also uses simile when explaining the kids who visit their parents’ dreams who are ‘fluid as cetaceans’.
This comparison to the boys to porpoises suggest the bittersweet idea that the boys have been down in the ocean for so long that they have become accustomed to swimming in the oceans and into their parents’ dreams. The persona also uses imagery when describing the boys’ skin as ‘moonlit’. This could be literal or symbolic. Literally, it could mean the boys’ skin is as pale as the moon. However, symbolically, it could be skin that has not been in the ‘sweet sun’, which is life.
The use of alliteration in the line “From leaden-lidded sleep, softly to steal” slows the tone of the poem down. This creates a dream like quality to the rhythm of the poem which mirrors the actual words of the poem. The repetition of the word ‘upward’ in the last stanza helps create the dream like quality. It quickens the rhythm of the poem and emanates excitement. This could be a reflection of the emotions of the parents when having a dream about their children.
This poem uses many techniques to convey it’s main ideas. It is a comforting poem for people who have lost their children to the water. The poem is relevant to us as Australians because we are community that spends a significant amount of time by the beach and in the water. We are also a community that has many deaths caused by drowning.
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