HSC Notes: 2 Unit General English:
Country towns, with your willows and squares,
And farmers bouncing on barrel mares
To public houses of yellow wood
With "1860" over their doors,
And that mysterious race of Hogans
Which always keeps the General Stores....
At the School of Arts, a broadsheet lies
Sprayed with the sarcasm of flies:
"The Great Golightly Family
Of Entertainers Here To-night"–
Dated a year and a half ago,
But left there, less from carelessness
Than from a wish to seem polite.
Verandas baked with musky sleep,
Mulberry faces dozing deep,
And dogs that lick the sunlight up
Like paste of gold – or, roused in vain
By far, mysterious buggy-wheels,
Lower their ears, and drowse again....
Country towns with your schooner bees,
And locusts burnt in the pepper-trees,
Drown me with syrups, arch your boughs,
Find me a bench, and let me snore,
Till, charged with ale and unconcern,
I'll think it's noon at half-past four!
- Addresses the country towns - is generalising
and universalising the country town
- Willows and pepper trees withstand drought -
squares: village squares near shops; where fairs
- Bouncing on barrel
mares' - fat sturdy little horse; we can hear the trot
of the horse coming to the pub. The farmers still ride
in on horses - nothing has changed in this town
- Public House - hotel; yellow wood shows
age; deliberately uses old terminology to show it is old in
Australian terms (and fits into the rhythm of the line!). Note the
vivid imagery built up of the town from these first few
- General Store - an everything shop designed
originally to simply serve the need of the community.
Hogan is an Irish surname - many early
migrants to Aus. were Irish, and always seemed to own
General Stores. (mysterious - why did they
always seem to own General Stores?)
- First Stanza Note: Note rhyme scheme, strong
rhythm, one single sentence, then drifts off as poet's gaze
drifts off - establishes sleepy, laid back atmosphere.
- School of Arts - another major public building, where
concerts etc were held. The reference emphasises how small
the place is; its rural isolation.
- Broadsheet - a poster has fallen off the wall,
sprayed with the sarcasm of flies: it has fly poo on
it, sending up the family somewhat. Note use of colon -
makes us pause to consider this sarcasm. lies
is a pun; it lies on the floor, but also tells a lie about the
performance "To-night" (ie it will not be).
- Note capital letters and inverted commas to quote from poster,
and the dash at the end of the 4th line which makes us pause
to consider what has been said, and see that the broadsheet
does lie; makes us see the amusing side to it.
- carelessness - without care, emphasises relaxation
and sleepiness of town; the town doesn't want to offend
anyone by taking down their posters.
- Note plural forms of nouns (verandas, faces, dogs etc)
- these universalise; no names or personalities.
- baked - hot, invokes a smell of heat like from oven;
summarises Australian summer.
- musky smell of dust and haze of dust, eucalypt oils from
- Mulberry faces - purple of sunburn, drinking, heat -
people are baking too.
- dozing deep - shows depth of sleep; 'd' sounds
deep to hear.
- dogs - we can see what the dogs are doing; a shaft of
light hits the veranda, and the dogs when panting, appear to
be licking up the sunshine. Like paste of gold
- this simile suggests preciousness of afternoon, image,
sunlight. If the dogs aren't licking up sunlight, they're listening
to far-off buggy wheels which make them awake, sit up and
listen, then go back to sleep. The town is trapped in a syrup
of time, nothing moves, time is sluggish.
- Sense of carelessness and floating, note d sounds are
sleepy - dozing, deep, dogs, drowse.
- Sentence drifts off again....
- The narrator's voice picks up again, talking to the towns as if they
understand him. The narrator wants to be a part of the town,
not just an observer.
- Schooner bees' - a schooner is a ship with big sails that is fairly
slow moving. The bees are slow, and you can hear their
buzzing. locusts are cicadas, the burnt
is referring to the intense chorus that assaults the ears in
summer. This buzzing intensifies the heat and that there is no
movement - stillness of trees (not usually much wind when
- syrups - alcohol, but slow - golden, easy, slow, relaxed,
- charged - full of ale, perhaps drunk to the point of sleep?
unconcern - carelessness
- The poet finds the sleepiness seductive - this sensuous poem
appeals to sight, smell, and hearing, emphasised by the
sentence/stanza structure, one sentence per stanza.
- There are many colours and images; no tricky poetic techniques,
only one simile - all sound and repetition.
- Time is a recurring theme of Slessor's; he studies the effect of time
on humans and things they create. (yellowed wood, poster
etc). The seeming lack of time is seductive, but time passes no
matter how much you trick yourself - time is blind.
- However, this slightly more serious theme underlies the humour
of the poem.
- Slessor is often described as being a 'detached observer'.
Is there any evidence of the poet as observer in this poem?
Is the observer 'detached'? Why or why not?
- Comment on the effect of
- visual imagery in the poem
- repetition of words, phrases and sounds
- the rhyme scheme of the poem.
- How does the poet evoke the effect of the climate on the town
and its inhabitants?
- Explain in your own words the last line of the poem and the use of
the word unconcern.
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