HSC Notes: 2 Unit General English: Kenneth Slessor

North Country

North Country, filled with gesturing wood,
With trees that fence, like archers' volleys,
The flanks of hidden valleys
Where nothing's left to hide

But verticals and perpendiculars,
Like rain gone wooden, fixed in falling,
Or fingers blindly feeling
For what nobody cares;

Or trunks of pewter, bangled by greedy death,
Stuck with black staghorns, quietly sucking,
And trees whose boughs go seeking,
And tress like broken teeth

With smoky antlers broken in the sky;
Or trunks that lie grotesquely rigid,
Like bodies blank and wretched
After a fool's battue,

As if they've secret ways of dying here
And secret places for their anguish
When boughs at last relinquish
Their clench of blowing air

But this gaunt country, filled with mills and saws,
With butter-works and railway-stations
And public institutions,
And scornful rumps of cows,

North Country, filled with gesturing wood–
Timber's the end it gives to branches,
Cut off in cubic inches,
Dripping red with blood.

Stanza 1

Stanza 2

Stanza 3

Stanza 4

Stanza 5

Stanza 6

Stanza 7

General Notes

Study Questions

  1. Explain how and why the trees and the valleys are personified in stanza 1.
  2. Explain in your own words the simile of trees:
  3. Stanza 2 contains the first significant pause (marked by the semicolon on line 8). Explain the change in tone and imagery which follows this in stanzas 3,4 and 5.
  4. Comment on the use of the hunting term 'battue'. What effect is the poet hoping to achieve?
  5. a) In stanza 6 North Country has become 'gaunt' country. Comment on this and on the use of the verb 'filled'.
    b) Comment on the effectiveness of the listing technique employed in this stanza (cumulation).
  6. a) What effect does the repetition of 'filled with gesturing wood' have in the final stanza?
    b) Is it different from the opening line of the poem?
    c) Comment on the effect of the final statement:

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