Monday, 13 September 2010

Ah Dope

There are no jokes like the old ones, some say. Certainly the students' habit of changing round the letters on the AD Hope building at the Australian National University goes back to the first day the building was opened, (which is not actually very long ago, even in Canberra terms). Anyway, AD Hope was a fine, if occasionally controversial, poet and writer. He described Patrick White's prose, in a review of Tree of Man, as 'verbal sludge', which didn't endear him to everyone. Strangely enough the views he expresses in this poem, in which he attacks the philistinism he saw in Australia (while also managing a sideswipe at Europe as well), would probably have endeared him to grim old Mr White.


A D Hope

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.

They 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.

Without songs, architecture, history:
The emotions and superstitions of younger lands,
Her rivers of water drown among inland sands,
The river of her immense stupidity

Floods 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.

And 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.

Yet 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,

Such 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.


  1. really like the poem! And can see where that guy's coming from with the patrick white comment. He can be hard work for sure

  2. Worm: "second hand Europeans pullulate timidly" - it's fairly damning, isn't it; but a good antidote to too much "Advance Australia Fair"