Throughout ‘Echoes of Cloncurry,’ the poet uses allusions to depict Australia’s past. It may require some research on the reader’s part to fully understand what these allusions are and how they relate to what the poet’s trying to convey. But, at the heart of the poem is the speaker’s desire to connect to the land and have a spiritual experience there.
Explore Echoes of Cloncurry
‘Echoes of Cloncurry’ by Juliette A. H. Cavendish is an image-rich poem that describes Cloncurry, Australia, and alludes to its complex past.
Throughout this poem, the speaker describes their experience in Cloncurry while also suggesting information about what happened there in past generations. They allude to the lives, customs, and losses of the aboriginal people as well as to the first colonists to arrive in the country. There is a focus on the land itself and how powerful it is. There, the speaker hopes to connect to something deeper, something that transcends the present. When the poem concludes, the speaker has found themselves as part of the broader history of Cloncurry.
Structure and Form
‘Echoes of Cloncurry’ by Juliette A. H. Cavendish is a ten-stanza poem that is divided into sets of six lines, known as sestets. These sestets do not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. But, close readers can find a few good examples of rhyme. For example, in a few of the stanzas, the poet chose to rhyme the last two lines. The first stanza with “wake” and “bake” is a good example. There is another in the third stanza with “dancing” and “lancing.”
Cavendish makes use of several literary devices in ‘Echoes of Cloncurry.’ These include but are not limited to:
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sounds at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “dragonflies” and “drink” in line four of the first stanza.
- Allusion: occurs when the poet mentions something but does not provide all the details. In this case, the poet is speaking about a specific area in Australia but doesn’t inform the reader of it. It requires research (if the reader doesn’t have prior knowledge) to figure out where this place is.
- Imagery: when the poet uses especially vivid descriptions, they’re employing imagery. These examples need to trigger the reader’s senses or make them feel as though they too are smelling, hearing, etc. For example, “Our footsteps silent, skin to bake” and “Then voices lost in flood wet rhythm.”
- Simile: occurs when the poet uses “like” or “as” to compare two seemingly unlike things. For example, “Certain I am, as ochre on the ground” from the tenth stanza and “ants in lanes of dancing, / Poised as army” from stanza three.
Stanzas One and Two
I am lulled by the imprint of ancient tales,
Written in blood red, vermilion hue.
Man and tattered dreadlocks us,
As dragonflies we drink our thirst,
By skimming tinnie, v-line wake,
Our footsteps silent, skin to bake.
Cattle hands of sundial time,
Following shadows, follow the
Shadowing of black lines baked,
Clockface copper brown.
Scribblings of Bourke and Wills,
Single notes on fence-line scores,
Endless woollen barbs record.
In the first stanza of ‘Echoes of Cloncurry,’ the speaker begins by describing their experience in this area of Australia. When there, they are “lulled by the imprint of ancient tales.” The area evokes a deep history that interests and compels the speaker. These tales bring forth images that strike up the speaker’s imagination in regard to traveling across the country.
The second stanza specially mentions Burke and Wills, the first Europeans to cross Australia from south to north. By alluding to their “Scribblings,” the speaker is looking back through the history of the country and attempting to imagine what it was like to be there at that time.
Stanzas Three and Four
Trees, their heads Medusa style,
Limbs twisted, blackened, gnarled.
Nests of straw perch over bones,
Weathered ghostly white.
And freeway ants in lanes of dancing,
Poised as army, pincers lancing.
A kookaburra laughs to pierce pretence,
At glancing back, past visions fed,
More than vivid dreaming time.
I know imposter that I be, for I be
Seeking touch of Spirit see.
People, land, I need to know.
Knowledge to be bartered.
The following stanzas are slightly clearer as they spend their lines describing, presumably, what the speaker saw (or imagines one can see) in Cloncurry. There are trees with twisted heads that remind the speaker of Medusa. Everything is alive but, at the same time, evokes a feeling of death. There are “bones” and an army of ants that move as though dancing along a freeway. These examples of figurative language show how full of meaning and wonder the speaker sees Cloncurry as being.
There is an example of personification in the next stanza as the poet describes the kookaburra and then transitions into describing their presence there. The land has such a history and power that they knew themselves to be an imposter when they’re standing within it. They’re seeking out something, “touch of Spirit see.
People, land” and “knowledge” but can’t help feeling as though they don’t belong there.
Stanzas Five and Six
Beneath the starlit emu sky,
And stringy bark from light to dark,
Voices sang of tapestry tales,
Of how and why, and who began.
Then voices lost in flood wet rhythm,
Dancing painted, poignant vision.
No clouds dare blotch this perfect sky,
That stretches endless canvas.
With earth a crown of jewels below,
Dazzling those that purchase.
My eyes now close to brightest white,
As Spirit now, within my sight.
The tales of the past and the people come into play in the next stanza. The poet also adds to the overall atmosphere of the poem, describing the sky, the voices, and more. It’s all like a “vision,” one that poignantly tells the history of that area of Australia.
The sixth stanza is juxtaposed with the first, lightness against darkness. It appears that the speaker is on a sort of spiritual journey, one that is “within” their sight in the sixth stanza. They’re making progress towards a goal they’ve wanted to achieve.
Stanzas Seven and Eight
Fleetingly seeing, with moments to spare,
Invasion of caravans, horse stroke ablare.
Invade now as greedy, they hurry and race.
For hot as hotter, at hottest pace.
Come racing small humps of camels past,
From dreaming to hurry, slow ponder to fast.
Lizards cold freeze, as heat screams cicada,
Galahs squawk pink murder as
Bull bars charge through.
And pieces of peace they bargain and plunder.
I blank out their noises, connection I seek,
Passing stares from lambs thirsty,
Their mothers dead weak.
The speaker’s experience in Cloncurry is inspiring them to imagine the past and the “Invasion of caravans.” The imagery gets darker in this part of the poem, with the speaker perhaps suggesting something of the destruction Europeans caused when they colonized Australia. Words like “murder,” “screams,” “plunder,” “dead weak,” and “thirsty” present an unhappy image of the past. It is far less romanticized than it was in the first stanzas.
Stanzas Nine and Ten
We reach snake’s head, and engine is mute,
And still becomes river and river is blue.
The ancient are fading, my eyes round and wide.
And teardrops are forming as brolga birds calling,
And I become echo, and echo I make,
Seared in heat scorching, tears mine now are falling.
Certain I am, as ochre on ground,
My heart now connected, I make not a sound.
For silence is honest, Cloncurry above me,
With heart beating friendly, its rhythm to lull me.
And I become echo of all that has been,
As I become part of Cloncurry’s long dream
The poem starts to come to its conclusion in the ninth stanza when the speaker describes becoming part of the landscape and the past. “Tears mine now are falling” as they move through the “heat scorching.” Their heart is connected to the ground, and everything is “mute,” not making “a sound.” It’s with this silence that they can see into the truth of the past with “Cloncurry above” them. The poem concludes with the speaker suggesting that they’ve become a part of the past, part of “Cloncurry’s long dream.” They, like the aboriginal people, the original colonists, and men like Burke and Wills, are all part of the country’s history.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Echoes of Cloncurry’ should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘No More Boomerang’ by Oodgeroo Noonuccal – features how the aboriginal culture is in crisis for the growing materialism and colonial hegemony. Explore more Oodgeroo Noonuccal poems.
- ‘The Man from Snowy River’ by Banjo Paterson – is a bush ballad. It tells the story of a young man who single-handedly pursues a prizewinning colt and brings back the mob of wild horses. Read more Banjo Paterson poems.
- ‘To India – My Native Land’ by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio – provides a contrasting picture of India in her past and at present, under British rule. Discover more Henry Louis Vivian Derozio poetry.