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Personal Choice 18


He was brought up out of the sea,

His tall body dead.

He was carried shoulder high

Between the sea and the sky.

The sun and the water trembled down

From his fingers and from the brown

Valley between his shoulders; and the spray

Fell before him as he passed on his way.

His eyes were dead, and his lips

Closed on death, and his hands

Cold with death. He is one now with ships

And the bones of pirate bands

Steeped in salt and knavery.

One with fish and weed and pearl

And the long lonely beat

Of the waves that curl

On shell and rock and sand

Of a deep drowned land.

He was carried shoulder high

Up the alleys of the sun;

And the heat

Washed him over from his head to his feet,

But you cannot give the body back breath

He is drowned, the tall one.

Has him by the throat

On the sand, in the sun.

Elizabeth Riddell

Elizabeth Riddell (1910 - 1998) was an Australian poet and journalist. Born in Napier, New Zealand, Elizabeth Riddell came to Australia in 1928 where she worked at Smith's Weekly and won a Walkley Award. In 1935 she moved to England. Her first short book of poems, The Untrammelled, was published in 1940. After the war she returned to Australia to continue working as a journalist, and in the 1960s became art critic and feature writer for The Australian. She was the first Walkley Award winner for The Australian, winning in 1968 and 1969 for 'Best Newspaper Feature Story'. In 1986 she was awarded Critic of the Year by the Australian Book Review. Riddell's poetry won the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry in 1992 and the Patrick White Award in 1995.

One of my favourite ‘teaching’ poems especially when wanting to introduce students to metaphor and personification (the representation of an abstract quality in human form), consider the eerie and wonderful:

Thin brother Death

Has him by the throat

On the sand, in the sun.


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