An Analysis of the Poems of Gwen Harwood

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The poetry of the revered Gwen Harwood is demonstrative of time enduring ideas that thereby craft her work memorable and durable irrespective of time and place. This premise derives from the principle concern of Harwood’s writings; an examination of the nature of human existence and all of its many constituents. Harwood’s poetry thus pertains to the internally triggered or inherent component of the values and attitudes of the individual. Dictated by the fundamental conditions of the human psyche, the nature of such a component is invariable and thereby sturdy over time. It is therefore through an exploration of the establishment, development and maturation of the inherent that Harwood’s poetry may be deemed interminable. ‘Triste Triste’, ‘Mother Who Gave Me Life’ and ‘Father and Child’ pose three texts that demonstrate such theory through an investigation of such timeless concerns as the impermanence of human existence, the continuity of human experience and the evolution from innocence to experience.

Harwood’s ‘Triste Triste’ forms an intimate acknowledgement of the transient quality of human existence. As suggested by the notable Harwood scholar Alison Hoddinott, ‘the poet is aware of the hunger of the self for a permanence that will defy mortality and the limitations of the self’. The poem may thus be regarded as a commentary on the eternal pull between that which is physical, instinctive and corporeal, as encapsulated by the ‘heart’, and that which is metaphysical, spiritual and celestial, as proposed by the ‘soul’. Depictive of a fleeting separation of heart and soul – the heart confined to the ‘tomb’ of the body and the soul ascending in exploration, ‘Triste Triste’ intimates that an earthly permanence is paradoxical. An attempt to approach the ‘unbearable light’ of the afterlife is therefore futile and made possible only through death; the ultimate separator of heart and soul. In recognising the inextricable nature of this relationship, mortal...
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