While her poems are about personal experience they have wider significance.
At its heart, Gwen Harwood’s poetry explores the reality of human existence, utilising a number of personal experiences in order to impart meaning onto responders. The poem’s, father and son and At Mornington, explore countless thematic concerns including the loss of childhood innocence, comprehending mortality and maturation of individuals. Utilising a regular fluctuation of tense, between past and present, and her own personal relationships with others, Harwood’s poetry provokes an appreciation of the past, and reinforce the aforementioned themes, which highlights their universal significance.
Both at Mornington and father and son utilise past experiences to fully appreciate the present. Utilising at Mornington Harwood explores a childhood memory, at “the sea’s edge”, in order to highlight her perceived childhood invincibility in her naïve belief that she could defy nature by “walking on water/it’s only a matter of balance”, only to be saved by her father. This nativity is reinforced in the parable of the pumpkin, which grew upwards in “airy defiance of nature”. The religious allusion to st Peters ill-fated attempt to walk on water reinforces the blind faith and innocence of the child which is contrasted to the personas self-awareness and acceptance of her own mortality, “at that time of life, when our bones begin to wear “. This childhood recollection can be deemed as the commencement of her acceptance of death; however it is only upon self-reflection on this experience as an adult that the persona can come to a complete acceptance of her own mortality, as portrayed in the simile “the peace of this day will shine /like the light on the face of the waters”. Similarly encompassing this experience is night owl, in which the child persona is blind to the nature of death, regarding herself “wisp-haired judge ...the master of life and death”. The child’s blindness, an...
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