Have you ever felt like time was running past you? That the world kept spinning while you just stood still? Time is a central theme in many of Kenneth Slessor’s poems, however it is primarily explored through ‘Out of time’ and ‘Five Bells’. Slessor has made it obvious that he is aware that time continues whether we want it to or not and this is what allows us to put into perspective the notion of humanity’s dominance.
Slessor uses a cyclical structure in both poems proving effective in helping portray the theme of time. This is shown through the repetition in the beginning and ending lines in Out of time and is similarly explored in Five bells via the sound of the bells that unify the poem which are also repeated.
In ‘Out of time’ we see the powerful idea of time being depicted very skilfully through the use of the similie “like a hundred yachts”, this representation is very forceful and allows the reader to feel the notion of time through the use of this image. In stanza two we see time being expressed as a wave, this water imagery is used in a variety of ways throughout many of Slessor’s poems and is very effective as it captures both the repetitive nature and the authentic erosive effects of time.
Time’s versatile affect on life is seen through the use of successive contrasts such as “quench and ripen” and “kiss and kill”. The anticipation of the future is personified in the line “Tomorrow begs him, breathless for his lack” referring to those who cannot wait for another day, presumably in excitement. Yet the oxymoron “beauty dead” reminds us of the decomposing effects of time and that life must ultimately end no matter how much we wish it would stop to prevent beauty and youth from fading.
While the rhythm we see in the third stanza reinforces the persistent progress of time, the hyperbole, “a million years”, underscores the infinite expanse of time and hints at human insignificance, which creates the feeling that we cannot ever hope to keep such...
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