Beach Burial (Kenneth Slessor)- Analysis
Softly and Humbly to the Gulf of Arabs,
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.
Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire Someone,
it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;
And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,Written with such perplexity,
with such bewildered pity,The words choke as they begin -"Unknown seaman" - the ghostly pencil Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of the wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men's lips,Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,Whether as enemies they fought,Or fought with us, or neither
; the sand joins them together,Enlisted on the other front.
Although not blatantly obvious at first, Kenneth Slessor's emotive and poignant poem Beach burial is a poem concerned with raising the awareness of national identity. Now I found this hard to believe at first - For me to be able to use this poem, (as it has been my one of my favourites for years) I though that for it to have ANYTHING to do with national identity I would have had to use my creative ability to dissect and warp aspects of the poem that COULD have something to do with national identity if the poet had actually CHOSEN to write about national identity. Basically a lot of windbagging- and as much I was looking forward to see how great my powers of persuasion were I finally realised that they wouldn't be necessary. I realised that even though Slessor's Beach Burial doesn't ramble on about the Australian lifestyles and the Australian landscapes, It is a poem solely based on the importance of national identity.. heck- it doesn't even mention the word 'Australia' in it! But what Slessor is trying to say here doesn't refer just to the Australian identity it refers to the importance of every countries national identity and, in the long run, the unimportance of it.To give you a bit of a background, Kenneth Slessor was an eminent Australian Journalist for a great part of his life, and because of this, When World War 2 came around he was chosen be Australia's official war correspondent.
He was to report on the Australian activities in the War and after it was all over he was to write the official history of those activities. He actually resigned in 1944 and never wrote this projected history, however the whole story is told in his diaries and dispatches which reveal an Australian patriotism which is partly genuine and partly came with the position.In the poem beach burial Slessor writes...