Question 4: What are the significant themes of the early Australian poets?
Ans:Literature both reflects and is influenced by the country’s historical achievements. Because the indigenous people did not have a written script or literature, Australian literature emerged with the arrival of the immigrants. From settlers’ diaries to bush songs to literature of national consciousness, Australian literature evolved in tandem with the country’s socio-political changes. Australian literature began as an oral tradition rather than a written tradition. The Aboriginals of Australia did not have written languages when they were first contacted by Europeans. Songs, chants, tales, and legends, on the other hand, formed a rich oral literature, and because the Aboriginal tribes had no common language, these works were vastly different.
After the colonisation of New South Wales in 1788, written literature arrived in Australia. Reports about the new Island were sent back to England after the colonisation. The specifics of novel flora and animals piqued the public’s curiosity. As a result, the first publications were dominated by descriptions of fresh land and rivers, as well as summaries of what had been discovered so far on the new continent.
In Australia, poetry came first, followed by novels and theatre. Prisons were the birthplace of written Australian poetry. New South Wales was classed as a prison colony from 1788 to 1823, with the majority of the population being convicts. From 1793 forward, free settlers began to come. Because there were no official schools in Australia, only individuals who had been educated in their mother country (mostly England) could read and write. As a result, early settlers found it difficult to develop literary abilities. There was little demand for written communication such as newspapers since the people was poorly educated. At any gathering of people, sharing jokes and anecdotes was a popular form of entertainment. Because these stories were difficult to recall, rhyme was added to help the authors remember them. Later on, a consistent beat and metres were added. As a result of these transformations, Australian poetry arose. The first written poems served as a cathartic release of emotions, allowing inmates to express things they couldn’t speak publicly. They expressed their anguish in silence via poetry. Michale Massey Robinson, George Barrington, and Francis MacNamara, commonly known as Frank the Poet, are among the most well-known of these early poets. Themes of melancholy were prevalent in poetry during the period. In their pain, the inmates’ poems expressed empathy for the anguish of others. Due to a lack of paper and writing skills, the inmates were compelled to transform their poems into hymns.
Bush Ballads arose from these convict origins, and they have a rich lyrical heritage. Farmers, riders, and a slew of other common folk began composing poetry. Bush songs are firmly rooted in Australian culture and history. These are authentic representations of the historical period in which those people lived. The stories are fantastic, and they cover every facet of life in Australia at the period. Henry Lawson and Andrew ‘Banjo’ Paterson were the most well-known and well-loved Australian Bush poets.
With the launch of the most significant Australian literary journal, Bulletin , in 1880, a movement for nationalism in Australian literature was initiated. The impact of this is most felt in the poetry of A.B. Paterson ( 1864 – 1941 ) . Paterson is also known as ‘Banjo ‘ as he used that pseudonym for his early contributions to the Bulletin. His first volume of poems entitled The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses ( 1895 ) sold out in the week of its publication, and it went through six editions in six months. Poems from the beginning were published in newspapers. “Independent colonial newspapers played an essential role in the colonies’ intellectual and sociopolitical lives. They fostered the growth of new genres as well as publishing a lot of original poetry, most of it topical and ephemeral” (Bird 29). The Bush poetry was mostly written in The Bulletin, an Australian newspaper that first appeared in 1880 and dominated Australian culture and politics from 1890 to 1917. It was known as The Bulletin School of Australian Literature at the time.
Along with the release of the Bulletin, Australia’s most important literary newspaper, in 1880, a movement for nationalism in Australian writing began. A.B. Paterson’s ( 1864 – 1941 ) poetry bears the brunt of this influence. Paterson is also known as ‘Banjo,’ as he adopted that moniker for his early Bulletin articles. His first collection of poems, The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses ( 1895 ), sold out within a week of its release and was reprinted six times in six months. He became a well-known poet thanks to his poems about drovers, teamsters, bushrangers, picnic racing meets, and enmity between squatters and drovers. His other poetry collections were published in the 20th century.
Not only did the nineteenth century see the rise and dissemination of western civilisation on the newly discovered continent of Australia, but it also saw the creation of English poetry in a new environment as a new civilization evolved. Australian poetry began with traces of British poetry, but it progressively incorporated Australian themes from Australia’s landscape and people, while concurrently developing an Australian vocabulary and poetics. As a result, nineteenth-century Australian poetry provides an intriguing lens through which to examine the emergence of a new form of poetry.