POET; A D Hope
The first verses define a whole ethos of estrangement that was a feature of Australian society, at least of a certain kind, right up to and through the 20th century. It probably still exists, in sheltered drawing rooms where dowagers speak of England as “home”. They live in this country as exiles. At best they love this country, but they also love the “mother country” and it draws them back, often actually.
This is to be found in the 2nd and 3rd verses: with “Going away she is also coming home” and “Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart’s possession.” The first would apply directly to that feeling of being estranged from the mother country, the ghosts of the second being the ancestors, the family history that grew in another country and culture – the “exiled love”.
It seems that Hope, while writing about a bird and its entirely natural annual migrations, would have to have been aware of the underlying shadow of a meaning to do with people, the whole sense of ‘going home’ when home has now become a different place.
The fourth verse seems to intrude, though it can be logically explained. It is a fine description of an exotic scene and fits the theme of the bird being subject to ‘the lure of faraway places’, but is it specifically the faraway place
from which “the whisper of love” emanates.
Now we go back to the bird, which has not yet set out on its migratory flight and to the poet’s version of what drives her to undertaking that long and difficult journey. Here we have the first clear hint of danger, of this flight being special and onerous in “drives her” and “the waste leagues”.A wasteland is a far cry from the “warm passage to the summer station”.
There had been the promise of being “sure and safely guided”, now the bird is “a vanishing speck” and the “dominions” are “inane”. Instead of the course being marked out by “love”, now it is “unfriendliness” that she encounters – a hint of forces being pitted against her.