death of a bird

death of a bird


A D Hope’s The Death of the Bird has been often analysed and analysed well over the years since it was first published in 1948. A good treatment of the poem can be found at where it is described as “one of the greatest lyric poems in English of the tewentieth century.”

This blog also gives a good description of the style, genre and atmosphere of the poem, making an interesting point, for instance, about the use of feminine and masculine rhymes, alternately, throughout the poem. Briefly, migration/station makes a feminine rhyme, heart/chart a masculine one. This creates a musical phrase that remains consistent and reliable throughout.

If you remember that rhyme is a component of rhythm, you will understand how rhyme can be an essential element of the music of a poem.

As far as the mood goes, I have always felt that the mix of romantic feeling and classical restraint is weighted towards the latter, which arguably prevents the over-sentimentalising of the story of this bird and this death. Because it is so measured, structurally and emotionally, its very calmness becomes a sort of contrast to the facts it describes.

This is classical and definitely not confessional or dealing directly with personal emotions, unlike poets contemporary to Hope, poets like Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath.

The above-mentioned blog is a good study, but there are a few additional points I could make, starting with some comments on theme.

The first verses make me think of the 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...

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