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Australia by AD Hope Summary

by Litinbox

‘Australia by AD Hope’ is a popular poem in which the author presents a critical view of his country. Though the author is critical of his country, he writes this poem out of love, affection and patriotism for his country. It talks about how Australia lacks in various aspects like culturally, geographically etc.

‘Australia by AD Hope’ reveals his patriotism, a question of longing for what all he wants his country to be. Hope is a poet, essayist, critic and teacher. He was one of the finest poets of 20th century Australia. An American journal celebrated him as ‘the 20th century’s greatest 18th century poet‘.

Australia by AD Hope Summary

Stanza 1

A Nation of trees, drab green and desolate grey

In the field uniform of modern wars,

Darkens her hills, those endless, outstretched paws

Of Sphinx demolished or stone lion worn away.

The first stanza of Australia by AD Hope starts with the description of the country. The poet says that Australia is a Nation full of trees. Yet the trees are desolate and bleak, they lack in colour and liveliness. The poet calls Australia a “nation of trees” painted in “drab green and desolate grey“. This brings a sense of monotony and lifelessness.

People give importance to their face and nobody cared about the face of the country. The poet points out the resemblance of the country to a Sphinx. Sphinx is a creature that symbolises great wisdom. The people’s uncaring temperament has lead to such an obliteration, the loss of self.

The comparison of hills in the 5th lines to the “paws of Sphinx demolished or stone lion worn away” suggests that the landscape of Australia once has the grandeur (or has the capability of great wisdom and grandeur) now looks desolate and lifeless.

Stanza 2

They call her a young country, but they lie:

She is the last of lands, the emptiest,

A woman beyond her change of life, a breast

Still tender but within the womb is dry.

The second stanza of Australia by AD Hope describes the geography of Australia. Hope compares the country to a woman. Although people call her (Australia) young, she is not young; she is geographically very old. The line “She is the last of lands, emptiest” indicates a sense of barrenness and finality.

The poet continues that this woman is beyond repair. Her breast is still tender when her womb is dry. She still has the lactation capability but it is of no use because she lost the fertility. As it is the womb, not the breast, which involves in procreation, mere tenderness of breast has nothing to do with fertility.

The emphasis is that the land is dull, dry, desolate and empty in the fact that it doesn’t have any procreational value. Procreational value, in the sense, the country doesn’t have its own tradition, culture and history; Also it doesn’t endeavour to create its own.

Stanza 3

Without songs, architecture, history:

The emotions and superstitions of younger lands,

Her rivers of water drown among inland sands,

The river of her immense stupidity

The third stanza of Australia by AD Hope presents the author’s critical view of his country. Australia has neither its own unique history, architecture and songs nor a better culture. In other words, Australia lacks deep cultural heritage which is evident in the fact that it hasn’t its own songs, architecture, and history.

When she can have the potential to be great, still her rivers of water drown among inland sands; she is not properly navigated so as to ensure the ship lands at its proper destination.

Stanza 4

Floods her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth.

In them at last the ultimate men arrive

Whose boast is not: “we live” but “we survive”,

A type who will inhabit the dying earth.

Monotonous tribes” refers to a group of people who lead a dull life with no excitement in their daily routine. The country is flooded with these tribes people stretching from the city of Cairns in the north Australia to Perth in the west.

The “ultimate men” arrive in these cities whose achievement is not the joy and happiness of living, but merely surviving. Migrators from various parts of the world have come to occupy the dying land and say it is not a land fit for living, but a land of survival. These are the last inhabitants of “dying earth“. The poet dares to call the country the dying land, the place which is not fit for life.

Stanza 5

And her five cities, like five teeming sores,

Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state

Where second hand Europeans pullulate

Timidly on the edge of alien shores.

In these lines the poet illustrates the negative side of Australia. Five major cities of Australia are likened to “five teeming sores“, because these cities are overpopulated and they drain the important sources of the country like parasites. Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Canberra and Adelaide are the five cities mentioned in the poem.

In addition to this, second hand Europeans spread, occupy and breed rapidly in the country. The phrase “second hand Europeans” refers to the European settlers in Australia who now reside in these cities. The phrase “timidly on the edge of alien” suggests that they are not on the lap of their mother land.

Migrants usually come to occupy these cities and drain them of all resources available. The local people are left a meager amount to be fed as the resources have to be divided among all inhabitants including those new.

Stanza 6

Yet there are some like me turn gladly home

From the lush jungle of modern thought, to find

The Arabian desert of the human mind,

Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come,

In this stanza of ‘Australia by AD Hope’, the poet tends to think in a positive way. The phrase “Arabian desert of the human mind” is a metaphor that refers to a barren but a genuine mental landscape. The poet hopes that, just as prophets historically emerged from deserts, a return to this mental simplicity may bring new insights or wisdom.

In simple words, though the country has numerous shortcomings, people like the poet, when they turn from such lush jungle of modern thought, hope that they would one day receive prophets from deserts with a good news about Australia.

Stanza 7

Such savage and scarlet as no green hills dare

Springs in that waste, some spirit which escapes

The learned doubt, the chatter of cultured apes

Which is called civilization over there.

In these lines of Australia by AD Hope, the poet describes a powerful, bold and fierce spirit that arise from the barren desert of human mind. This spirit manages to escape the “learned doubt” and “chatter of cultured apes“.

The ‘cultured apes’ call themselves civilised in a country where there are no green hills dare to spring up. The poet hopes for a positive change in his country which is yet very old, uncultured and uncivilised.

Poetic Devices in Australia by AD Hope

Australia by AD Hope employs various poetic devices. These devices help building the themes of the poem and so on. Here are some important devices used:


  •  “Floods her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth“: Australia is metaphorically described as being flooded with people living monotonous lives.
  • Arabian desert of the human mind“: The human mind is compared to a barren desert, suggesting a place of clarity and potential for prophetic insight.


  •    – “Like five teeming sores“: In this line, the cities are compared to sores.


  •    “Savage and scarlet”: The repetition of the ‘s’ sound in this line.


  • Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state“: The cities are personified as parasites that drain the country.
  • Her five cities“: Australia is personified as a female entity.

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