Holland’s Nadir

By Les Murray b. 1938 Les Murray
Men around a submarine
moored in Sydney Harbour
close to the end of wartime

showed us below, down into
their oily, mesh-lit gangway
of bunks atop machines.

In from the country, we
weren’t to know our shillings
bought them cigars and thread

for what remained of Holland’s Glory:
uniforms, odd, rescued aircraft,
and a clutch of undersea boats

patrolling from Fremantle. The men’s
country was still captive, their great
Indies had seen them ousted,

their slaves from centuries back
were still black, and their queen
was in English exile.

The only ripostes still open
to them were torpedoes
and their throaty half-

American-sounding language.
Speaking a luckier one
we set off home then. Home

and all that word would mean
in the age of rebirthing nations
which would be my time.

Source: Poetry (June 2014).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2014
 Les  Murray


Australian poet Les Murray grew up in poverty on his grandparents’ farm in Bunyah, New South Wales, a district he moved back to with his own family in 1985. The recipient of numerous honors for his poetry, he has published collections including The Ilex Tree (with Geoff Lehmann, 1965) and Dog Fox Field (1990), both winners of the Grace Levin Prize for poetry; Subhuman Redneck Poems (1996), winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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