Poem: The Surfer

Another great poem by Judith Wright (1915-2000), clearly influenced by the sprung rhythm of Gerard Manley Hopkins (whose rhythm was influenced by the triple repetitions of Robert Southwell).  She captures here particularly well the change in mood of the Australian beach after sunset but before dark.

The Surfer
He thrust his joy against the weight of the sea;
climbed through, slid under those long banks of foam –
(hawthorn hedges in spring, thorns in the face stinging).
How his brown strength drove through the hollow and coil
of green-through weirs of water!
Muscle of arm thrust down long muscle of water;
and swimming so, went out of sight
where mortal, masterful, frail, the gulls went wheeling
in air as he in water, with delight.
Turn home, the sun goes down; swimmer, turn home.
Last leaf of gold vanishes from the sea-curve.
Take the big roller’s shoulder, speed and swerve;
come to the long beach home like a gull diving.
For on the sand the grey-wolf sea lies snarling,
cold twilight wind splits the waves’ hair and shows
the bones they worry in their wolf-teeth. O, wind blows
and sea crouches on sand, fawning and mouthing;
drops there and snatches again, drops again and snatches
its broken toys, its whitened pebbles and shells.

Judith Wright [1971]: Collected Poems. Sydney, Australia: Angus and Robertson. Page 21. From The Moving Image, published 1946.

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