The poem is broken into three distinct themes – the first two verses speak of ‘his’ shame and broken spirit. Verses 3 and 4 speak of his determination to do something about his fate (take action). The last three verses speak of his suddenly being shot and dying. Also note the structure of rhythm and rhyme that makes the poem so enjoyable to recite.
Who but a man who is prisoner and broken buries his face in his knees and hides in the dark of his hair? This aborigine is in captivity and is sick with shame; so sick, he can’t bear to look up to the storm-smitten trees because it reminds him of all that’s been lost and the loneliness. It’s quite possible that he’s just been captured – colonial police and trackers standing over him; he may be in leg irons and been beaten after a struggle.
Wild game he used to hunt still come and act in the same way, but now he does not respond to them as he would have with his own instinctive mimic and step. Why? Perhaps he is not allowed to hunt anymore (hunting weapons banned by the white man because they could be too easily used as weapons of battle). Perhaps it is a continuation of his shame for he has no reason to hunt anymore – nobody left to provide for and no reason to maintain his own strength – a willing to die.
1989. HMAS Creswell is the Naval Officer’s training college situated on