David Malouf

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How does David Malouf's poem “Aquarius” explore the tension between life and death, conservation and destruction?

David Malouf's poem “Aquarius” explores the tension between life and death, conservation and destruction through the use of memory. Memories of perfect days such as the one depicted in the story can keep all our negative experiences and interactions with the natural world at bay, at least for a while.

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David Malouf's “Aquarius” recounts a perfect day, one of those “sovereign days” that never seems to have been intended for the dark. This beautiful day, recalled in tranquility, forms the basis of a special memory that will never die.

Although we ourselves will one day die, the memory of...

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David Malouf's “Aquarius” recounts a perfect day, one of those “sovereign days” that never seems to have been intended for the dark. This beautiful day, recalled in tranquility, forms the basis of a special memory that will never die.

Although we ourselves will one day die, the memory of that day will remain immortal in that it forms what the speaker calls a “counter world,” a paradise from which we have never been expelled, unlike Adam and Eve, who were forced to leave the Garden of Eden after disobeying God.

In this sense, the memory of a perfect day breaks the tension between life and death. It also keeps at bay the very real possibility of destruction of the natural world, a sad fact of our times.

As we behold the joys of nature on that unforgettable day, when “the sea's breath” deepened, and “the blue upon blue” of the water and the sky dazzled with its radiance of the sun, we feel ourselves and the beautiful landscape around us to be immortal. Neither we nor the environment can ever be destroyed in this special memory.

Recalling the details of this memory points towards conserving the natural landscape whose many wonderful, life-affirming aspects gave us such pleasure on that remarkable day and continues to do so through the power of memory.

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