"On Kiley's Run," "Brothers and Sisters," and "South of My Days" are all poems about Australia's past, including its settlement by the English--a process in which hopeful dreams met with bare reality. "On Kiley's Run" by Paterson is a poem about Australia's past and early settlement in the bush. The...
"On Kiley's Run," "Brothers and Sisters," and "South of My Days" are all poems about Australia's past, including its settlement by the English--a process in which hopeful dreams met with bare reality. "On Kiley's Run" by Paterson is a poem about Australia's past and early settlement in the bush. The poem uses the central image of the run of sheep to show how times have changed in Australia. Written in a rhyming form, the poem is narrated by a settler who remembers the "good old station life." This refers to the types of settlements that Australians who raised livestock would live in. They were generally granted leases to the land by the British crown. The life he describes is pastoral and communal, and the sheep use the run to feed themselves. He says of watching the racehorse, "the sport was free." Kiley, the ranch owner, did not charge people for watching racehorses, and they lived together peacefully.
However, droughts destroyed this carefree way of life, and "Old Kiley died--of broken heart." In the second half of the poem, Patterson sets up a contrast between the free and lively times when the ranch was run by the station to the more modern times when it is run by an absentee landlord who lives in England. The main concern of the new owner is "how to dock/Expenses." He cuts the wages of the people who live on the ranch, and the sheep that pass by can't use the land to graze on. The ranch does not have a neighborly feel now, and "All life and sport and hope have died." This poem is about the death of the early and what in retrospect was an exuberant settler's life in Australia and the turning over of ranches to private interests. Aboriginal people are not referred to in Kiley's poem, though the stations were built on land that the Aboriginal people lived on.
Like Paterson's poem, Wright's "Brothers and Sisters" also deals with the decline of the dreams of English settlers in Australia. The road where they settled "turned out to be a cul-de-sac," and this image is a metaphor for the settlers' lost dreams, as they realize that "the plans were lost" to build a bridge to the coast. Instead, they live on in a situation of gradual decay. Wright's poem, like Paterson's, uses a series of images to portray this decay, such as the pianola that "has lost a note." The idea of the "bush coming near" means that the Australian wilderness where the Aboriginal people live is reaching the settlers' land and reclaiming it. The theme of this poem is very similar to that of "On Kiley's Run," though it uses a more modern poetic form without rhyming and with stanzas of different lengths (Paterson's stanzas are of equal length).
"South of My Days" by Wright also talks about Australia's past through the voice of a narrator who grew up near the tableland. The narrator speaks about Dan, an old ranch hand who can narrate 70 years of stories about the past, including one about the drought in "nineteen-one." These stories are in the narrator's past, and she dreams about them as she thinks about "the lean high country/full of old stories that still go walking in my sleep." This poem is also similar to Paterson's in theme, though it also uses non-rhyming lines and a more modern form. For more information about aboriginal poetry, see the link below. There are poems by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, an Aboriginal poet and activist. You can compare her poems, such as "No More Boomerang," to those of Wright. Her poems deal with Aboriginal people and the Australian landscape.