In order to properly understand and summarize the poem "Australia" by A. D. Hope, it is important to know something about the writer. He was a teacher and academic. Although he wrote poetry when he was young, his first volume of poems, The Wandering Islands, was not published until he was 48 years old. He was renowned for his sharp intellect, relentless satire, and savage criticism of other poets.
Because Hope was known for his acerbic and sharply critical writing, we can more easily understand the first five stanzas of "Australia," in which he seems to offer a purely negative opinion of his native country. These five stanzas are written in contrast to the last two, in which Hope gives a more positive viewpoint of his homeland.
The first two lines of the poem say that the country's landscape is monotonous, just as the uniforms of an army are monotonous, one blending into the other. Hope writes that though some people call Australia a young country, in fact it is very old, so old that it is dry, empty, and bereft of idols. Other lands have songs, architecture, history, and superstitions to sustain them, but Australia has none of these.
Australia's civilization consists mainly of "second hand Europeans" that inhabit "five cities, like five teeming sores." These people are "monotonous tribes" with "immense stupidity." Here Hope refers to the emigrants, mainly from Britain, that populated Australia and built its cities. They came to a desolate land in which at first it was difficult to survive, much less maintain a high quality of life. He does not mention the Aborigines, the true native Australians that were there long before the island was discovered by white people, but perhaps the reference to the age of the land is partially an indirect reference to them.
In the final two stanzas, Hope ceases to criticize Australia and begins to praise it. He writes that when he is abroad, he turns "gladly home." In his opinion, Australia possesses a unique spirit "which escapes the learned doubt" and is even similar to the clarity found by the ancient prophets of the desert. When he is overseas, he tires of the "chatter of cultured apes which is called civilization over there." Instead, he prefers the pure simplicity of Australia.