Judith Wright

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Provide a critical appreciation of Judith Wright's "Bora Ring."

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Judith Wright's "Bora Ring" lyrically expresses the loss of Australian tribal culture. Wright emphasizes the tribe's connection to the environment, but the rider who observes the ring is entirely disconnected from both, and incapable of understanding the departed tribe. The rider feels only fear at the thought of an "ancient curse" on the place.

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There is a mournful assonance in the opening words of the poem, with the long "o" sounds of "song" and "gone" emphasizing a sense of loss. The tribal dances, rituals and stories are "useless" and finally "lost." The dance, which was always hidden from interlopers in any case, is now a permanent secret: the dancers are now "in the earth." This is a grim reminder of legal and moral disputes about the ownership of land: stealing the earth in which these dancers are interred will do nothing to reveal their secret.

The second stanza continues to express the tribe's connection to the landscape, with grass still standing up to mark the dancing ring and apple-gums swaying in time to the rhythm of a past corroboree (tribal gathering), the wind in their branches mimicking a chant. The place is eerily quiet, however. These people—perfectly attuned to their environment—are no longer there to harmonize with it. The beginning of the third stanza echoes the first. The hunter is gone, along with the song. The nomads have stopped their wandering at last.

In the final stanza, the first line echoes the beginning of the second stanza. An important difference is that the outsider, and onlooker, is finally acknowledged (they are outsider and onlooker because they exist outside the poem and are excluded from the symbolic circle it describes). The role of this outsider, however, is to be alarmed by the fear of an "ancient curse," which they can only understand in Biblical terms. The final lines emphasize how entirely excluded they are from the bora ring and the lost world of the tribe.

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