The universality of the human experience is incorporated heavily into Gwen Harwood’s poetry. Specifically, throughout the poems ‘At Mornington’ and ‘The Violets’ the themes of childhood, maturing and death are explored by drawing attention to the past by means of memories in order to better understand the present.
‘At Mornington’ opens with a childhood memory, shaped by the adults in her life as evidenced by “they told me”. The personal pronoun “I” creates an anecdotal tone and represents emotional and personal memories. The line “I leapt from my father’s arms” emphasises the persona’s memory of childhood naivety with the verb “leapt” suggesting that as the persona carelessly leaped into the water, they are ignorant of death due to youthful innocence. Further, Harwood’s use of enjambment creates a stream of consciousness that highlights the childlike excitement experienced by the persona in their first interaction with the sea. Similarly, ‘The Violets’ utilises childhood memories to express innocence as seen with the rhetorical question “where’s morning gone?” This direct speech is presented as that from a child and reflects their confusion at the realisation that time passing is inevitable. The use of the word “thing” to describe time in “the thing that I could not grasp or name” further showcases the childhood innocence of the persona by emphasising the idea of time passing as incomprehensible to a young mind.
Memory is also utilised in Harwood’s poetry to explore the process of maturing. In ‘The Violets’ the persona’s experience of maturation is demonstrated by the growth of the violets. In the memory from the third stanza, the violets are described as “spring violets in their loamy bed”. Youthful imagery and the concept of rejuvenation is emphasised through the terms “spring” and “loamy”, reflecting the persona’s youthful state at this point in time. This is contrasted in the first stanza – set in the present – where the violets are described as “frail melancholy flowers”. The imagery of “frail” flowers illustrates the decline of the violets and mirrors the inevitable aging of all life. Also, the persona is of an older age at this point, therefore the imagery of the violets is a reflection of the aging and maturing of the persona. Likewise, in ‘At Mornington’ the acceptance of the aging process is showcased through the memory in stanza four. The description of “day-bright” is symbolic of youth and life and is contrasted with “night” – symbolic of death. The dialogue of “there is still some water left” uses symbolism as water is representative of memories and time spent together. This line showcases the acceptance of aging and eventually death as the water – memories – will continue to offer refreshment i.e. survive. This acceptance further emphasises the idea of maturity.
Additionally, the concept of death is explored in the poems