Looking at these two poems describing a natural scene (“A Mid-Summer Noon…” & “Bell-Birds”, say what you think each poet values and how they differ in their appreciation and their expression.
The value of serenity and the value of commotion is explored through A Mid-Summer Noon in the Australian Forest and Bell-Birds respectively. While Harpur enjoys the peaceful aspects of the Australian landscape among the business, Kendall finds joy in the sounds of the bush, specifically the birds, due to the connection between them and his childhood.
Harpur uses contrast between stanzas to highlight the beauty he finds in silence and
peacefulness. The comparison between the hornet “droning” and almost out of place and the landscape in which “quiet, vast and slumbrous, reigns”, demonstrates the appreciation of serenity that Harpur has in the Australian forest. The layout of the poem in which the first and last stanza are the shortest, the second and third are medium length and the middle is the longest shows the extent of movement or peace within the poetry. Stanza one and five discuss the pure peace that Harpur values and the way it makes him feel as he reflects, “musing thus of quietness.” The small amounts of movement in stanzas two and four are a build up and decline from the short burst of noise and intensity shown in stanza three by the hornet. The fact that it is the longest stanza and uses enjambment, which forces the reader to speed up, demonstrates the disruptive nature of the hornet to the peace that Harpur finds so comforting. Through expressing the various aspects of nature through the shape of the poem, Harpur is able to show the value in silence and serenity.
In contrast to this, Kendall’s Bell-Birds shows the value found in the opposite- the noises of the landscape and the joy found through that. Through the lines of the first stanza, “sweeter than singing,/ The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing” introduces the positive feelings he has about the sounds of the Australian landscape by comparing them to music, even going to the extent of saying that they are more beautiful, possibly due to the fact that they are natural. Through the personification of different months and seasons throughout the poem, Kendall associates the noises with life and gaiety as well as a sense of respect due to the link nature as a living force. In the final stanza, Kendall reflects upon the emotions the sounds of the landscape give him stating that “Often I sit, looking back to a childhood/ Mixt with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood.” Through the fond memories he associates with the noises, Kendall is able to fully appreciate the beauty found in the commotion of the wildlife especially in comparison to the “city and alleys” in the world he now lives in.
To understand the sounds of the bell-birds, follow the link and listen; maybe you will find a love for the sounds of the Australian landscape similar to Kendall! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_72WGRT0mJw
While the appreciation and expressions of the Australian landscape are vastly different in Harpur and Kendall’s poems, I personally find the true value of the landscape when looking at both poems together. The complete beauty of the landscape is found within the mixture of serenity and commotion, silence and sounds. The fact that the landscapes of Australia can have both of these things almost simultaneously is where the true beauty lies.