annie asked in Arts & HumanitiesPoetry · 2 months ago

Can someone explain the second stanza of the poem the old prison by Judith Wright?

The rows of cells are unroofed, 

a flute for the wind's mouth, 

who comes with a breath of ice 

from the blue caves of the south. 

O dark and fierce day: 

the wind like an angry bee 

hunts for the black honey 

in the pits of the hollow sea. 

Waves of shadow wash 

the empty shell bone-bare, 

and like a bone it sings 

a bitter song of air. 

Who built and laboured here? 

The wind and the sea say 

-Their cold nest is broken 

and they are blown away- 

They did not breed nor love, 

each in his cell alone 

cried as the wind now cries 

through this flute of stone. 

5 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    Black honey? Was the poet on drugs?

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  • 2 months ago


    ...  .......  ....

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  • 2 months ago

    "The old prison referred to is the ruin at Trial Bay, near the now seaside resort of South West Rocks, Kempsey, New South Wales.

    In 1816 the brig 'Trial' was seized by some of the convicts aboard. In January 1817 it's wreck was located in a wide, deep bay near the mouth of the Macleay River. The bay was then named after the wrecked ship. It became a place of shelter for coastal shipping and prison labour was brought in to enlarge the area with a breakwater. Work began on the construction of a prison, the first wing completed in 1879 but the first prisoners did not move in until 1886. The prison was closed in 1903 but re-opened during the 1914-1918 war. Over 500 German prisoners of war were held there but the building was once again closed after WW1. Many years later due to the ravages of war and vandals the ruin is but a shell of it's former self but the atmosphere within the remaining walls is tangible."

    Easy to Google. 

    The wind is looking for the wreck of the ship "Trial". When I first read this, I thought it was a reference to a slave ship, because of the "black honey". But I guess it's . reference to the convicts and their black hearts. 

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  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    Possibly a reference to the prison ship that transported convicts that sank near the site of the prison. Maybe you need to find out more about the ruins at Trial Bay to understand the context.

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  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    Your teacher doesn't want our thoughts. She wants yours.

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