A Victorian Hang Man Tells His Love | Poem by Bruce Dawe
A Victorian Hangman Tells His Love Bruce Dawe
Dear one, forgive my appearing before you like this, in a two-piece track-suit, welder's goggles and a green cloth cap like some gross bee—this is the State's idea I would have come arrayed like a bridegroom for these nuptials knowing how often you have dreamed about this moment of consummation in your cell. If I must bind your arms now to your sides with a leather strap and ask if you have anything to say —these too are formalities I would dispense with: I know your heart is too full at this moment to say much and that the tranquilizer which I trust you did not reject out of a stubborn pride should by this time have eased your ache for speech, breath and the other incidentals which distract us from our end. Let us now walk a step. This noose with which we're wed is something of an heirloom, the last three members of our holy family were wed with it, the softwood beam it hangs from like a lover's tree notched with their weight. See now I slip it over your neck, the knot under the left jaw, with a slip ring to hold the knot in place . . . There. Perfect. Allow me to adjust the canvas hood which will enable you to anticipate the officially prescribed darkness by some seconds. The journalists are ready with the flash-bulbs of their eyes raised to the simple altar, the doctor twitches like a stethoscope —you have been given a clean bill of health, like any modern bride. With this spring of mine from the trap, hitting the door lever, you will go forth into a new life which I, alas, am not yet fit to share. Be assured, you will sink into the generous pool of public feeling as gently as a leaf—accept your role, feel chosen. You are this evening's headlines. Come, my love.
1. Describe the overall tone of this poem. How does Dawe achieve this? 2. Why did Dawe choose to write about Ronald Ryan? 3. How effective is the bridegroom metaphor? 4. What is the impact of the dramatic opening? What makes it so memorable? 5. Describe the language used in this poem. 6. Find out information about capital punishment in Australia and the attitude people had when Ronald Ryan was hanged