Rockpool Judith Wright Summary and Analysis


Rockpool is a 7-couplet Ghazal. It is an example of continuous Ghazal in which the ending of the first couplet runs into the beginning of the next couplet. This Ghazal has been taken from Wright’s collection of 12 Ghazals namely Shadow of Fire. 

It gives voice to the personal experiences of the poet as a citizen of Australia. It does not make man the centre but instead shows how one life destroys the other.

Thus Wright challenges pre-occupation of Ghazal like love, spirituality etc and explains destruction in the Australian landscape to foreground the emotions. In this way, she introduces a new way of reading the Ghazal.

Stanza 1

My generation is dying after long lives
swung from war to depression to war to fatness

In the first stanza, the poet says that the people of Australia, whom she addresses asMy Generation”are dying because of forces used by humanity itself.

According to her war is external violence that causes psychological depression in the mind of humans which further leads to the war that ultimately leads to destruction and waste. Thus the poet tells how war is the source of all kinds of depression and destruction among the people.

Stanza 2

I watch the claws in the rockpool, the scuttle, the crouch-
green humps, the biggest barnicated, eaten by seaworms.

In this stanza, the poet talks about the dying generation in the ecology. She says that she has seen claws of the birds and other aquatic animals eaten by crocodiles which hide by remaining inside the water and attack the prey swiftly so that they may not find time to run away.

The poet also sees the seashells which in spite of being huge in size are eaten by sea worms that are quite small in comparison. The poet here probably refers to the attack of foreigners who attacked Australia by remaining undetected, conquered it and defeated the people who were though quite large in number.

Stanza 3

It comes to the biggest wave, the irresistible clean wash
and black swirl. Where have the dead gone?

In the third stanza, the poet says that one big wave which is quite irresistible washes off all the signs of destruction and then vanishes away. The poet raises a rhetoric question where the people have gone who died struggling against the enemies.

Thus she brings out the similarities between sea life and human life. In the sea, the big wave of water is irresistible while on the land, war is irresistible. Both cannot be defended and take away all the signs of destruction.

Stanza 4

At  night on the beach the galaxy looks like grin
Entropy has unbraided Bernice's hair.

The poet says while sitting on the beach in the night, she watches galaxy smiling as entropy (or the energy that causes chaos) has just created Bernice’s Hair or cluster of stars which was named after the wife of Ptolemy who offered her hair (which she loved most) to Gods for the safety of her husband in war.

The hair vanished from their place and became a patch of stars in the sky which were called Bernice’s Hair Here again the smiling universe hides some kind of destruction as war hides the killing of people on the land or water wave hides the sings of destruction in the sea.

Stanza 5

We've brought on our cancers, one with the world.
I hang on the rockpool's edge, its wild embroideries:

The poet says that humans in the world have brought with them all the tools of destruction like greed, lust, war etc. She sits on the edge of rockpool watching the colourful bubbles coming out of the water.

These bubbles are though colorful and attractive yet they are short-lived. Hence like the bubbles, humans also have such colorful desires that lead to their death.

Stanza 6

Admire it, pore it, this, the devouring and mating,
ridges of coloured tracery, occupants, all the living.

In these lines, the poet says that every person has been occupied with the colorful desires which lead to creation as well as destruction. Thus one admires and gets absorbed into the destruction and creation in the world of which he is a part.

Stanza 7

 The stretching of toothed claws to food, the breeding
on the ocean's edge. "Accept it? Gad, madam, you had better."

In the end, the poet says that killing and destruction for the food (or in other words war for the sake of greed) and the creation on the seashore (or in other words creation of new civilization) are part of the world that is not in the control of humans.

Hence she raised a rhetoric question that should we accept this system or not and then answers herself that we will have to accept it.