Life Cycle

The Poetry of Bruce Dawe
Compiled by Red Bingham with thanks to G Smith, Brisbane, Australia Left: Jacob dreaming of angels climbing a ladder to heaven

LIFE CYCLE For Big Jim Phelan

When children are born in Victoria They are wrapped in the club-colours, laid in beribboned cots, Having already begun a lifetime¶s barracking. Carn, they cry, Carn «feebly at first While parents playfully tussle with them For possession of a rusk: Ah, he¶s a little Tiger! (And they are«) Hoisted shoulder-high at their first League game They are like innocent monsters who have been years swimming Towards the daylight¶s roaring empyrean Until, now, hearts shrapnelled with rapture, they break surface and are forever lost, Their minds rippling out like streamers In the pure flood of sound, they are scarfed with light, a voice Like the voice of God booms from the stands Ooohh you bludger and the covenant is sealed. Hot pies and potato-crisps they will eat, They will forswear the Demons, cling to the saints and behold their team going up the ladder into Heaven,

And the tides of life will be the tides of the home-teams¶ fortunes -the reckless proposal after the one-point win, the wedding and the honeymoon after the grand-final«

They will not grow old as those from more northern States grow old, For them it will always be three-quarter-time With the scores level and the wind advantage in the final term,

That passion persisting, like a race-memory, through the welter of seasons, Enabling old-timers by boundary-fences to dream of resurgent lions And centaur-figures from the past to replenish continually the present, So that mythology may be perpetually renewed And Chicken Smallhorn return like the maize-god In a thousand shapes, the dancers changing

But the dance forever the same ± the elderly still Loyally crying Carn «Carn«(if feebly) unto the very end, Having seen in the six-foot recruit from Eaglehawk their hope of salvation.

A little about the A.F.L.

Australian Football (sometimes called Australian Rules Football) is the major form of football in sports mad Australia. The fanaticism associated with the sport is identical to that of American Football. The Premiership Grand Final (equal to the U.S.'s Superbowl) in Melbourne is always a 100,000 seat sell-out and is always played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (M.C.G.), which was the main stadium of the 1956 Olympic Games.

Life Cycle
Commentary by Ann Mitchell

'...beribboned cots, having already begun a lifetime·s barracking.· The poem begins as the child is born; developing simultaneously as the child grows. The poem is written in the style of a football commentary. The child being wrapped in the team·s colours as a baby may be wrapped in cloth at its christening, is the first tie between religion and football. Throughout the poem, footy rituals are as regular as the events on a religious calendar. The food, the clothes, the dedication; the life time devotion to a team are all expressed in this poem. God·s voice booms from the stand as the fans cheer in unison, and each individual·s belief is recognized and they are accepted as part of the team. The team is searching for salvation and pride when their name is elevated to the right hand seat next to the word ¶Premiers·

The analogy is continues with the mention of ¶Demons· and ¶Saints· (who coincidentally are football teams) as well as the ambition to ¶climb up the ladder into heaven· As the seasons come and go sometimes the team wins, sometimes they lose. The supporters however are always loyal. They will not grow old in the same way others do. Each season brings a fresh start, just as the Maize-God comes with fresh seed, this year may be the one. To the supporters their team is always ¶still in the game·, they may make the come back to win. As long as there continues to be the fresh young six-footers from Eaglehawk the supporters will keep worshipping their team and their favourite player as if he is God. And the cycle continues.

An appreciation of "Life-Cycle" by Bruce Dawe This ten verse poem is a testament to a distinctly Australian invention, Aussie Rules football. Football is portrayed as a religion, is food and drink, is the life-cycle itself. Football nourishes the young and renews the old. Its mythology is life-sustaining. It brings "salvation", the punch-line of the poem. The poet sprinkles the language of football liberally: "barracking...Carn ... streamers...scarfed ...Demons...Saints...ladder...final term...three-quartertime...boundary fences". The argot of the grandstands is heard in Carn the Hawks.. Carn the Cats...Carn the Bombers." Dawe likens the initiation of a baby to the game when he is held aloft at his first game as spectator like young wrigglers swimming to the surface in the flood of light and sound in the roaring heaven ("empyrean"), of the MCG no doubt. This football has epic and heroic connotations. Dawe's tone is ever so slightly mocking but gently so. He respects the strength of football's cultic life and the lifesustaining qualities it offers. He knows it is a life-giving religion offering an initiation, a journey, a wedding, a honeymoon and salvation. He does not deny its worth nor does he fully side with its rituals. He respects the fact that Australian football is a perpetually renewing mythology and although the dancers change, the dance goes on. I enjoyed this poem and rate it a public statement of a fact. The power and passion of Victorian football in its homeland is wonderful to behold. Dawe records it all for posterity. See also Noel Rowe Modern Australian Poets 1994, Ch. 3 A821.309 ROW
G. Smith: 26/8/97

ROUND 20 P P = played | W = wins | D = draws | L = lost | F = for | A = 1 Brisbane Lionsagainst 20 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Port Adelaide Adelaide Collingwood Melbourne Geelong Kangaroos Essendon West Coast Hawthorn Fremantle Western Bulldogs Sydney Richmond St Kilda Carlton 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 W 16 16 13 12 11 11 11 10 10 10 9 8 7 7 5 2 D 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 L 4 4 7 8 9 9 9 9 10 10 11 11 12 13 14 18 F 2326 2167 2101 1931 2031 1821 1996 1754 2000 1759 1748 2124 1862 1660 1602 1546 A 1698 1634 1862 1717 1983 1844 2022 1738 2025 1931 1938 2074 1823 1969 2059 2111 % 136.98 132.62 112.84 112.46 102.42 98.75 98.71 100.92 98.77 91.09 90.2 102.41 102.14 84.31 77.8 73.24 Total 64 64 52 48 44 44 44 42 40 40 36 34 30 28 22 8

Fitzroy¶s Champion high marker of the Thirties Wing WILFRED µCHICKEN¶ SMALLHORN (1930-1940) Games: 150 - Goals: 31 Wilfred Smallhorn played his 1st game of football for Fitzroy at age 19. When interviewed in those early days he stated "To wear a maroon and blue guernsey, you would give your right arm." His team-mate, Dan Murray recalled in later years,"For a small man he could mark over big ruckmen and was tremendously fast and could baulk and turn and do all the things necessary for a star winger." He was the winner of the Brownlow Medal in 1933 and was the first player to be presented with the medal on Grand Final day at the MCG in front of a then record crowd. µChicken¶ played for Victoria on nine occasions and gained carnival selection in 1933.

The holy spirit of larrikinism in Australian religious verse In a culture that has been largely shaped by Christendom, it is possible to have religious larrikins who are poets doing their divine task of holding the mirror up to ourselves. If we cannot laugh or cry or endure the test in good humour, our religious consciousness might indeed be a sham and inauthentic. Our religious poetry's characteristic spirit is humour, insight, and refreshment.
William Blake painted Jacob¶s Dream ± Angels climbing the ladder to Heaven

The Maize God is representative of the ripe grain which was the base of the Mayan agriculture. The Maize God is combined with the God of Flora, Yumil Kaxob in certain areas of Mesoamerica.The Maize God is usually shown with a headdress of maize, or corn, and a curved streak on his cheek. He is also different from other gods because he is portrayed as a youth. However, the Maize God was powerless by himself. Rain and drought controlled his fortunes and misfortunes. He suffered when the Death God exercised drought and famine, and the Rain God would protect him.

This is where the young recruit from Eaglehawk lives.