Saturday 15 November 2014

Five Bells by Kenneth Slessor

Kenneth Slessor (1901 - 1971)
Australian poet, journalist & war correspondant. 
Born in Orange, NSW.
Moved to Sydney with his family when he was two.

Five Bells (1939) is his most famous poem.
About his artist friend and colleague Joe Lynch, who drowned, Five Bells is an ode to Sydney Harbour, time, memory and the past (wikipedia).

Australian writer Hal Porter described Slessor as: 
 "...a city lover, fastidious and excessively courteous, in those qualities resembles Baudelaire, as he does in being incapable of sentimentalizing over vegetation, in finding in nature something cruel, something bordering on effrontery. He prefers chiselled stone to the disorganization of grass."

If you would like to read the entire poem, please click here.
For now, I have selected the final stanza (below), as my own homage to Sydney and it's beautiful, dangerous waterways.

I looked out my window in the dark
At waves with diamond quills and combs of light
That arched their mackerel-backs and smacked the sand
In the moon's drench, that straight enormous glaze,
And ships far off asleep, and Harbour-buoys
Tossing their fireballs wearily each to each,
And tried to hear your voice, but all I heard
Was a boat's whistle, and the scraping squeal
Of seabirds' voices far away, and bells,
Five bells. Five bells coldly ringing out.
Five bells. 

 This post is part of Saturday Snapshot & AusReading Month.


  1. What a great idea for a post Brona, I love them all, but particularly the light on the coast walk shot.

    1. Yes that was the end of an amazing storm from a few Sculptures by the Sea ago.

      We sheltered under an overhang as we watched it swing by. Many folks sheltered under the larger sculptures!

      It was a very elemental, earthy experience.

  2. Hopefully heading there in late February/March!

  3. Thank you for sharing your lovely photos of your beautiful city. Someday, maybe we will visit!

  4. I love the series of photos and the poem...a beautiful homage! Thanks for sharing, and here's MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT POST

  5. Your lovely photos are the perfect accompaniment to Slessor's words. What a delightful post!
    Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment about the bridges I pictured. I enjoyed seeing a bridge in your blog post too.

  6. I like the way you always manage to find a suitable poem for your photos, I've come across this one before somewhere, but had no idea who wrote it - the lines abut the five bells ringing out stuck in my mind. My Snapshot is at -

  7. Wonderful post! I love water shots- the play of the light on water is always so beautiful!


I know that blogger comments can be a pain, but I do love to hear from you. Please log onto a google account to make it as easy as possible.

All spam & anonymous comments will be deleted and comment moderation is in place for most posts.