The well known poet, Oodgeroo of the Noonuccal tribe, uses her two poems, Song of Hope and The Dawn is at Hand, to examine coming equality between her people, the Aboriginal race and the White community. These two poems both aim to convince Aborigines that racial equality is imminent. She explores this concept by making use of poetic devices. To understand how Oodgeroo achieves this aim, it is important to examine the form, tone and imagery used in the two poems.
Oodgeroo has uses the characteristics of dramatic monologues to assist her in examining the approaching parity between the Aborigines and the Whites. The Dawn is at Hand and Song of Hope, both follow the poetic characteristics of a dramatic monologue, with a singular speaker addressing “[her] people” (Song of Hope 1) and “dark brother” (The Dawn is at Hand 1). In both poems, the poet’s voice is central to the poem. Oodgeroo develops the poem by addressing her people in second person plural in The Dawn is at Hand and grouping them together as one group by using first person plural in Song of Hope.
By personally addressing her people in this poem, the poet voices her personal emotions and thoughts regarding the situation, evoking the same feelings in the reader. Dramatic monologues are used to not only reveal a certain situation but also how the situation has affected the character. Through her poems, the poet exposes her cultural context of the poem and develops her view on the situation. This positions the audience to empathize with her and her people for their negative treatment from the ‘Whites’.
Oodgeroo, employs her unique position as an Aborigine, to speak both for, and to, her race, people who were “bound and frustrated” (Song of Hope 17) causing “tears [to] shed” (The Dawn is at Hand 5). As the two poems progress, the speaker tells her people that equality is coming, now with the reader empathetically positioned by her side. The readers begin to believe that the Aborigines have gone through enough suffering and it is time for the coming of equality.
Oodgeroo has constructed her poems with specific word choices to create an appropriate tone which represents the arrival of unity between the “Dark and White” (The Dawn is at Hand 17). The tone in the poem persuades the reader to seek for equality between the white and aborigines. Certain elements, including use of emotive words, have assisted in creating this tone, evoking compassion in the reader. In the Song of Hope, the poet refers to words such as “shame” (6) and “sorrow” (22), bringing the injustices suffered by the Aborigines to the attention of the reader.
In the Song of Hope, Oodgeroo has incorporated many abstract nouns, such as “mateship” (28) and “joy” (29), which serves to evoke the feeling of being immersed in a spiritual reality. This enables the audience to glimpse the bright future filled with hope for both races. Another factor which affects the tone, is the rhythm of the poems. In song of hope, the poem is quick paced with a specific beat, making the readers want to repeat the song over and over, immersing themselves in the coming of equality.
On the other hand, Dawn is at Hand only has intermittent rhythm and is much more slowly paced, allowing the reader more time to reflect on the possibilities of equality between the two races. The poet believes if this desire for equality is evoked, her people will find the courage to “Go forward proudly and unafraid” (The Dawn is at Hand 9), and there would be no doubt “[the] shame of the past will be over” (The Dawn is at Hand 11). All these elements add up to create the tone of persuasion and certainty in the coming equality of the Aborigines and ‘Whites’.