The Wattle Tree – Judith Wright

-Oh that I knew that word!
I should cry loud, louder than any bird.
Oh let me live forever, I would cry.
For that word makes immortal what would wordless die;
and perfectly, and passionately,
welds love and time into the seed,
till tree renews itself and is forever tree –

Then upward from the earth
and from the water,
Then inward from the air
and the cascading light
poured gold, till the tree trembled with its flood.

Now from the world’s four elements I make
my immortality; it shapes within the bud.
Yes, now I bud, and at last I break
into the truth I had no voice to speak:
into a million images of the Sun, my God.

From The Two Fires 1955
The Collected Poems

© Judith Wright

The four prime elements (earth, water, air and fire) … are needed by the tree … (and define the world). But what is this process (love and time) that creates ‘a voice’ from a seed … oh that it could be known … the key to immortality.

In the beginning was the word … the start of the process … a never ending process as the tree continues to renew itself … regeneration … immortality … for the wattle the transformation is to a ‘flood of gold’.

Like the tree … in likewise fashion to nature … JW defines her immortality … and like the wattle to the myriad images of the sun … her metaphorical God … the truth could not be expressed by her voice (but perhaps by her poetry … and perhaps by becoming her ‘natural self’).

The wattle tree that JW is talking about is the Cootamundra Wattle a ball of gold in spring. The poem was written in 1955 when Judith Wright was starting to become recognised.

Note … the four prime elements are shown as columns of different materials at the back of the Hall of Memories at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra … behind the tomb of the unknown soldier.

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