The Past


This study guide will help you analyse the poem “The Past” by Oodgeroo Noonuccal.  We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on composition, characters and narrator, language and style, imagery and metaphors, theme and message.

Presentation of the poem

Title: “The Past”
Author: Oodgeroo Noonuccal
Published in: The Dawn Is At Hand
Date of Publication: 1970
Genre: Poem

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kathleen Jean Mary Walker) was an Australian author with Aboriginal origins. Her work includes mainly poetry. She is most known for being the first Australian Aboriginal to publish a literary book. Apart from her literary career, she was also an activist and a campaigner for Aboriginals’ rights in Australia. The poem “The Past” (1970) was included in a collection of poems titled “The Dawn Is At Hand” (1992).


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 

Style of the poem and mode of expression

The style of the poem is quite solemn and serious while the mode of expression is that of a reflective reply. The speaker seems to reply to those who assume the past has no impact on the present: “Let no one say the past is dead.” (l.1)

The dream state the poet describes also sounds like a reflection on the past and it inspires readers to engage in a reflective process as well:

“Where we are one with all old Nature's lives
Known and unknown,
In scenes where we belong but have now forsaken.”  
(ll. 18-20)

The solemnity of the style is suggested by the inverted syntax, suggesting a certain degree of elaboration and by certain emphatic words such as “forsaken” (l. 20):


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The Past

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