Updated: Jul 21
Woman to Man is a poem from the collection titled the same which is the second collection of poetry by Judith Wright published in 1949. The collection consists of 44 poems. It won the Grace Leven Prize for Poetry in 1949. This poem is narrated from the perspective of a woman who describes the effect made by the sexual encounter with her husband until the time of labour. She expresses her feelings as a wife as well as the holder of her future offspring in her belly. This poem starts in the dead of night (when they have a sexual encounter) and ends in the dawn with the hope for the development of the embryo into a newborn baby to see the world.
The eyeless labourer in the night,
the selfless, shapeless seed I hold,
builds for its resurrection day –
silent and swift and deep from sight
foresees the unimagined light.
This is no child with a child’s face;
this has no name to name it by:
yet you and I have known it well.
This is our hunter and our chase,
the third who lay in our embrace.
This is the strength that your arm knows,
the arc of flesh that is my breast,
the precise crystals of our eyes.
This is the blood’s wild tree that grows
the intricate and folded rose.
This is the maker and the made;
this is the question and reply;
the blind head butting at the dark,
the blaze of light along the blade.
Oh hold me, for I am afraid.
The speaker is a newly pregnant woman. The poem begins in the dark. She says the physical intimacy that she and her husband had earlier has created a seed inside her that will soon be developed into a human being. She says this undeveloped piece of an organism in her body is silent, movable, deeper unseen from sight (as it is inside her womb) and is foreseeing the future (the days in light).
In the second stanza, she describes the baby as a soon-to-be-developed baby and not a fully developed one and it has no name to be called on. Yet she has already known that this is their expectation out of their sexual encounter, soon to become the third person in the family.
The third stanza is a description of the baby’s growth. Soon the baby will develop by holding the strength of its father and the flesh of its mother (as a mother is the one who feeds the baby with her breasts). It would be the important person in this whole world who would grow like a tree under their bloodline.
In the final stanza, the woman says the baby they have made will soon become a maker in future. It is the source of the rising question and it will be the answer to it in future. The baby is now developing in the dark which is soon to be out by a blade cut to see the dawn in the world. Now the woman asks her husband to hold her tight as she is afraid of the labour pain. The poem ends in the dawn.
CITATION: Wright, Judith. "Woman to Man." Collected Poems 1942-1985. Angus & Robertson, 1994, pp. 97-98.
~ Literpretation Team for Education