The following is a 500 word essay from my Year 11 English class.
The poetry of Judith Beveridge explores the themes of man’s relationship with nature and the appreciation of the natural world. In the poem “The Domesticity of Giraffes” we are confronted by the disturbing relationship man has with nature when man has the power to control. “Orb Spider” on the other hand, confronts us with the beauty of the spider when man has no power over nature and is forced to just watch how elegant a small thing can be how perfect the universe is. Both poems use vivid and potent imagery to convey Beveridge’s concerns.
In just looking at the title of “the Domesticity of Giraffes” we are already given the images of home life of giraffes. When we look at “Orb Spider” we are just give n the simple picture of a spider, nothing else. But in looking at both first stanzas we can see through the use of similes and metaphors that the giraffe is bored, lonely and suffering;
“She languorously swings her tongue/like a black leather strap as she chews”— The Domesticity of Giraffes
Whereas the spider is free, beautiful and busy;
“I saw her, pegging out the web/ thin as pressed flower in the bleaching light.” — Orb Spider
The giraffes home is premade, her food is given to her without any effort and that her homelife in captivity is cruel and crippling her. Beveridge’s underlying statement would be this giraffe deserves to be free, to be wild and to be the giraffe she can be (seen in stanza 2).
Contrasting the first stanza with the Orb Spiders first stanza we see the spider has freedom and is her own housewife busily fending for herself. A strong use of colour and sensory imagery contribute to display the theme of the reverence for nature Beveridge has.
“She was so beautiful spinning her web/above the marigolds the sun hadmade/more apricot, more amber;…”
The spider has its own power and control over her life. An example of this is “pegging out her web” (first line, stanza 1). This metaphor proposes to us that the spider is her own housewife, making her own pattern, her way to traverse a little portion of the sky (stanza 2, line 6-7) and her own web to catch food for later. “Pegging” is also associated with hanging out clothes. So this spider is already doing housewife duties. The calming word choice Beveridge uses in Orb Spider is very beautiful to our senses. When looking further we can see her words are very sun related (solar, apricot, amber, flame) this can also be a hidden metaphor that the sun is the source of life, can be life.
The observer of the spider identifies this as a very beautiful creature, this creature has power over its own life. When we are told about the giraffe we are given an animal that lacks the extra salt for her dietary intake “endlessly licks the wire for salt/blown in from the harbor” and also lacks the most important thing – freedom. Perhaps glimpses of freedom are blown in from the harbor. Ultimately this giraffe has no power over her life and is put on display in front of “a gum chewing audience”.
In conclusion Beveridge succeeds on all levels of getting the reader to also think about the beauty nature has with its own natural word compared to a man-controlled environment.