Fractal Myth

The Poetics of Michael Leunig.

[Michelle Chapman ©2001 - Honours Thesis]

Let it go. Let it out.
Let it all unravel.
Let it free and it can be
A path on which to travel.
[M. Leunig, The Prayer Tree, HarperCollinsPublishers, East Melbourne, Vic., 1999 (1990), p62.]

This is my Honours Thesis for English Literature at the University of Sydney. Unfortunately Mr Leunig's copyright prevents me displaying the cartoons which accompany his poetry (or more correctly, which his poetry accompanies). I have provided you instead with extensive footnotes pointing to the books and newspapers where these cartoons are published. If you wish to view a particular cartoon, and cannot locate a copy of it, please contact me.


In Aristophanes' comedy, The Frogs (405 bc), the classical Greek playwright explored the important therapeutic benefits of poetry, showing that skilled poets are essential for the well-being of society.

Euripides: 'What do you want a poet for?'
Dionysus: 'To save the City of course.'(1)

This perception of poetic power has survived through the centuries to the present day. Despite this, there is no denying that the public appreciation of poetry has undergone a drastic decline. Wordsworth commented on this effect over a century ago, in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, attributing it primarily to an expansion of mass communication and popular culture, prompted by the monotony of city life:

For a multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the encreasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies.(2)

In today's fast-moving, information-dense world, this problem has escalated dramatically. One notable exception to this trend, however, is the Australian cartoonist-poet, Michael Leunig, who teaches us that the idea of boundaries between poetry and everyday life is a self-imposed and harmful delusion.

In 'The Use of Poetry and The Use of Criticism', T.S.Eliot claims that every poet wants to be "enjoyed by as large and various a number of people as possible."(3) Michael Leunig has consistently achieved this goal over thirty years spent producing "wondrous enquiries, drawings, fables, theories and verses"(4) for the delight and edification of Australian newspaper readers, and the Australian public at large.(5) Leunig's talent has filled sixteen books, he has had an exhibition dedicated to his art in the National Gallery of Victoria,(6) and one of his cartoons graces the cover of the Oxford Concise Australian National Dictionary.(7) In September 1997, Michael Leunig was named by the National Trust as one of a hundred "Australians who have made outstanding contributions in any field of human endeavour,"(8) an honour also accorded to other Australian poets, like Tom Keneally, Les Murray and Judith Wright.

Unlike these poets, however, Michael Leunig is not easily accorded a place in the Australian literary canon. One feels that this may be, at least partly, from choice, for Leunig has admitted that he found university "too theoretical. I had hands that wanted to work, too."(9) And work, Leunig has, developing his ability to communicate with a large and various audience, and making an impressive artistic contribution to our society. Introducing Leunig's Introspective, Helen Garner emphasises Leunig's significant contribution to Australian life:

Since the seventies his drawings, clipped from newspapers and magazines, have outlasted everything else that we stuck to our kitchen notice-boards and fridge doors. Long after the paper they were printed on had stiffened and turned yellow, the pictures could snag attention and stir emotion at the most mundane moment of domestic life.(10)

Michael Leunig's particular importance lies in his ability to bridge the social divide between popular and high culture. His most recent project is a collaboration with Peter Garrett(11) and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, to rewrite and illustrate performances of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals for a national tour, which includes the Sydney Opera House.

In 'The Use of Poetry and The Use of Criticism', T.S.Eliot states that:

The most useful poetry, socially, would be one which could cut across all the present stratifications of public taste - stratifications which are, perhaps, a sign of social disintegration.(12)

Michael Leunig's poetry fulfils Eliot's criteria for social utility. It is technically proficient, and rich in complex meaning, yet it is simple and captivating enough to find a permanent place in our hearts (and our kitchens). The following discussion will concentrate on some representative Leunig poems, investigating Michael Leunig's concern with the emotional health of society, and his prescription of potent poetic pills for our improvement, presented in a sugar-coated, cartoon form for easier administration. Leunig is one of the most powerful poets of the present day, but the question remains, whether our society is willing to take his message into our individual hearts.

In her exploration of Blake's Songs and Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads, Heather Glen looked at the way in which these poets "drew on and conventionalised elements of an older, more popular culture."(13) Blake uses the conventions of children's picture books, and Wordsworth, those of 'magazine verse', as a way of capturing public attention, and addressing their particular societal concerns. Michael Leunig follows this tradition, drawing on the conventions of adult political cartoons, and children's comics and picture books, which give him a nonthreatening, easily assimilated vehicle for his social criticism and advice. We conventionally expect this sort of art to be simple, even trivial, and incapable of withstanding deep analysis, yet Leunig disturbs these expectations, creating poetry which subtly ambushes the reader, entertaining and educating at the same time. Through his poetry, Leunig teaches us to re-evaluate our world, reminding us of the importance of imagination in our daily lives.

Leunig's cartoon format is particularly appropriate to the newspaper publication of his verse, for the picture initially attracts the readers' attention, and then keeps the message of the poem singing in their minds after they have walked away. Both the poetry and the picture are dense in complex meaning, and each compliments the other to produce the cumulative emotional effect of the poem, reversing any sense of triviality induced by the simple rhymes and squiggly line drawings. Although the texts of Michael Leunig's poetry can stand alone as individually complete poems, if their meaning is to be fully appreciated, consideration needs to be given to the role of each illustration in contextualising and expanding its poem's meaning. To consider either the text or its picture in isolation is to ignore Leunig's intent in presenting them as a pair.

In my discussion of Leunig's poetry, and its educative and therapeutic benefits for our society, I will be guided by a statement of critical principle contained in T.S.Eliot's essay 'Tradition and the Individual Talent':

No poet, no artist of any art has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets or artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead.(14)

Through my exploration of Michael Leunig's art, and his adherence to historically established conventions of poetry, I intend to show that his uniqueness is complimented by the uniqueness of the poets of the past, drawing parallels which allow one to experience what Wordsworth called:

the pleasure which the mind derives from the perception of similitude in dissimilitude.(15)

Notwithstanding the disparate circumstances of these poets, I shall suggest that, from Aristophanes (in 405 bc) to Michael Leunig (moving into the twenty-first century), there is a common concern for the mental and emotional health of other humans, especially those who live in cities, and a desire, through their poetic art, to alleviate some of this world's suffering - to save our souls.(16)

Artist, Leave the World of Art!

Artist, leave the World of Art!
Pack your goodies on a cart
Duck out through some tiny hole
And slip away and save your soul!

Leave no footprints, don't look back!
Take the dark and dirty track,
Cross the border, bless your heart;
Freedom from the World of Art!

[M. Leunig, Goatperson and Other Tales, Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Vic., 1999, p.95.]

Leunig's poetic imperative, to prompt people to save themselves, can clearly be seen in the first poem I have chosen to discuss. The title of this poem, Artist, Leave The World Of Art!, is repeated in the poem's first line, and sets up a paradox for its readers, capturing our attention and forcing us to engage with the poem's concerns in order to resolve our initial confusion. The reader is led to think about the nature of art and the creative process. As an abstract concept, "the World of Art" carries connotations of being an artist's natural habitat, so why does the persona urge the artist to leave so emphatically? Can one leave "the World of Art" and still be an artist? What is "the World of Art"?

As there is no immediate answer to these questions in the text of the poem, the reader looks to the illustration for additional clues. Here we see "the World of Art" depicted as a glowing nighttime city, a collection of fairytale turrets and rectangular skyscrapers, suggesting a melting-pot of the magical and the mundane. "The World of Art" is drawn to look like a distant goal, the emerald city at the end of the yellow brick road. It is perched high on the hill, giving the impression of being desirable and difficult to attain, yet the little artist in the picture is happily heading the other way. Although "the World of Art" is never presented as anything other than an attractive place, we know that it is somehow dangerous to an artist's inner being. The persona's advice to the artist appears to be, to try life and creation outside the artificial constraints of the 'establishment'. There is a feeling that if one leaves "the World of Art," one will no longer be subjected to hurtful scrutiny or criticism, and will be able to create for the sheer joy of creation.

There is an interesting parallel here between the artist who stays in "the World of Art," and T.S.Eliot's The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock.(17) Eliot has prepared us to find such parallels in his essay 'The Function of Criticism':

A common inheritance and a common cause unite artists consciously or unconsciously: it must be admitted that the union is mostly unconscious. Between the true artists of any time there is, I believe, an unconscious community.(18)

Prufrock's credentials as an artist are established by his creative imagination, in the way he metaphorically decorates his reality, using flights of fantasy to escape his dreary existence:

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.(19)

As Prufrock's Love Song suggests, an artist who ignores the persona's advice and stays in "the World of Art" is likely to be either trivialised into meaninglessness, as an object for pretentious name-dropping:

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.(20)

Or dissected and classified, regarded as a trophy by one's equally uncaring critics and peers:

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
And when I am pinned and wriggling on the wall . . .(21)

These environments are seen to be disastrous for an artist, because Prufrock is destroyed by his inability to make his imaginative escape complete, despite a valiant, though ineffectual, attempt:

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed in seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.(22)

As an antidote to any Prufrockian indecisiveness, Leunig's persona orders his artist-audience into immediate action: "Artist leave the World of Art!" It is a command, and it is a command from on high, first appearing in the underlined capital letters of the title. The title hovers above the moon, and is therefore implicitly of higher authority than "the World of Art."

Significantly, the persona does not suggest one should leave "the World of Art" empty-handed, ordering the artist to "Pack your goodies on a cart." "Goodies" suggests one's private treasure trove. The kind of treasure one might carry away from "the World of Art" could include one's own talent and creative works; traditions and conventions of artistic expression; and the works of other artists throughout history, which one has discovered while living in "the World of Art." Packed on a cart and trundled away, these conventions, images and emotions become the artist's source and inspiration for new creations.

Through the accumulation of imperative verbs, "leave," "pack," "duck out," and "slip away," the persona maintains a pressure on the artist to act, creating a sense that "the World of Art" wants to hold on to you, to control and contain you. It is not enough to simply leave. You must escape, be sneaky and surreptitious in order to survive intact. Instead of walking out the front gate, you must "Duck out through some tiny hole." It might not be an easy task, but the artist is told there is a moral duty involved: "slip away and save your soul!"

"The World of Art" is bright and glittering, even by moonlight, but to keep one's artistic integrity, one must surrender ambition: "leave no footprints," and undertake the journey with absolute faith and commitment: "don't look back!" This last can be read as a biblical allusion to Lot's wife, who disobeyed the divine command not to "look back" at the corrupt city which had been her home, and so 'looks back' forever.(23)

The second stanza informs us that the path from the "tiny hole" to the "border" is a "dark and dirty track." This sounds arduous and confusing. The words "dark and dirty track" by themselves suggest an unappealing hard slog, but somehow the sense of excitement and anticipation which pervades the poem makes "dark and dirty" appear light and cheerful, full of the promise of childlike fun, the innocent enjoyment of mud pies and jumping in puddles, of imagining oneself to be an intrepid explorer, leaving the freeways and the electric lights, the safe, known world, behind. This feeling of excitement is introduced and maintained by the exclamation marks punctuating the title and the first and last line of each stanza, and by the largely monosyllabic diction which gives the whole poem a bouncy, energetic rhythm.

The words "Cross the border" suggest there is a firm demarcation between "the World of Art" and the rest of the world. In this way, the persona establishes the last checkpoint on the journey he has prescribed for the artist, an artificial, arbitrary threshold which marks the separation between institutionalism and individualism. In the context of this reading of the poem, "bless your heart" conveys the triumphant approval of the persona for the little artist, shepherded to safety. Together they appear to have attained the real goal of their journey: "Freedom from the World of Art!"

The idea of the artist leaving the establishment and releasing 'his' individual creativity is confirmed by the illustration which accompanies the poem. Our society conventionally expects words and pictures to move from left to right across a page, but the little artist contradicts our expectations. He is heading the wrong way, from right to left, leaving the beckoning "World of Art" shining like a beacon behind him. What we conventionally expect to be his destination is the place he is escaping from. Instead, the path on which the artist travels opens out into a new space to explore, a field where flowers grow, which is shared with the reader and the rest of the world. The fact that the artist pushes a heart on his cart confirms the idea that the "goodies" one takes from "the World of Art" are those artistic collections and creations which one instinctively treasures. The heart also enhances our impression of the artist's sensitivity and vulnerability, enlisting our sympathy in his plight.

It is possible to read this poem as another entry in the long-running dialogue between popular art and high culture. The mass media is generally thought to be destructive of the impulse to create real art. This poem, carrying with it the reminder that Leunig's art is usually published first in a newspaper, suggests that the opposite is true, arguing that creative talent cannot thrive within an institution, that formal rules and boundaries can be stifling for an artist, and that the approval or criticism of one's peers is not necessarily favourable to one's creative peace. This reading assumes that the persona of the poem is an artist who has previously escaped from the "World of Art" and who is now attempting to persuade other artists to follow this philosophy.

It is often argued that one of the dangers inherent in the practices of "the World of Art,"(24) is that critics, carried away with their own cleverness, can construct meanings from a text which the author never intended. On the other hand, one cannot deny one's delight as a reader on discovering a 'secret' message in a poem. You feel your close reading has been rewarded. Even if it is an unconscious product of the poet's conscious choice of words, one experiences a moment of epiphany, and achieves a deeper understanding of the poem.

The first word of each line in Artist, Leave The World Of Art!, when read in sequence (with added punctuation) says "Artist, Pack Duck And Leave, Take Cross: Freedom." With a small amount of imagination, this sentence further develops the themes of the poem. As those familiar with Leunig's work know, if you were running away from a soul-threatening situation, you would never leave your duck behind.(25) In his 'Introduction' to A Common Prayer: A Cartoonist talks to God, Leunig explores the symbolism of the duck in his work:

The duck . . . symbolizes one thing and many things: nature, instinct, feeling, beauty, innocence, the primal, the non-rational and the mysterious unsayable; qualities we can easily attribute to a duck and qualities which, coincidentally and remarkably, we can easily attribute to the inner life of . . . man, to his spirit or his soul.(26)

In the background of Leunig's work, one often senses the presence of a God who cares for all His creation, and wants no soul to be lost through the stifling of its creative talent.(27) This justifies our sense of the persona's Christian concern for the artist: "bless your heart," and adds meaning to the words 'Take Cross'. One is reminded of Christ's advice to those who would save their souls, in Matthew 16:24:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.(28)

Leunig's persona also seems to be urging artists in this direction, warning them not be distracted by the thought of making their mark on "the World of Art," to turn their back on the glamour, and take the hard road to creative freedom and the life of the soul. The last line of the first stanza, "And slip away and save your soul!" uses iambic tetrameter, which is a rising rhythm, in contrast to the falling rhythm of the rest of the poem. This helps us to feel that the persona is optimistic about our chances of success. The alliteration of 's' and the assonance of 'a' in this line lead the reader to exhale as it is said, giving the feeling of letting one's cares slip away. As a result, the opening of the second stanza sounds like a delicious invitation to take a magical fairytale journey into your own creative potential. This reading is supported by the gentle benediction with which the persona welcomes the artists to their new creative space: "bless your heart."(29)

So far, I have read the poem as though the persona were firmly entrenched, with the reader and the newly escaped artist, outside "the World of Art." Another, complimentary reading is possible if we imagine a kindly voice emanating from within the gently glittering "World of Art." Now "the World of Art" in the illustration seems like home: safe, comfortable, familiar and crowded, old and new styles of building crammed together, in a somewhat claustrophobic huddle. The persona becomes an established artist, an educator, an initiator into the secrets of "the World of Art," whose task is to push the fledgling artists to the edge of the nest and encourage them to fly. He takes the artists by the hand, and with just enough mystery and excitement to nurture their sense of adventure, he guides them step by nervous step to the threshold, where, with an almost parental blessing, he pushes them into the wonderful, creative, unique world that is their future as artists. At the same time the persona preserves the illusion that you are making the journey alone, nourishing your self-confidence and sense of new found and personally-won independence. Importantly, the persona also reminds you not to leave empty-handed. In your individual artistic future you will have use for the techniques learned and discoveries made in the gleaming towers of "the World of Art."

This alternative reading is supported by the skilled versification of the poem. The diction is relatively simple, even colloquial at times, the rhymes are perfect, and the rhyme-scheme uncomplicated: aabb ccaa. Because the poem can be read quickly and easily, one is encouraged to read it several times in an attempt to penetrate beneath its deceptively shallow surface. The eight lines of the poem are divided into two stanzas, each containing two couplets. These lines, except for the last line of the first stanza, scan as trochaic tetrameter catalectic. Whether or not Leunig was consciously aware of it, this poetic metre is ancient art, being "known as the septenarius by the Romans."(30) This similarity of structure recalls T.S.Eliot's construction of an "unconscious community"(31) between artists, for the metre of Latin verse is quantitative,(32) being based on the relative length of syllables, as distinct from the metre based on accentuated syllabics which governs most verse in English,(33) and which I have used to analyse Michael Leunig's poems.

Another aspect of Leunig's art in this poem is that while the concept we are escaping from is abstract, the details of our escape are composed of concrete, physical tasks. The "goodies," the "cart," the "tiny hole" are all imaginable, real-world objects, and they give a similar physical solidity to the existence of the soul which must be saved. This is continued in the second stanza, where the "footprints," the "dark and dirty track" and the "border" are concrete details which make the "Freedom" seem as much a physical as a spiritual and mental liberation. However, it must be noticed that Leunig artfully uses "the World of Art" as an envelope device which encloses the meaning of the whole poem. Since "the World of Art" appears in both the first and last line, the reader never really leaves it behind. While the idea of escape from "the World of Art" is presented as a necessary element in the development of individual creative talent, the original paradox remains: anywhere the artist goes, "the World of Art" goes too.


The pen is mightier than the sword
And mightier than the literary award.
Without the pen we'd be unable
To leave those notes on the kitchen table.
Nothing lovelier ever penned
With three small crosses at the end;
Made for no-one else to see:
The literature of you and me.

[M. Leunig, You and Me, Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Vic., 1998 (1995), p.1.]

Leunig's poem, Literature, continues the ideas raised in Artist Leave The World Of Art!, exploring the essential relationship between art and life. The first line of the poem states, uncontroversially enough: "The pen is mightier than the sword." The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations lists this phrase as first used by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, in his play, Richelieu, written in 1839,(34) with an earlier reference to Robert Burton of the seventeenth century, who used the image of the 'pen being worse than the sword' in Latin: Hinc quam sit calamus saevior ense patet.(35) Regardless of its origins, it is safe to say that the phrase now has the status of an aphorism in Australian (British-inherited) culture. As such, it is a familiar, nonthreatening first line for a poem entitled Literature. At the same time, however, the word "sword" is suggestive of battle, and one immediately looks to see with whom the battle is being fought. The obvious candidate in the second line is the "literary award," rhyming with "sword" and condensed by elision, and Australian pronunciation patterns, to fit the iambic tetrameter of the couplet.

The idea of a fight between "the pen" and "the literary award" echoes the advice to the artist to "leave the World of Art," and suggests that external approval is not necessary to the creation of art.(36) Nor is Leunig alone in this view. J.A.Cuddon, in The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, begins his entry on 'literary prizes' with the following comment:

The prize system in general is a twentieth century phenomenon, the product of a century obsessed with competitions and with material gain and reward. . . . It may be argued that the need and desire to assess, judge, grade and reward human effort and attainment is a malaise of increasingly decadent humanism which perceives worldly success and its recognition to be an essential part of this life.(37)

One is again reminded of Artist Leave The World Of Art!, with its suggestions of dire danger: "slip away and save your soul," and its counsel against institutional ambition: "Leave no footprints." Before the reader is too distracted by thoughts of fame and glory and literary awards, the second couplet reveals to us the real importance of "the pen" to the persona. The pen is valorized as the instrument of domestic communication. We know this because the image of the "kitchen table" sets the comfortable, familiar domestic scene, and explodes the word "notes" into all its connotations of battles averted and love conveyed.

Leunig's Literature is written as one stanza, consisting of four closed couplets, rhyming: aabbccdd. In the first couplet, the rhyming lines of iambic tetrameter gain an artful awkwardness from the synaeresis of MIGHtier and the contraction of the unstressed syllables of LITerary aWARD,(38) so that they, too, count as one syllable. This has the effect of slowing the reader down, as one prepares oneself to read complicated poetry. By contrast, the simple logic contained in the second couplet runs freely into the reader's mind. "Without the pen we'd be unable / To leave those notes on the kitchen table." Here the rhythm varies from iambic tetrameter to iambic tetrameter hypercatalectic. This adds an extra unaccented syllable at the end of the lines, resulting in a change from masculine to feminine endings, which roll more freely off the tongue. The contraction in the fourth line, of "on the" into one syllable, is only a small hiccup or heartbeat, almost onomatopoeic of the moment of suspense between seeing a note and reading its contents. These two couplets form the first half of the poem, as the first couplet draws us in and prompts us to ponder the poetic problem posed by the persona, while at the same time hurtling us toward the unexpected but unassailably logical conclusion in the second couplet. The rhythm of this couplet then leads the reader in and on, as one is invited into the private, lyric celebration of "those notes on the kitchen table" which occupies the second two couplets.

"Nothing lovelier ever penned" strikes the reader as something new and original, as it entails a complete reverse of rhythm, from a rising to a falling metre, from hypercatalectic iambic tetrameter to catalectic trochaic tetrameter. We are accustomed, as readers, to beautiful things being celebrated in poetry. This couplet accords with our lyrical expectations, as the first line flows into the second, which returns to the iambic tetrameter of the first line, with none of the contractions. At the same time, the meaning of "With three small crosses at the end," denoting kisses, reminds us of the importance of those otherwise trivial "notes on the kitchen table" in the smoothing out of complications and the maintenance of domestic rhythm and harmony. The final couplet repeats this rhythmic pattern, continuing the feeling of lyric celebration. The intimacy of this final couplet is an antidote to the spectre of the public realm raised in the first couplet. Within the privacy of their kitchen table communications there is no harsh criticism or judgment. There is only love, and acceptance, and concern for each other, qualities which might, if given time, eventually cure society's 'malaise', by recognising that the artistic creation, and maintenance, of domestic harmony is more important than any competition for material gain.

The drawing which appears below the last line of the poem enhances the reader's feeling of voyeurism, instilled by the intimacy of the final two couplets. The drawing reveals to us the homely domesticity of a little man's situation (although conversely, the illustrated figure could easily be interpreted as a female). Details are scattered around as props to our imagination, but we are hovering above and outside the room, at a distance from the action. We are invited to observe the man, frozen in a moment of time, and to draw our own conclusions about his life. He is unaware of our scrutiny. Our conclusions cannot disturb his happy smile.

The little man's eyes are just to the right of vertical alignment with the end of the poem, so the reader's attention naturally falls first upon him. He is, being the reader of the note, presumably also the persona of the poem. The open door, the welcoming cat, and the heavy bag combine to suggest that he has just arrived home from work. The details on the left of the picture suggest to us what he normally expects to find there. The broom, propped against the wall, the cup on the table and the abandoned chair might, in this somewhat stereotypical reading, represent his wife, having finished the housework, relaxing with a warm drink while she waits for his workday to finish. The teddybear and the small pairs of shoes seem indicative of a child happily playing, while waiting, with mummy, for daddy to come home. Whatever we may deduce, however, the characters themselves are missing. The man's expectations are not met, but he is not perturbed. We can see this from his broad smile. He has read the note, and he knows where his family is. There is no uncertainty. It is here that the privacy and intimacy of the "notes on the kitchen table" are graphically confirmed. We cannot read the note, so we will never know what has happened. All we can see clearly is that there are the "three small crosses at the end," so we are confirmed in our belief that it is a loving family.

In Leunig's celebration of "the literature of you and me," there are thematic echoes of William Carlos Williams' poem, This Is Just To Say:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.(39)

Both of these poems engage with the textual art involved in domestic communication, suggesting that any idea of a separation between art and life is illusory. The message presented by both these poems is twofold: life provides the creative and imaginative material for art, and: the imaginative creation of art is essential for a full and happy life.(40) This message is also embraced in Marianne Moore's Poetry, which explores the physical effectiveness of poetry on people, and celebrates the skilled artistic incorporation of the 'trivial' texts of everyday life into a new, creative form:

Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are
. . .
nor is it valid
To discriminate against "business documents and
school books"; all these phenomena are important. One must make a
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is
not poetry (41)

In Marianne Moore's view, true poetry, regardless of its materials, is that which is "genuine."(42) In the light of these poems, we can see the importance of Michael Leunig's Literature, with its message about the genuine value of consideration and creative communication between people. The privileged Literature of the poem's title is shown to be the little texts which maintain the private, intimate, loving connections between people, each fighting their own individual battle with the burden of living in the public world.


The poppy pod is cut
and seeps.
The tiny child is crushed
and weeps.

The child is crushed
and crushed again
To make a special kind
of pain.

An agony which cannot
But tries to rock
itself to sleep.

The poppy's weeping
does become
A special kind
of opium.

Then the child will
pluck the flower;
Each the other to

Asleep together in
the wild;
This poppy and this
little child.

[M. Leunig, Goatperson and Other Tales, op. cit., p.108-109.]

Throughout Leunig's art, a constant theme is discernible, which suggests that all creatures, but especially humans,(43) must love and concern themselves about other creatures, or life will be unbearably miserable. As Leunig says in the last prayer of A Common Prayer: A cartoonist talks to God:

'Love one another and you will be happy.'
It's as simple and as difficult as that.
There is no other way.

This theme is particularly brought home to the reader through Leunig's production of poetry which deals with immediate social problems, attributing the fault, not to the individual, but to the isolation and alienation of modern society, and the consequent failure of creative communication and family unity. Commenting on his controversial cartoon sequence depicting the thoughts of a baby left in a child-minding centre,(45) Leunig suggests to us the pastoral implications (in a Christian rather than literary sense) of his art. This is similar to the kind of pastoral care I identified in Artist, Leave The World Of Art! where the poetic persona 'shepherds' the little artist to safety:

M.L.: I was observing my culture, and my society. . . . It was a cultural drift I was observing, the abandonment of that kind of start. I'm sorry, it's the baby's feelings that are important here, not the woman's, I would say. This sounds very fundamentalist and improper, and I still get a lot of ill-feeling about that cartoon, but I'm afraid I can't depart from my feeling that great damage is done when this very precious relationship between mother and infant, and a very necessary relationship, I feel, for the development, the emotional development of the child . . . I think it's a crucial, vital thing which is being devalued. . . .
T.L.: (So this is an example of the artist as preacher, the artist as prophet?)
M.L.: Well, prophet, but maybe it's also having an intuition about soul, psyche, what forms us, what matters to us.(46)

Through his poetry, Leunig advises and admonishes his readers, demonstrating that the creation of art is intrinsic to the life of the imagination, just as the life of the imagination is integral to everyday life. This message is sharply brought into focus by Leunig's poem, The poppy pod is cut / and seeps. In the poems I have discussed so far, the poetic voice has tended to address his readers privately, personally, as sensitive, creative individuals, being menaced by an uncaring, external public world.(47) However, this next poem disturbs the reader's complacency, situating its readers as members of this uncaring society, each carrying a private responsibility for this public malaise. In this poem, Leunig confronts us with a narrative scenario, poignantly showing one consequence of devaluing a child's emotional and imaginative development.

Reading the poem, one senses a double undercurrent of feeling, of the kind that T.S.Eliot remarked on while exploring Dante's poetry in 'Tradition and the Individual Talent':

a combination of positive and negative emotions: an intensely strong attraction toward beauty and an equally intense fascination by the ugliness which is contrasted with it and which destroys it.(48)

This echoes the tension in The poppy pod is cut / and seeps: between the connotations of beautiful innocence in the "tiny child," and the ugly emptiness of the child's world which leads to the destructive addiction depicted. In a newspaper interview, Leunig expanded on his reasons for being fascinated with the ugliness of our modern world, and its consequences for humanity:

I would say we are in the midst of the pillaging and rape of the psychological ecosystem, the ecology of the soul. There's a great, delicate, interconnected ecology that goes on in people's lives . . . We're defiling it, plundering it, exploiting it, and this will have tremendous consequences for the emotional health of society.(49)

In focussing on the individual ecology of a single soul, The poppy pod is cut / and seeps sends a message calling for tolerance and sympathy in our society, in response to the specific social problem of heroin abuse. This effect is poetically achieved by showing us the addict as a hurt child in need of comfort and care, not censure or rebuke. At the same time we are led to consider our own part in driving our fellow humans to such a state of despair, to ponder the importance of "soul, psyche, what forms us, what matters to us."(50)

The poppy pod is cut / and seeps is composed of six stanzas, with accompanying illustrations, spread over two pages.(51) This structure is reminiscent of the conventions of children's literature, displaying the kind of art which is so dangerously absent from the life of the child in this poem. The rhythm of The poppy pod is cut / and seeps runs in rhymed couplets, but the stanza layout breaks these couplets into quatrains. This increases the solemnity of the poem, slowing the reader and placing emphatic weight on each half of each line, endowing the underlying message with increased emotional effect. In discussing the meaning and movement of the poem, I will count each stanza as a couplet, giving a rhyme-scheme of: aa bb cc dd ee ff. If one counts across these line-breaks when exploring the poem's versification, one sees that the underlying metre Leunig has chosen for The poppy pod is cut / and seeps is the same that Blake used, for London:

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.(52)

This iambic tetrameter is strictly maintained throughout Leunig's poem, except for the fifth stanza, where it is reversed to trochaic tetrameter in order to draw attention to the climax of the poem's narrative. Being a narrative poem, The poppy pod is cut / and seeps also draws the reader along hypnotically with the story, in the tradition of a ballad. While we are distracted by the pathos in the plot, the wider themes, about art and the imagination, are free to 'seep' into our subconsciousness.

In the first stanza, a parallel is set up between "the poppy" and "the tiny child" which controls the movement of the rest of the poem. Both the poppy and the child are harmless, natural creatures, and violence is done to them by an unidentified external force. The language and the picture combine to emphasize their position as victims, each inclining sadly towards the other, each lit by the same, far-distant crescent moon. They strike us as innocent, passive, acted upon. The use and repetition of "the" in "The poppy pod" and "The tiny child" make the two creatures generic, 'every-poppy' and 'every-child', giving a sense of inevitability, where the use of 'A poppy' or 'A child', in this context, would have allowed readers to dismiss the situation as an isolated occurrence, and therefore not worthy of our concern. The line-breaks in this stanza separate off the last iamb of each line, so that the alliteration of "is cut" and "is crushed" holds the authority of the line end, emphasising the helpless vulnerability of the damaged creatures who can only exude liquid in response: "and seeps," "and weeps."

In the second stanza, narrative focus closes in on the child, about whom we know very little. This sparseness of detail emphasizes the feeling of emptiness in the child's life, as does the drawing which moves 'him' (although the child could conceivably belong to either gender) from the natural, outside world where poppies grow and the moon shines, to an artificial, enclosed man-made environment where the child huddles, boxed into a corner. As the child's slumped position has not changed, we can see that although his body is growing, his spirit has remained unnaturally cramped. One is reminded of Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood:

Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,(53)

The repetition of "crushed" across the line-break enhances this effect, as "The child is crushed / and crushed again" presents an image of the child being ground down, like medicine in a mortar and pestle. We are unavoidably shown that as the child grows physically, he is ground into emotional despair. The second line of this second couplet, "To make a special kind / of pain" reinforces the idea of this suffering as the result of external forces, while the child's obvious loneliness and misery make us feel uncomfortably that as members of the child's society, we are partly responsible. We feel an implicit contrast between the notion that every child is special, and this narrative evocation of a child's "special kind of pain." Through vicariously experiencing the child's "special kind of pain" we are made aware of how we might have contributed to a "special kind of pain" in the lives of others. The illustration for this stanza shows the child sitting in a corner, in the traditional position of a child being punished for misbehaviour. The reader instinctively rebels against the injustice of the situation, intensely aware that the child has personally done nothing wrong.

By the third stanza, the child is erased from the text. Only the pain remains: "An agony which cannot / weep." Here the line-break places "weep" on a line by itself, recalling the first stanza, and emphasizing the sense that this pain is unnatural, excessive, tragic and permanent. There is no longer any natural relief through tears, only an insatiable desire to be numb, to no longer feel the pain of one's soul being crushed and deformed. The repetition of weep throughout the poem reminds us of the repetition of "cry" in Blake's London.(54) "Cry," however, has connotations of a loud call, a complaint, whereas "weep" sounds more like a lament for something lost, giving the impression of slow, quiet, incessant sadness, a solitary soul silently suffering,(55) chained by manacles which are 'mind forg'd' and therefore internalised, and inescapable without external help. In the second line of this couplet, the suffering soul "tries to rock / itself to sleep." The word "rock" here suggests the cradling arms of a loving parent, but everyone else is absent, and no friendly voice offers a lullaby. There is no soothing art in this child's life, no imaginative communication in his domestic sphere. Instead we feel that the child rocks unconsciously back and forth, because unceasing movement dulls the pain. The word "tries" confirms that there is no escape or relief for the child, as natural sleep appears unattainable, a hopeless wish that will go unfulfilled. The illustration shows the child, grown older from the second illustration, curled in a foetal position on the same bare floor in the same apparently bare room, continuing the impression of isolation and the increasing sense of desperation.

The fourth stanza returns our attention to the poppy, confirming the connection between the poppy and the child introduced in the first stanza, for the seeping of the poppy's juice is now personified as "weeping." At the same time, an explicit parallel is drawn between the child's "special kind of pain" and the poppy's "special kind of opium." This reminds us again that every child is special, and that no individual should be pushed to such extremes of stress, but it also reminds us of the origins of heroin, as opium. Opium has been known as a natural anaesthetic, which when used correctly, becomes a useful medicine, but when mistreated can be extremely destructive. In the same way, one begins to feel that if children are treated correctly, and their creativity and imagination are encouraged, they can become 'useful' members of society, but if neglected and mistreated, they face a similar fate to that of the child in Leunig's poem. The stark image of the syringe, which accompanies this stanza, symbolizes this dichotomy. Like the child so far, it is passive, innocent, vulnerable to mistreatment. It is not evil per se (the sharp end points away from the child, rather than directly threatening him). Like the crushing of the child, the evil comes about when the poppy's 'tears' are misused. The emphatic "does become" alerts us to the dangerous notion that all this suffering simply happens, without human intervention or control. We are implicitly reminded that the "special kind of opium" is necessarily man-made and artificial. Once again, the processing is carried out by unseen forces, and once again we feel those forces to be unnatural, and destructive of life. This is reminiscent of Artist, Leave The World Of Art!, suggesting that it is just as dangerous to be trapped outside the "World of Art," with no real access to the treasures of our cultural imagination. This child has no "goodies" to pack. Indeed, he has none of the resources necessary to save his soul, not even a guiding voice. At the same time, we are forced to consider who should be the most culpable, the producers of the drug, or the fellow members of society who left the child to suffer alone until he reached this stage of desperation.(56)

The fifth stanza is the turning point in the poem, as the change in metre previously mentioned signals the child's change from a passive victim to an active participant in his own tragedy. However, we are never put in a position where we can blame the child for his behaviour. The poem has shown us his gradual reduction to a state of desperation, so that we recognise what sounds like a return to innocence "Then the child will pluck the flower" is really an image of innocence destroyed. Picking flowers is a natural, childish thing to do, carrying many connotations of innocence and delight. Here, however, "flower" is rhymed with "devour," blighting any implications of childhood happiness, just as the child himself has been blighted. The words affect each other in reverse, as well. By itself, "devour" is suggestive of monstrous behaviour, the rapacious hunger of addiction. Rhymed with "flower," however, it is softened and made poignant, preserving our sense of sympathy for the child, as the two natural creatures introduced in the first stanza engage in mutual destruction. The accompanying illustration shows the child, grown older still, but still slumped in the same hopeless corner, or a different corner that looks just the same. The effect is of an unrelenting, soul-destroying emptiness and unhappiness, and we pity the poor child, no longer tiny, as he fumbles to find the vein in his arm and inject oblivion.

Finally, the sixth stanza returns to the metre which controls the majority of the poem, and brings a kind of closure to the narrative of the child's journey from suffering to addiction. "Asleep together" at first sounds natural, and friendly, as though the child has finally found companionship in this ugly, empty world. However, this effect is quickly modified by locating them "in / the wild," which the reader immediately contrasts with the bare corner in which the child has spent his life, bringing up connotations of a concrete jungle, an unnatural environment where artistic as well as physical growth is stunted or paved over in the name of progress. This in turn forces us to recognize that the child's longing for sleep is not natural, it is a continuation of the child's "Nightmare Life-in-Death,"(57) alone, uncared for, and unhappy. The terrible irony is that, having devoured each other there should be nothing left of either the poppy or the suffering child, but this is not the case. The tragedy is that this "special kind / of opium" is not a cure for the "special kind / of pain," only a drug-induced, unimaginative respite. There is no happy resolution. The child will either never wake up again, or wake only to repeat the process, for the circumstances of despair have not changed. This conclusion is supported by the illustration for this stanza, which shows us the child, still in his corner, while the reader has been drawn back and is viewing him from a distance. As a result he looks even tinier and more vulnerable than the "tiny child" which began the poem. In front of his face lies the abandoned syringe. If he ever opens his eyes again, it will be the first thing he sees. This final broken-couplet of the poem:

Asleep together in
the wild;
This poppy and this
little child.

returns us to the image of two natural creatures, introduced at the beginning of the poem, leaving all the ramifications of their relationship to resonate in the reader's mind. At the same time, the change from "the" poppy and "the" child to "this" poppy and "this" child disturbs the sense of inevitability created in the beginning of the poem. It now seems to function as a warning to us all. This is one story of one child lost to society through a lack of imagination, care and concern, but it has the frightening potential to be every child's story, if society does not become more aware of, and counteract, its destructive tendencies. Importantly, this poem does not leave us feeling very cheerful about ourselves and our world, which is necessary if we are to be shocked out of our comfortable complacency. As Leunig said, in the newspaper interview referred to earlier:

It's my role . . . to be one of the therapeutic voices of society and to be that voice you sometimes have to be a discomforting voice.(58)

The poppy pod is cut / and seeps leave us feeling that we are active members of humanity, and that humanity's problems are, therefore, necessarily our problems.(59) The emotion in the poem artistically creates echoing emotions of shock and sympathy in its readers. In this way, it induces "a special kind of pain" in the reader, so that the problem becomes immediate and personal, and cannot be simply ignored as a distant, impersonal, social problem. Nor are we handed any solution or quick fix. The poem only makes us aware of the problem. It then becomes our social duty to think about possible solutions.

A Special Poem For Me But It Can Be For You Also If You Like.

Each day - such a fuss,
Such praise, such damnation.

Ooh, aah, yes, no.
Exhaustion and disintegration.

Such a fuss, yet the goat
Eats little flowers and thorns

And hears the sparrow ...
Singing brightly in his horns,

(The sun is sweet; the
afternoon lies sleeping
in the valley.)

A song "for little flowers and thorns
Digesting in the belly."

[M. Leunig, You and Me, op. cit., p.102.]

The depression and despair that overcome the "tiny child" in The poppy pod is cut / and seeps are common concerns in Leunig's art. However, the cartoonist-poet does not simply dwell melancholically on the decadence which ignores such situations. Instead, he tries to "save the City,"(60) giving us strategies for dealing with despair, which allow us to accept the sorrow of our situation and use our negative emotions to create instead of to destroy. He prompts us to try to understand our world.(61) This stark contrast between the struggle and strife of city life, and the calm peace associated with artistic creation and communication is strongly conveyed through Leunig's A Special Poem For Me But It Can Be For You Also If You Like.

In this poem, Leunig evokes our cultural assumptions about the alienation of city life, and the various malaises of "increasingly decadent humanism,"(62) assumptions inculcated in us through our artistic inheritance of poems like T.S.Eliot's Preludes,(63) and God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.(64)

The sentiments identified here, along with the idea of poetry as an antidote to such despair, can also be found among the Romantic poets like Blake,(65) Wordsworth,(66) and Keats.(67) Aristophanes' thematic treatment of the problems of city life and the therapeutic effects of poetry, in The Frogs, shows us that these ideas originated long before the eighteenth or nineteenth century. As readers, we have been implicitly trained to recognise the concept of the soul-destroying city in need of poetic advice, and to investigate each poet's private, artistic response to the public problem.

A Special Poem For Me But It Can Be For You Also If You Like does not easily fit the patterns of prosody, and attempts to divide it into rhythmic feet are frustrating and fruitless. The reason soon becomes apparent when one stops trying to consider the metre of this poem as something distinct from its meaning, for it works on an onomatopoeic rhythm, which changes to complement the sense of the lines, and which is held together by the flowing rhyme-scheme: ab cb de ce fgf ef. The poem is printed as six stanzas, and each stanza is accompanied by an illustration which sits underneath the text in the style of a child's picture book.

The first stanza begins with the slow, measured, heavy spondee of "Each day," suggesting inevitability, followed by the rapid, staccato rat-race rhythm of "such a fuss," which the repetition of "such" continues into the second line of the couplet. In the accompanying picture we see a foreground of arguing people, each proclaiming their own view without communicating with anyone else, each emotionally isolated, like the child in The poppy pod is cut / and seeps. Most have wild staring eyes, and each is throwing his or her whole body into the performance. In the distance we see the city, stretching from horizon to horizon, seemingly unconcerned by the strife which it watches over. But what is this strife? The word "fuss" here seems constrained by the drawing to its denotations of consternation and worry: "nervous activity or agitation . . . complaint or objection . . . a quarrel or dispute"(68). At the same time we have the judgmental antithesis of "Such praise, such damnation" which embodies the conflict and oppositions in the picture. Everyone is expressing their own opinion, striving for society's approval and the public acknowledgment of their own point of view, but no-one is listening to anyone else.

The first line of the second stanza of Leunig's poem repeats the slow rhythm of "Each day," with the double spondee of "Ooh, ahh, yes, no." These exclamations, with no specific context for their utterance, suggest snatches of overheard verbal, or even physical, interaction, enhancing the effect of a noisy, disheartening crush of humanity. The four strong stresses of this line are repeated in the next line, although expanded and stretched out to emphasise the triviality and meaninglessness of this interaction, and its result in the abuse of the body and the death of the soul: "Exhaustion and disintegration." The accompanying picture shows the effect of this continuing stress on the city and its inhabitants, by repeating the scene from the first picture in an advanced state of physical and emotional collapse. Here are the pain and alienation of The poppy pod is cut / and seeps, presented on a larger stage with more actors. Even the buildings are affected and are beginning to crumble, while the people curl up in pain or scream with rage. This hyperbolic depiction of city life in the first two stanzas prepares the reader for the rural idyll which follows, leading us to accept the values the last four stanzas of the poem represent, in contrast to this "familiar criticism of the urban values of 'the madding crowd's ignoble strife'."(69) There is no place in this city to rest, to centre oneself, to be whole. Unless, perhaps, we notice and wonder why one little soul in the suffering horde is smiling.

The third stanza begins by repeating "Such a fuss," but here its stress pattern is rhythmically balanced with the second half of the line, "yet the goat." Given the contrast between the strife depicted in the first two stanzas, and the peaceful rural scene that appears underneath the third stanza, it is hardly surprising that "fuss" here picks up its connotations of 'much ado about nothing'. At the same time, the sudden appearance of a goat in this context seems absurd. One immediately thinks: 'what has a goat got to do with this?', and that becomes the central image and theme of the poem. The immediate answer, which appears in the second line of this stanza: "Eats little flowers and thorns" is, behaving naturally as the Creator intended. As I suggested in my discussion of Artist, Leave the World of Art!, one often senses an omnipresent benign divinity in the background to Leunig's poetry. In his television interview with Terry Lane, Michael Leunig expanded on this spiritual aspect of his art:

Art is a sensuality of the spirit. . . . It's a religious impulse. . . . I would say there's a thread running through life, or there is a part of one's being that is religious. It's like, this is my sense of smell, here are my eyes with which I see. Somewhere is a sense of religious life going on, just simply going on and on and on. A sense of beauty, of mystery, of death, of oblivion, of eternity, a mixture, . . . and of course, all the things I can't say. . . . It's something beyond language . . . and the interconnectedness, and what happens between you and me, or me and the other, . . . and memory, . . . and the lyrical part of life, the poetic, the thing that moves us, and brings us to tears, or grief.(70)

In contrast to the grief evident in the first two stanzas of A Special Poem For Me But It Can Be For You Also If You Like, the illustration for this third stanza depicts a calm and contented goat perfectly at home in his countryside environment, which has all the advantages the city is lacking, like trees and flowers, and sunshine and birds. As I suggested in relation to The poppy pod is cut / and seeps, life without these natural resources is unremitting misery. Here, however, the goat's happiness is confirmed by the rhythm of this sixth line, which is slow and relaxed, starting with the verb "Eats," then a pause, then the gentle rhythm of the goat munching "little flowers and thorns."

This rhythm is echoed in the beginning of the fourth stanza, "And hears the sparrow...," which provides a link between the goat and another of God's creatures behaving naturally.(71) The gentle, hopeful intimacy here, after the stress of the poem's beginning, again reminds us of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem God's Grandeur, which conjures up the despairing depths of human habitation, before rising to celebrate the eternal, comforting connection between nature and religion:

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.(72)

In the eighth line of Leunig's poem, both the words and the rhythm of "Singing brightly" are onomatopoeic, while "in his horns," like "And hears the sparrow...," harmoniously connects the two creatures together. This harmonious connection is confirmed by the illustration which shows again the sunny rural scene, the peacefully munching goat, and the cheerfully singing sparrow, together celebrating "the lyrical part of life."(73)

The next stanza interrupts the pattern of couplets that has been established so far. This fifth stanza is written in three lines, and is separated from the text of the poem by parenthesis. It could be read as an aside by the poetic persona, describing the setting of this part of the poem, but that would be extraneous, given that the illustration here 'zooms out' to display the goat's serene environment. The stanza is more than a lyrical interlude. It is a translation of the sparrow's song. The lines are written in iambs which flow over the line breaks in a prose-like manner, suggesting that this is what human conversation could and should be like: imaginative, artistic, and appropriate to its participant's needs.

This reading of these lines as the sparrow's song is confirmed in the final couplet, which also confirms the idea of conversation and creative communication between the two creatures, peacefully enjoying a natural and rural, as opposed to urban (and therefore unnatural) environment. There is caring and an equality of exchange between the creatures, as they share what Wordsworth might have identified as:

little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love.(74)

The goat provides a perch for the sparrow, and an audience for the sparrow's song. The sparrow provides a song specifically tailored to the goat's personal needs: "A song 'for little flowers and thorns / Digesting in the belly.'." The illustration 'zooms' back in to show us the goat taking its afternoon nap while the sparrow pours forth its song. Another little bird wanders among the flowers in friendly companionship, and both the sun and the moon are in the sky, suggesting the gentle passing of time in the natural world, where night and day, and the seasons, succeed each other as they are supposed to do, in contrast to the "Exhaustion and disintegration" of the city.

Leunig's 'special poem' is pastoral, in the literary sense explored by Terry Gifford when he says that "pastoral is 'carnivalesque' in Bakhtin's sense of playfully subverting what is currently taken for granted: the hegemony of the urban establishment."(75) The question 'what has a goat got to do with this?' becomes 'why are all the humans acting like such goats?', as on reconsidering the first half of the poem in relation to the second, all the many connotations of behaving like a 'goat' come flooding out. This didactic doubling back of the poem upon itself is again a convention of pastoral poems:

In the best of pastoral literature, the writer will have taken the reader on a journey to be changed and charged upon return for more informed action in the present.(76)

In A Special Poem For Me But It Can Be For You Also If You Like, Leunig's persona shows us the stressful city, and the rural idyll, leaving us to draw our own conclusions about the poem's behavioural and environmental concerns.

The reader is first alerted to the idea that they have an individual role to play in this poem by its title: A Special Poem For Me But It Can Be For You Also If You Like. It seems innocuous, almost diffident. This poem was meaningful to an anonymous someone, and might be meaningful to you, but no-one is forcing you to accept its message. As a result, the reader can voluntarily engage with the message of the poem, since it has disarmed any threat of obligation before it starts. Having read and considered the poem one returns to reconsider the title, and discovers that it is quite impossible to pin down the 'me' who owns the poem. The most obvious candidate is the poet himself, but we can only surmise about his particular connection with this poem, and his reasons for sharing it through this quirky title, which is certainly eye-catching and welcoming. But what about the goat and the sparrow? The "song for little flowers and thorns" was created by one for the other, and in sharing it between them they have shared it, and its significance, with us. Finally, there is the little man depicted in the second illustration, lying back and smiling amid the strife. He could well be the persona of the poem, the narrative voice. I proposed earlier that the combined impression of the first two couplets and their illustrations was to suggest that there was no place in this city to rest, to centre oneself, to be whole. If this little man, unlike Prufrock and the child in The poppy pod is cut / and seeps, has sufficient imaginative willpower to create according to his needs, his body might well lie smiling among the stress-ravaged crowd while his mind creates an alternative existence, a place where contentment and personal satisfaction go hand in hand with wordless communication and mutual concern. This echoes the celebration of domestic communication in Literature, reminding us that the considerate art of "the literature of you and me" (whether written or sung) is a necessary ingredient in all relationships. In line with the philosophy of the goat and the sparrow, the little dreamer generously offers to share with the striving world the poem which helps him find peace. The particular appeal of this title is that it encompasses all of these possibilities, so that now I, too, feel encouraged to share it with you. It is a special poem for me, but it can be for you also, if you like.

The Summer Palace.

Make a little garden in your pocket.
Plant your cuffs with radishes and rocket.
Let a passion fruit crawl up your thigh.
Grow some oregano in your fly.

Make a steamy compost of your fears.
Trickle irrigate your life with tears.
Let your troubled mind become a trellis.
Turn your heart into a summer palace.

[M. Leunig, Goatperson and Other Tales, op. cit., p.108-109.]

In Artist, Leave The World Of Art!, Leunig liberates his readers' creative potential from the concerns and constraints of institutionalism, and in Literature, he demonstrates the domestic importance of creative communication to our everyday lives.(77) This importance is confirmed in The poppy pod is cut / and seeps, where Leunig warns us of the dangers inherent in stifling creative potential, and leaving a child without imaginative resources, a theme continued in A Special Poem For Me But It Can Be For You Also If You Like, which displays the effectiveness of imagination as an antidote to public pressure, through Leunig's creative communication with his readers.(78) My final Leunig poem, The Summer Palace, provides its readers with artistic instructions on how to release our creative potential into our daily lives, and reap its therapeutic benefits. In The Summer Palace, every reader is constructed as an artist and shown how to exercise their imagination as an antidote to everyday stress. In this way, Leunig coaxes his readers into becoming "literalists of / the imagination,"(79) as he fulfills Marianne Moore's desire, in Poetry, for "imaginary gardens with real toads in them."(80)

In his recent television interview with Terry Lane, Leunig was asked: "Michael, the two words that I think best describe your art are 'whimsy' and 'melancholy'. Where does the melancholy come from?"(81) This is a question that has occupied poets through the ages, and is a topic for a thesis in itself. Leunig's answer to this perennial question was characteristically whimsical: "Where do the flies go in winter?,"(82) but contained a serious component as well: "It's the artist's duty to have the melancholy, as well as the joys. . . . it's an artist's function to have their melancholy, and not to hide it."(83) In The Summer Palace, Leunig explores this tension between joy and sadness, and, like Keats in Ode on Melancholy, offers his readers a way to deal with "a society fairly afflicted by depression, and disguised depression,"(84) that does not involve drugs or death. In his interview with Terry Lane, Leunig refused to confine his art to the whimsical and melancholic, insisting on a third, extremely important element:

I would add joyousness as one of the descriptions of my work. I would assert that rather strongly, and I would be prepared to prove it! . . . The world's gone too earnest and too serious, and I want us to have a bit of joy. It's a bit like whistling, you know, whistling a tune. There's something compulsive about it.(85)

Through his poetry, Leunig whimsically shows us that while melancholy may be a fact of human life, so is our capacity for delight and joy, and it is this capacity which will enable us to deal with all the accumulated stress of contemporary life.

In his Ode on Melancholy, Keats advises his readers to indulge their sadness by contemplating external, natural beauty, moving through their pain into a new, finer appreciation of happiness:

Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globéd peonies;(86)

In contrast, Leunig's poem, The Summer Palace, advises his readers to perform the same function inside themselves, using their imagination to create a healing connection with the natural world, in a way which seems to bring physical as well as emotional and spiritual relief. One is reminded of the little, smiling man in A Special Poem For Me But It Can Be For You Also If You Like, who creates an internal imaginary world of peace and harmony which preserves him from external destruction, and from the kind of public pressure seen in A poppy pod is cut / and seeps, where "The child is crushed and crushed again." The little child cannot save himself, because he has not been taught imaginative resources for stress-relief. One is also reminded of the imaginatively physical journey of escape undertaken in Artist, Leave The World Of Art!, and the comfortable, physical solidity of the domestic situation imagined in Literature. This all accords with Leunig's notion, that the imagination has more than a mental existence:

I think it is the body where the imagination lives, somehow. I do feel the imagination isn't just in the brain, up there. It's to do with some sense of life, some almost bodily sense of life.(87)

The Summer Palace is written in two quatrains, each formed by two rhyming couplets, producing a rhyme scheme of: aabb ccdd. Its tone is somewhere between silly and sage, as advice which looks like nonsense at the beginning of the poem feels like commonsense by the end.(88) It is a very playful poem, mischievously disrupting our sense of what is physically possible, but at the same time it conveys a serious message:

Life is suffering, too. . . . We can't be afraid of that. . . . We have to have enough joy and fortitude to somehow . . . cope with the world that lies ahead.(89)

Like Keats's Ode on Melancholy, which refuses to allow its readers to see oblivion as a sanctuary: "No, no, go not to Lethe,"(90) Leunig's The Summer Palace offers its readers a strategy of joy to help them cope with the ugliness in their world.

In the first stanza of The Summer Palace, the persona offers us some seemingly absurd advice:

Make a little garden in your pocket.
Plant your cuffs with radishes and rocket.
Let a passion fruit crawl up your thigh.
Grow some oregano in your fly.

Our first question would probably be, why would I want to do that, not to mention, how? But even before we look to the rest of the poem for an answer, we see we have received some vital clues. To start with, the poem refuses to allow its readers to remain passive. It asks them to do something, to act, to 'get their hands dirty', in fact, to create a garden, archetypal symbol of "the Earthly Paradise."(91) The reader is not set some immense, impossible task, however, only asked to "Make a little garden in your pocket."(emphasis added). It is a paradise in miniature, one you can carry around with you, as easily as you carry your clothes. The implications of this image are then developed in the second line, and into the second couplet, as the persona leads you to gradually abandon your imaginative inhibitions and enjoy the idea of wearing living, growing vegetation, of being the centre from which life flows.

Significantly, the types of plant we are advised to sow are vegetables, herbs and fruit, plants that share a long history of use by humanity. As Chevalier and Gheerbrant's A Dictionary of Symbols tells us, herbs are particularly relevant here as "a symbol of all that cures and brings back to life, since they restore health, virility and fertility."(92) The alliteration of "radishes and rocket" links the two plants by sound, as they are already linked by nature. Both are hot, fiery, refreshing tastes, tastes which tingle on the tongue and remind you that it is good to be alive. At the same time, letting "a passion fruit crawl up your thigh" sounds vaguely naughty, even a little salacious, as does growing "some oregano in your fly," with all oregano's connotations of sultry Mediterranean summers. As a whole, the first stanza gives the impression of natural, healthy, organic growth, transplanted into a somewhat unusual environment. There is a sense that this natural growth is rampantly and indecorously bursting through the thin veneer of civilisation symbolised by the trousers, with their "pocket," "cuffs" and "fly." This, too, seems healthy, a momentary, imaginative return to the original, innocent, naked freedom of Adam and Eve, experiencing untroubled joy and love in the Garden of Eden.

Importantly, you do not need to travel, or even look outside yourself for the ingredients to make this recipe for joy. From the very first line it is obvious that the persona is playing with us, and asking us to play along. The first word of each line is an imperative verb, which seems to place a duty of action upon the reader. Like Artist, Leave the World Of Art!, one has an excited feeling of potential, that if one submits and obeys the persona's instructions one will somehow achieve a closer, truer connection with oneself. To borrow from Coleridge, we are asked to temporarily suspend our disbelief,(93) to engage with the poem through its fantasy elements, in order to more clearly hear the poem's message. Leunig emphasises the everyday importance of these fantasy elements, and the need for the reader to forget his or her doubts, and 'play along':

In play, we are connecting to our unconscious, because we're enjoying ourselves when we play, you see, and I think when you're enjoying yourself, your heart's in it. Your heart's in it.(94)

It is essential that one truly commit oneself to enjoyment, in order to experience its therapeutic benefits, and this requires a willing participation, and a childlike surrender of self.

Having been brought by the playful whimsy of the first stanza to temporarily suspend our disbelief, we are now ready to receive the persona's more 'practical' advice. In this second stanza, the persona recommends we do not deny our negative emotions, instead turning them to some useful purpose. The negative feelings inside you are imagined as natural, organic things which, if treated correctly can foster, instead of stifling, spiritual growth.

Make a steamy compost of your fears.
Trickle irrigate your life with tears.
Let your troubled mind become a trellis.
Turn your heart into a summer palace.

Suddenly, "fears" and "tears" no longer seem to threaten one's peace of mind, instead becoming useful, healthy, natural things, which can be mulched into warm, earthy, "steamy compost" or collected to "Trickle irrigate your life," keeping everything fresh and green. Instead of spinning in turmoil, your "troubled mind" is advised to relinquish its attempt to contain and control everything, to become instead a supporting structure, a "trellis" along which new, vigorous growth can entwine itself. There are echoes here with the third stanza of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, My Own Heart Let Me More Have Pity On, which also seems to envision a joyful, organically growing antidote to despair:

leave comfort root-room; let joy size (95)

In Hopkins' poem, the poetic voice addresses himself, where Leunig's poetic voice speaks directly to his readers, commanding their attention and facilitating an individual application of the poem's message. In other words, you feel the poem is relevant to you, and that the voice speaking cares about your well-being.(96) The last line of Leunig's poem returns the reader to the poem's title, summing up the arguments in the rest of the poem. "Turn your heart into a summer palace" finally advises the reader to set aside a fairytale place inside them, where living joy can be daily celebrated. This idea is retained and encapsulated in the poem's title, which only makes sense to us once we have read and understood the whole poem.

Appropriately, the metre of The Summer Palace is rhythmically smooth and flowing, with a slightly playful twist. The first and last couplets of the poem are trochaic pentameter, while the middle two couplets are missing the final syllable on each line, making them trochaic pentameter catalectic. In this way, the second stanza reverses the pattern set by the two couplets of the first stanza. At the same time, the repetition of "Make" and "Let" at the start of the first line of each couplet in both stanzas, disturbs this pattern reversal and suggests a complimentary pattern. "Make" starts a long line in the first stanza, and a short line in the second, while the reverse is true for "Let." Like a "trellis," the structure of this poem cris-crosses and links up with itself, forming a tidy base through which the meaning and imagery of the poem can weave, to present the climactic image of "a summer palace" an enchanted place of warmth and freedom for the soul.

The Dionysian implications of The Summer Palace alert us to some interesting intertextual and cross-cultural connections, reminding us of Aristophanes' The Frogs, and encouraging our imagination to roam. In Aristophanes' play, Dionysus descends into Hades to bring back a poet to "save the city." Dionysus' character in classical mythology carries connotations of joyful celebration, the abandonment of inhibitions, and the natural world of luxuriantly growing life. In A Dictionary of Symbols, Chevalier and Gheerbrant confirm Dionysus' relevance to Leunig's poem, describing him as:

a vegetation-god of vine, wine, fruit and seasonal renewal . . . it is he who, Hesiod tells us, 'scatters joy in profusion'. . . . Deep down, he symbolizes the life force which tends to break free of all bounds and restraint.(97)

Through his descent into the underworld and triumphant return as a saviour, Dionysus also has links to the cycle of resurrection associated with the Christian God whose presence I have already marked in Leunig's poetry.

In the illustration placed beneath The Summer Palace, the notion of a joyful, spiritual and physical epiphany is confirmed. The little man drawn here seems to be literally exploding with joy. Bursting from him is a delightful manifestation of God's presence in the world, flowers and leaves and butterflies and birds, and a human, all expressing an exuberant joy in being alive and interconnected. Although a tiny tear runs down his nose, and more are scattered among the flowers, the little man is smiling broadly. His melancholy feeds his joy, rather than destroying him. He has literally turned his "heart into a summer palace," and now it lies nestled among the twining vines and happy creatures which he has invited in, and which flow out from him. In his interview with Terry Lane, Leunig commented that part of his role as an artist was a wish to "make people conscious of their lyrical side,"(98) and both this poem and its illustration seem designed to make your imagination sing. Through this poem, Leunig lyrically relaxes us, nudging us towards an imaginative epiphany:

. . .that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened . . . (99)

In his introduction to The Prayer Tree, Leunig explicitly confirmed the need to therapeutically connect with our melancholy, in order to find a natural balance, an essential harmony of the soul:

Sometimes when we least expect it we wake up overwhelmed by a massive sense of loneliness, misery, chaos and death: appalled by the agony and futility of existence. . . . Nature, however, requires that we have the darkness of our painful feelings and that we respect it and make a bold place for it in our lives. . . . Nature requires that we form a relationship between our joy and our despair, that they not remain divided or hidden from one another. For these are the feelings which must cross-pollinate and inform each other in order that the soul be enlivened and strong.(100)

In The Summer Palace, Leunig shows us how a little lunacy can relieve our tension, allowing us to celebrate our capacity to enjoy absurdity. He offers us a solution, a way to break free from the mundaneness of everyday life, when it threatens to close around us and extinguish our spark.(101)


At the climax of Aristophanes' play, The Frogs, the chorus sings about the problems of the city, and the reasons why a poet is necessary for its salvation:

If you look at the stuff that is written today
And the stupid things our statesmen say,
You would think that the people had lost the knack
Of telling the white from the utterly black -
They've thrown away all caution!
. . .
They waste our time with quibbles and quarrels,
Destroying our patience as well as our morals,
And making us all talk rot.
. . .
So altogether we're glad to find
That a man with a shrewd and intelligent mind
(A man with a sense of proportion)
. . .
Is returning to Earth in this decadent age,
To save the City and save the stage
From politics, lies, and distortion.(102)

In the (approximately) twenty-four centuries that have passed since these words were sung, many talented poets from many cultures have worked to imaginatively address the problems of their society, and Michael Leunig certainly deserves to be numbered among them.(103) Although he is recognised primarily as a cartoonist, and is known and loved as such, in his role as a poet, Leunig produces prose and verse texts which are as appealing and as important as his illustrations. Both text and illustration are full of complex meaning and emotion, and yet their messages are easily accessible to anyone. In his poetic addresses to the human heart, Leunig fulfills Wordsworth's vision of a poet's duty to communicate with the general public, not just with a specific group or profession:

The Poet writes under one restriction only, namely, the necessity of giving immediate pleasure to a human Being possessed of that information which may be expected from him, not as a lawyer, a physician, a mariner, an astronomer, or a natural philosopher, but as a Man.(104)

In this thesis, I have confined myself to a small selection of Leunig's poetry,(105) in order to engage in a detailed discussion of each poem, drawing out its individuality, and its connections to its poetic antecedents. However, it must be acknowledged that Leunig has produced a considerable body of poetry, which is simple enough to convey its message quickly, yet has a complexity which rewards critical analysis. Many of these poems, not to mention Leunig's cartoons and illustrated prose, deal with the concerns I have identified in my sample poems, with the soul-destroying elements of society being particularly targeted for our attention, and soul-reviving solutions being poetically proposed for our self-healing. As a poet, Leunig refuses to allow his readers to ignore or deny the problems of their world. Instead, through his art, he pushes us towards a recognition of the physical and social benefits to be gained from creatively exercising our imagination.

Leunig combines his individual creativity with our literary legacy, thus ensuring that our society receives the therapeutic benefits of poetry, regardless of any contemporary perception that poetry is high culture and therefore largely irrelevant to daily life. Leunig teaches us that creative communication is a necessity of life, and awakens the latent poet in us all. In his essay, 'What is a Classic?', T.S.Eliot confirms for us that literature flows in a constantly changing progression, as each age adapts the literary conventions, techniques and themes it has inherited, creating art which specifically adapts universal human concerns to the needs of the day.

The persistence of literary creativeness in any people, accordingly, consists in the maintenance of an unconscious balance between tradition in the larger sense - the collective personality, so to speak, realized in the literature of the past - and the originality of the living generation.(106)

This delicate balance between inherited literature and literary individuality, and the traditional position of poets as the self-appointed guardians of their society's souls, is artistically demonstrated by a Leunig poem which has long held pride of place on my fridge door, Robin Hood. In considering this poem, I would draw attention to its connotations of a romantic, benevolent outlaw of legend, unable to exist in our quick-fix, mechanistic society, and compare Robin Hood's traditional disruption of the status-quo with Leunig's questioning of our cultural hegemony. Because of the word constraints of this thesis, however, I shall have to leave this simple, but compelling, poem (with the rest of Michael Leunig's work) to speak for itself, emphasising the vital importance of our artistic inheritance, and the need for creative freedom and communication, as I believe the cartoonist-poet intended it should.


1. Aristophanes, The Frogs, in The Wasps; The Poet and the Women; The Frogs, trans. D. Barrett, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1964 (405 BC), p. 208, ll. 1424-1428.
2. W. Wordsworth, Preface to the Lyrical Ballads (1800), in W.J.B. Owen & J. Worthington Smyser (eds), The Prose Works of William Wordsworth, v.1, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1974, p. 128.
3. T.S. Eliot, 'The Use of Poetry and The Use of Criticism' (1933), in F. Kermode (ed.), Selected Prose of T.S.Eliot, Faber and Faber, London & Boston, 1975, p.80.
4. From the blurb on the back cover of M. Leunig, Goatperson and Other Tales, Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Vic., 1999.
5. Michael Leunig began drawing cartoons for newspapers in 1969.
6. M. Leunig, Introspective (National Gallery of Victoria), New Holland Publishers Pty Ltd, Frenchs Forest, NSW, 1998 (1991).
7. J. Hughes (ed.), The Concise Australian National Dictionary, Oxford University Press Australia, Melbourne, 1992, see Appendix p. 1.
8. T. Stephens, 'Australian treasures named', The Age, 13 December 1997, p. 6.
9. M. Leunig, 2Shot: Terry Lane and Michael Leunig (video recording), ABC Television, 21 March 2000.
10. H. Garner, Foreword to M. Leunig, Introspective, op. cit., p. 1.
11. Peter Garrett is the frontsperson for the Australian band, Midnight Oil. He is also an environmental and social activist.
12. T.S.Eliot, op. cit., p. 94.
13. H. Glen, Vision and Disenchantment : Blake's 'Songs' and Wordsworth's 'Lyrical Ballads', Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1983, p. 34.
14. T.S. Eliot, 'Tradition and the Individual Talent' (1919), in Selected Prose of T.S.Eliot
15. W. Wordsworth, op. cit., p. 149.
16. Leunig's commitment to and concern for our society is demonstrated through his public prayers for our well-being. For an example, see We pray for the fragile ecology of the heart and mind, M. Leunig, A Common Prayer: A cartoonist talks to God, p48-9.
17. An exploration of some further connections between Michael Leunig's art and T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock is provided by Leunig's cartoon Nude fog-sucking, M. Leunig, Introspective, p109. It is interesting to look at this cartoon in the light of T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, for they seem to share a sordid, dirty city scape, with characters inhabiting "certain half-deserted streets / The muttering retreats / Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels / And sawdust restaurants with oyster shells." Within this setting there are further similarities between Eliot's feline personification of the fog, and Leunig's little man in the gutter, sensuously arching his back like a cat. "The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes / ... Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains." THese similarities enhance the contrast between Prufrock's unhealthy, indecisive, self-conscious concern with appearances, and Leunig's happy uninhibited nude, who creatively seizes the moment with conviction, and so lessens the miasma around himself.
18. T.S. Eliot, 'The Function of Criticism' (1923), in The Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot, op. cit., p.68.
19. T.S.Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1917), in Selected Poems, Faber and Faber, London & Boston, 1990 (1954), p. 13, ll. 70-74.
20. ibid., p. 11, ll. 13-14.
21. ibid., p. 13, ll. 56-59.
22. ibid., p. 16, ll. 126-130.
23. The Holy Bible, King James Authorised Version, Cambridge University Press, London, n.d., Genesis 19:26.
24. Like the explication of poetry!
25. For a graphical representation by Michael Leunig of the vital connection between the duck and the human spirit, see Leunig's 'Shark-infested seas' cartoon: M. Leunig, The Penguin Leunig, op. cit., p.7.
26. M. Leunig, A Common Prayer: A cartoonist talks to God, HarperCollinsPublishers, East Melbourne, Vic., 1999 (1990), p. 7.
27. Just as the duck symbolizes an earthly concern for our well-being, Michael Leunig's drawings of angels allow us to feel that this concern is shared in heaven: M. Leunig, Ramming the Shears, Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Vic., 1990 (19850, p.72.
28. The Holy Bible, op. cit., Matthew 16:24.
29. The connection between Christianity, and Michael Leunig's double emphasis on suffering and creativity, is particularly obvious in Leunig's prayer, That which is Christ-like within us: M. Leunig, A Common Prayer: A cartoonist talks to God, op. cit., p.17.
30. J.A. Cuddon, The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, 3rd ed., Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1992 (1977), p. 1006.
31. T.S.Eliot, 'The Function of Criticism', op. cit., p. 68.
32. P. Hanks (ed.), Collins Dictionary of the English Language, William Collins Sons & Co., London & Glasgow, 1984, p. 1194.
33. J.A. Cuddon, op. cit., p. 545.
34. A. Partington (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, rev. 4th ed., The Softback Preview, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998 (1941), p. 155.
35. ibid., p. 164.
36. This is a theme that reappears continually in Leunig's art, and its importance to society is confirmed by the sting in the tail of Leunig's "award winning" cartoon: M. Leunig, You and Me, Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Vic., 1998 (1995), p.44-5.
37. J.A. Cuddon, op. cit., p. 502-3.
38. Capital letters represent stressed syllables, while small letters signify unstressed syllables.
39. W. C. Williams, This Is Just To Say (1934), in A. Allison, et al. (eds), The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 3rd ed., W.W. Norton & Company, New York & London, 1983 (1970), p. 945-946.
40. The message identified here is given concrete, creative expression by Leunig in the cartoon entitled How to be of Value: M. Leunig, You And Me, op. cit., p.14-15.
41. M. Moore, Poetry (1921), in The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore, Faber and Faber, London & Boston, 1958, p. 36, ll. 4-8 . . . ll. 16-19.
42. ibid., l. 3 & l. 29.
43. Who need this advice the most! - this interpretation is explicitly confirmed by the Leunig poem Humans hate each other's guts: M. Leunig, The Age, 20 February 1998, p.A14.
44. M. Leunig, A Common Prayer: A cartoonist talks to God, op. cit., p. 62.
45. For Michael Leunig's poignant cartoon entitled Thoughts of a Baby lying in a Child-Care Centre, M. Leunig, You and Me, op cit., p. 43.
46. M. Leunig & T. Lane, 2Shot, op. cit.
47. This construction of an uncaring, menacing society draws to mind the Leunig cartoon, Dreams will be towed away: M. Leunig, The Penguin Leunig, op. cit., p. 111.
48. T.S.Eliot, 'Tradition and the Individual Talent', op. cit., p. 42.
49. M. Leunig, quoted in D. Macken, 'Leunig: drawing the line on creativity and other curly issues', The Age (Extra), 5 August 1995, p. 20.
50. M. Leunig, 2Shot, op. cit., [quoted in context previously in this thesis].
51. I have condensed the poem onto one page for convenience.
52. W. Blake, London [Songs of Experience] (1793), in M. Mason (ed.), William Blake, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1988, p. 274, ll. 5-8.
53. W. Wordsworth, Ode : Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (1807), in W.Williams (ed.), Wordsworth - Poems, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1985, p. 73, ll. 68-69.
54. W. Blake, op. cit., ll. 5-6: "In every cry of every Man, / In every Infant's cry of fear,"
55. Compare William Blake's use of the word "weep" in his two poems entitled The Chimney Sweeper, in M.Mason (ed.), op. cit.,
The Chimney Sweeper [Songs of Innocence], p. 252, ll. 2-3: "And my father sold me while yet my tongue / Could scarcely cry, 'Weep! weep! weep! weep!'"
The Chimney Sweeper [Songs of Experience], p. 269, ll. 1-2: "A little black thing among the snow / Crying 'weep, weep,' in notes of woe!"
56. The destructive effects of alienation and social disapproval can be seen in the Leunig cartoon reproduced on p. 37 of The Travelling Leunig, Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Vic., 1990.
57. S.T. Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1797), in E. Coleridge (ed.), The Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Oxford University Press, London, 1935, p. 186, l. 192.
58. M. Leunig, quoted in D. Macken, op. cit.,
59. This acknowledgment that our world is far from perfect is whimsically conveyed by Leunig's cartoon, The Way Life Is Supposed To Be: M. Leunig, Goatperson and Other Tales, Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Vic., 1999.
60. Aristophanes, op. cit., l. 1428.
61. The way in which art allows us to view the problems of our society is creatively illustrated by Leunig's Understandascope cartoon, M. Leunig, Ramming the Shears, op. cit., p.37
62. J.A. Cuddon, op. cit., p. 503 [quoted in context earlier in this thesis].
63. T.S. Eliot, Preludes (1917), in Selected Poems, op. cit., p. 23, ll. 39-42: "His soul stretched tight across the skies / That fade behind a city block, / Or trampled by insistent feet / At four and five and six o'clock;"
64. G.M. Hopkins, God's Grandeur (1877 - 1895), in N. Mackenzie (ed.), The Poetical Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990, p. 139, ll. 5-8.
65. W. Blake, London [Songs of Experience], op. cit., ll. 1-4: "I wander thro' each charter'd street, . . . / And mark in every face I meet / Marks of weakness, marks of woe."
66. W. Wordsworth, Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey (1798), in W. WILLIAMS (ed.), op. cit., pp. 37-38, ll. 26-27 ... ll. 54-56: "But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din / Of towns and cities, . . . / . . .when the fretful stir / Unprofitable, and the fever of the world / Have hung upon the beatings of my heart -"
67. J. Keats, Ode to a Nightingale (1819-1820), in J. Stillinger (ed.), John Keats - Complete Poems, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, 1982, p. 279, ll. 23-24: "The weariness, the fever, and the fret / Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;"
68. P. Hanks (ed.), op. cit., p. 591.
69. T. Gifford, Pastoral, Routledge, London & New York, 1999, p. 51, quoting from T. Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1742-50), l. 73.
70. M. Leunig, 2Shot, op. cit.,
71. Michael Leunig's appreciation of the harmonious natural existence enjoyed by the goat is further explored in another 'goat-poem', I saw a goat one frosty morn, M. Leunig, Goatperson and Other Tales, op. cit., p.64
72. G.M. Hopkins, op.cit., ll. 12-14.
73. M. Leunig, op. cit., [quoted in context earlier in this thesis]
74. W. Wordsworth, op. cit., p. 38, ll. 35-36
75. T. Gifford, op. cit., p. 23.
76. ibid., p. 80.
77. In Leunig's art, creative domestic communication is most often symbolised by a warm and friendly tea-pot, and two soothing cups of tea: M.Leunig, Goatperson and Other Tales, op. cit., p.99
78. Michael Leunig's poem, Little Tendrils, encapsulates this feeling of a special, caring correspondence, little letters in little bottles, bravely launched by the poet onto the sea of our society: M. Leunig, Goatperson and Other Tales, op. cit., p.131
79. M. Moore, op. cit., ll. 21-22.
80. ibid., l. 24 (The real toads are Leunig's readers, each in their own, imaginary, 'Summer Palace' garden.)
81. T. Lane, 2Shot, op. cit.,
82. M. Leunig, 2Shot, op. cit.,
83. ibid.,
84. ibid.,
85. ibid.,
86. J. Keats, Ode on Melancholy (1819), in J. Stillinger (ed.) op. cit., p. 283, ll. 15-17.
87. M. Leunig, op. cit.,
88. This blurring of the boundary between nonsense and common sense allows us to view our world from a different perspective, leading us to question the values which govern our daily lives. See Leunig's Garden Advisory Service cartoon: M. Leunig, The Travelling Leunig, op. cit., p.6.
89. M. Leunig, op. cit.,
90. J. Keats, op. cit., l. 1.
91. J. Chevalier, & A. Gheerbrant, A Dictionary of Symbols, 2nd ed., trans. J. Buchanan-Brown, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1996 (1969), p. 418.
92. ibid., p. 496.
93. S.T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, G. Watson (ed.), J.M. Dent & Sons, London, 1965 (1817), Ch. XIV par. 2.
94. M. Leunig, op. cit.,
95. G.M. Hopkins, My Own Heart Let Me More Have Pity On (1885-1918), in N. Mackenzie (ed.), op. cit., p. 186, ll. 9-11.
96. This sense of the poet's personal concern for his readers, and his wish to help them escape the rat-race, also echoes Keats's conclusions in Ode on a Grecian Urn (1819), in J. Stillinger (ed.), op. cit., p.282, ll. 49-50: "'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' - that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'"
See Leunig's Truth and Beauty cartoon: M. Leunig, The Travelling Leunig, op. cit., p.123.
97. J. Chevalier, & A. Gheerbrant, op. cit., p. 292-4.
98. M. Leunig, op. cit.,
99. W. Wordsworth, op. cit., ll. 38-42
100. M. Leunig, The Prayer Tree, HarperCollinsPublishers, East Melbourne, Vic., 1999 (1980), pp. 1-2.
101. We can see Leunig's evaluation of the extent of this danger in cartoons like Cradle to Grave: M. Leunig, You and Me, op. cit., p.57.
102. Aristophanes, op. cit., ll. 1480-1503.
103. Consider, for example, the relationship between this excerpted poem from Aristophanes, and Michael Leunig's contemporary, Australian, political-poetical complaint, They're privatising things we own together: Everyday Devils and Angels p.
104. W. Wordsworth, Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, op. cit., p. 139.
105. Accentuated by other relevant cartoons and poems by Leunig, reproduced in the Appendix.
106. T.S. Eliot, 'What is a Classic?' (1944), in Selected Prose of T.S.Eliot, op. cit., p. 120.



\ = stressed syllable
U = unstressed syllable
X = extra / omitted syllables
| | = poetic foot
|| = line break
- - - = stanza break



Aristophanes, The Frogs, in The Wasps; The Poet and The Women; The Frogs;
trans. Barrett, D., Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1964 (405 BC), p. 147.
(Penguin Classics, 1853, 1996).

Blake, W., in Mason, M., (ed.), William Blake, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1988
The Chimney Sweeper [Songs of Innocence] (1789), p. 252;
The Chimney Sweeper [Songs of Experience] (1793), p. 269;
London [Songs of Experience] (1794), p. 274.

Bradford, R, Introducing Literary Studies, Prentice Hall / Harvester Wheatsheaf,
New York, 1996.

Burke, J., 'A Whiff of Genius', The Age (Saturday Extra / Books),
14 November 1998, p. 7.

Chevalier, J. & Gheerbrant, A., A Dictionary of Symbols, 2nd ed.,
trans. Buchanan-Brown, J., Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1996 (1969, 1982).

Coleridge, S.T., Biographia Literaria, Watson G. (ed)
J.M.Dent & Sons, London, 1965 (1817).

Coleridge, S.T., The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798)
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Leunig's cartoons and poems are also regularly published in the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

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2Shot: Terry Lane and Michael Leunig (video recording), ABC Television, 21 March 2000.

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