Judith Wright – The Lost Man

Judith Wright was an Australian poet who was called ‘the conscience of the nation’ for her environmental work and her campaigns for Aboriginal land rights. This poem, The Lost Man, reads like a hero’s journey or a person trying to find their way. The poem was inspired by the true story of James Guthrie Westray who was one of three survivors of a plane crash in the Lamington Ranges of Queensland. Westray, who was only 25 years old, separated from the other two men in search of help in the forest and met died falling over the edge of a waterfall.

The Lost Man

To reach the pool you must go through the rain-forest –
through the bewildering midsummer of darkness
lit with ancient fern,
laced with poison and thorn.
You must go by the way he went – the way of the bleeding
hands and feet, the blood on the stones like flowers,
under the hooded flowers
that fall on the stones like blood.
To reach the pool you must go by the black valley
among the crowded columns made of silence,
under the hanging clouds
of leaves and voiceless birds.
To go by the way he went to the voice of the water,
where the priest stinging-tree waits with his whips and fevers
under the hooded flowers
that fall from the trees like blood,
you must forget the song of the gold bird dancing
over tossed light; you must remember nothing
except the drag of darkness
that draws your weakness under.
To go by the way he went, you must find beneath you
that last and faceless pool, and fall.  And falling
find between breath and death
the sun by which you live.


Judith Wright (1915-2000)
From: The Gateway

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