John Shaw Neilson’s “No Pauper Was I”

Within John Shaw Neilson’s poem “The Poor, Poor Country”, there is a repeated line that juxtaposes the idea of the poor Australia, “no pauper was I”. The definition of a pauper is a poor person, and throughout the poem, it continually reminds us that Australia during the time of this poem was a poor and desolate country. So, when John Shaw Neilson repeats “no pauper was I”, its to display that although Australia may have been the poor country it was, he was not. The idea of his wealth is not the ordinary idea of wealth and money due to it not leading to the idea that he was in the country with nothing. What John Shaw Neilson meant is that although financially he was not a rich man, with the spiritual connection that he has with the land and himself, he became rich within the spirit. The relationship that the speaker holds the land is a strong connection with the plants due to the familiarity that he has, “the thin what and the brown oats were never two foot high”, the word never adds this familiarity as it creates the idea that he is certain of the length. His relationship with the wildlife is not missing as he constantly seems to hang around with different bird-like cranes, swan’s, pelicans and ducks as well as including the mythological creature the Bunyip, which creates a bigger emphasis on how connected he is. This is due to the large array of animals that he could point out and having a relationship with aboriginal myth. The speaker is “no pauper” due to his deep spiritual connection Sith the land.

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