‘realer than the Real’ : Francis Webb’s 'Ward Two'
'Ward Two' has long been one of Francis Webb's best known poems, if not the best known, due to the coherence lent it by the hospital metaphor and its finely modulated development of emotional experience. But like most of his poetry, it is difficult to see where the poem takes us until we identify the position of the poem in the context of his work, and the received systems of philosophy and metaphysics which it explores. One of the central themes of Webb's poetry is that of exploration, the kind of inner exploration that is focussed on, but never limited by historical experience. The large canvas of his explorer poems. 'A Drum For Ben Boyd'. 'Leichhardt In Theatre' and 'Eyre All Alone' (and in a more subtle way, 'A View Of Montreal') bases its images on Australian man's historical struggle with his environment as a metaphor for the poet's own painful penetration of human consciousness. Though not immediately obvious, it is this same struggle through the strata of consciousness on which 'Ward Two' is based.
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