Wild Lemons questions and answers

Wild Lemons by David Malouf Summary

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The poem “Wild Lemons” is written by David Malouf. It is a metaphorical journey of the poet, whereas we will a real-life journey too.


  • It was first published in the collections named, “Wild Lemons” in 1980.
  • It was published for the second time in the collection named, “POEMS 1959 to 1989” in 1982.
  • It is a metaphorical journey of the poem, where we will get the real journey of the past also.
  • Poet’s native place was in Australia
  • Now, he had migrated to Europe
  • Here we will also find, the Diasporic concept, i.e., the feature of its are:
    • Migration – transferred from one place to another which we will see in the poem
    • Less Assimilation – to accept everything of the new place but the poet could not do it
    • Nostalgic order – to remember the past or native place , the poet was feeling nostalgic
  • The poet talks about both the past and present life in the poem


Through all those years keeping the present
open to the light of just this moment:
that was the path we found, you might call it
a promise, that the starting out among blazed trunks
the track would not lead nowhere, that being set
down here among wild lemons, our bodies were
expected at an occasion up head
that would not take place without us. One

Here the poet wanted to make us understand that, ‘all those years” are the years of the poet’s past life. He clearly said that he had kept the present as his main priority rather than, all those years of his past life.

that‘ which means a sense of distance is created. ‘that was the path we found‘ – he talks about the path he chose in the past to Europe to make his career and leave his native place. And the path he chose in his past, made him a promise that it will surely lead him somewhere, as every path had its destination.

the starting out among the blazed trunks – here blazed trunk symbolizes the poet’s hope or bright future in Europe. The trunk is blazed (shiny) because of the reflection of the sunlight on the trees. And the poet says that the blazed trunk tracks will lead him somewhere. “Blazed trunk” a visual image, a Keatians image is what we find here.

that being set down here among wild lemons – ‘set down‘ started his journey from Australia to Europe (in his memory). ‘wild lemons‘ indicates the people of Australia as they had already overcome their wild/hard time (overcome the post-colonial period). Now, the poet describes his present life in Australia (wild lemons).

our bodies… without us’ – here the poet talks about some occasion that is not going to happen if he does not visit his native place and to complete the ritual/ occasion he should visit Australia. (**The poet had not talked about clearly for which occasion he had to visit his native land).

proof was tough-skinned fruit among
their thorns; someone had been there before us
and planted these, their sunlight to be sliced
for the drinks( they had adapted
in their own way and to other ends); another

Here the poet describes the first proof of the tough-skinned fruit, i.e., the lemons. The lemons were the tough-skinned fruit there in the thorns, which had been planted by someone who had visited the place before us.

Here we also found an inner meaning to these lines, i.e., tough-skinned fruit is indicated as the skin of the Australian people who had faced and tolerated the torture during colonization. And to start the colonization the first person who visited to start colonization in Australia had planted his seeds of it.

was the warmth of our island, sitting still
in its bay, at midnight humming
and rising to its own concerns, but back,
heat-struck, lapped by clean ocean waters
at dawn. The present is always
with us, always open. Though to what, out there

Here, the island had been described as Australia (the poet’s native place). ‘bay‘ refers to the bay of oceans. Australia had been personified here, as it shows us human qualities, i.e., midnight humming. And it shows the concerns about the people suffering from colonizers and their torture.

But they are heat-struck, that is, when they remember the torture of the colonizer, they lapped (drink it ) like it never happened to them(Australian). They thought of a positive future even when they were in pain. An optimistic thought had been seen here by the poet through the word ‘dawn‘ which means a new beginning.

Maybe the past was not in control of them, but the present situation is always in their hands. As they can think freely, and move freely without thinking of any oppressor or torture they have to face anymore. The present is always with them with all the freedom.

in the dark we are making for as seven o’clock
strikes, the gin goes down and starlings
gather, who can tell? Compacts made
of silence, as a flute tempts out a few
reluctant starts to walk over the water. I lie down
in different weather now though the same body,
which is where that rough track led. Our sleep

But now, people out of habit do visit the café-bar to drink ‘gin‘ (colorless alcohol) at seven o’clock in the evening. When the Starling (a dark gregarious oscine bird) gathers and the ‘gin’ goes down the bottle, people enjoy their life fully and celebrate their freedom to the fullest.

Compact made of silence indicates ‘death‘. ‘silence’ is personified here. ‘stars‘ are symbolized to the people of Australia. So, the Flute (flying boat) is also compared with death here, and the poet says that as the reluctant stars attracts the flute across the water, likewise the death attracts the people of Australia.

But now, the poet lies in a different weather, that is, he had shifted to Europe from Australia, which the rough track led him to. But he is the same person with the same body.

is continuous with the dark, or that portion of it
that is this day’s night; the body
tags along as promised to see what goes.
What goes is time, and clouds melting into
tomorrow of our breath, a scent of lemons
run wild in another country, but smelling always of themselves.

Here the poet says, Our deaths(sleep) are continuous till the dooms day (the last day of the world’s existence). On the other day, he also wanted to say us that our death is continuous at the hands of the colonizer till the day colonizer is there. Or till the day there is day and night.

day’s nightoxymoron (figure of speech) had been used here, that is two opposite are put together.

what goes‘ through these words the poet had tried to make us understand that, as human being our bodies, and our thoughts keep changing and we always keep wondering what’s next and what goes never comes back, that is, the time. But with an optimistic thought, we do look for a good future. Here ‘clouds‘ indicate hope, that is, hope for a better tomorrow. The obstacles that we are facing today, we will overcome them tomorrow.

a scent of lemons‘ means a piece of memory from the poet’s native place (Australia) is always there with him. He turns nostalgic whenever he smells of lemons or thinks of wild lemons. The smells of lemons always connect him with his native place and the memories return back making him feel nostalgic.

smells‘ – we find a Keatians image here.

Do check out the Questions and Answers – Wild Lemons

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