Immigrants at Central Station 1951

Immigrants at Central Station, 1951

By Peter Skrzynecki

It was sad to hear
The trains whistle this morning
At the railway station.
All night it had rained.
The air was crowded
With a dampness that slowly
Sank into our thoughts-
But we ate it all
The silence, the cold, the benevolence
Of empty streets.

Time waited anxiously with us
Behind upturned collars
And space hemmed us
Against each other
Like cattle bought for slaughter.

Families stood
With blankets and packed cases-
Keeping children by their sides,
Watching pigeons
That watched them.

But it was sad to hear
The train’s whistle so suddenly-
To the right of our shoulders
Like a word of command.
The signal at the platforms end
Turned red and dropped
Like a guillotine-
Cutting us off from the space of eyesight

While time ran ahead
Along glistening tracks of steel.

Summary of Immigrants at Central Station, 1951

  • Popularity of “Immigrants at Central Station, 1951”: ”Immigrants at Central Station, 1951” by Peter Skrzynecki, a great Australian poet, is a descriptive poetic piece about migration. The poem captures a realistic picture of the immigrants waiting for the train at the central station. It brilliantly illustrates their anxiety, hope, and fear attached to the travel they are about to undertake. The relatable subject matter of the poem and the pragmatic approach of the writer toward immigrants has made this poem popular among the immigrants.
  • “Immigrants at Central Station, 1951”, As a Representative of Amazement: The poem features the significant event related to immigrants. It begins when the speaker explains the station where these people are gathered; the station is damped, cold, sorrowful, and silent. Being one of them, the speaker states how the chillness of the weather and dampness tried to cast a negative impact, but they overcame this haunting situation and continued their fixation on their goal. Their anxiety is clearly depicted in the second stanza, where the speaker says that even time became one with them, and the crowd is compared with cattle that are brought for the slaughter. Holding their luggage and children, the families’ stood at the station watching other people. At last, the most awaited moment arrives when the train whistled so loudly and stationed at the glistening tracks of steel, dividing the crowd into two halves. Finally, the immigrants head toward a hopeful future.
  • Major Themes in ”Immigrants at Central Station, 1951”: Problems of the immigrants, sadness, and man versus nature are the poem’s central themes. The poem tells the story of immigrants waiting at Central Station, recalling their feelings and experience while waiting for the train. The anxiety and sadness of the immigrants are described perfectly through the silence that filled the platform. The poet indirectly comments on the human tendency to adapt to certain situations; their feelings and emotions varied from situation to situation. The apprehensive attitude of the immigrants and depiction of their voiceless conversation help us better understanding their intimacy. However, the train’s arrival not only swallows their eagerness and distress but also offers them a way that leads them to a new life.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Immigrants at Central Station, 1951”

literary devices are literary tools that allow writers to beautify their poems. Peter Skrzynecki has also used various devices in this poem whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “Keeping children by their sides” and the sound of /o/ in “To the right of our shoulders.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /t/ in “To the right.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /t/ in “Like cattle bought for slaughter” and the sound of /s/ in “Cutting us off from the space of eyesight.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

“It was sad to hear
The trains whistle this morning
At the railway station.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Peter Skrzynecki has used imagery in this poem such as “The signal at the platforms end”, “With blankets and packed cases” and “Cutting us off from the space of eyesight.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poet has used this device in the opening stanza of the poem to show the feelings of the immigrants such as;

“But we ate it all
The silence, the cold, the benevolence
Of empty streets.”

  1. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. The poet has personified train, air, and time in the poem such as “The trains whistle this morning” and “While time ran ahead/Along glistening tracks of steel.”
  2. Pathetic Fallacy: Pathetic Fallacy is a literary device that attributes human qualities and emotions to inanimate objects. The poet has used this device at various places in the poem such as “The air was crowded” and “Time waited anxiously with us.”
  3. Simile: It is used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. Peter has used this device at many places in the poem such as “Turned red and dropped/Like a guillotine”, “Like cattle bought for slaughter” and “Like a word of command.”
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. “The word of command” symbolizes the authority and hold of the whistleblower.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Immigrants at Central Station, 1951”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: The poem shows descriptive diction having metaphors and similes.
  2. Free Verse: The poem does not follow any rhyme scheme. Therefore, it is a free verse poem having no rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
  3. Quintet: A quintet is a five lined stanza. Here, the second and third stanzas are quintets.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem; the first and last stanzas have ten verses, while the second and the third stanzas have five verses.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful to use while narrating any significant incident from the past.

Time waited anxiously with us
Behind upturned collars
And space hemmed us
Against each other
Like cattle bought for slaughter.”

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