Last of His Tribe

Last of His Tribe

By Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Change is the law. The new must oust the old.
I look at you and am back in the long ago,
Old pinaroo lonely and lost here
Last of your clan.

Left only with your memories, you sit
And think of the gay throng, the happy people,
The voices and the laughter
All gone, all gone,
And you remain alone.

I asked and you let me hear
The soft vowelly tongue to be heard now
No more for ever. For me
You enact old scenes, old ways, you who have used
Boomerang and spear.

You singer of ancient tribal songs,
You leader once in the corroboree,
You twice in fierce tribal fights
With wild enemy blacks from over the river,
All gone, all gone. And I feel
The sudden sting of tears, Willie Mackenzie
In the Salvation Army Home.

Displaced person in your own country,
Lonely in teeming city crowds,
Last of your tribe.

Summary of Last of His Tribe

  • Popularity of “Last of His Tribe”: “Last of His Tribe” by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, a prestigious Aboriginal Australian political activist, writer, and educator, is a beautiful piece of poetry that appeared way back in 1970. The poem revolves around a person named, Willie Mackenzie, the last surviving member of the Darwarbada Tribe of the Caboolture District. The speaker explains how he represents the indigenous culture, norms, and values of his tribe lost in the aroma of the modern world. The description of ancient indigenous culture, representation of forgotten values, and the speaker’s regret over this loss make this poem a treat for the readers.
  • “Last of His Tribe” As a Representative of Loss: The poem presents the speaker’s heartfelt feelings on the loss of valuable norms and traditions of the Darwarbada Tribe. To recall the past, she introduces the last surviving man of that time. The poem begins with the description of the man, burying his face on his knees, remembering his people who used to live with him. Due to the disappearance of the aboriginals, the man feels lonely and sad. After discussing his worry, the speaker reflects upon the equipment the aboriginals used for hunting. The man thinks of the time when he used to hunt with his tribesmen. He remembers the old days when battles were fought alongside friends whom he has lost long ago. Unfortunately, the last surviving person also meets his tragic end when gunfire hits him. He starts hallucinating as he dies. He moves back in time and thinks of his mother mourning his loss. His death marks the end of his tribal norms and values. Unlike his fellows, he also leaves for his eternal abode. The final stanza changes his hallucinations into a dream. He dreams the whole scene and can hear a honey-voiced woman as if his new mother is ready to hold him in the world hereafter.
  • Major Themes in “Last of His Tribe”: Death, representation of culture, and man versus world are the major themes of the poem. The poem speaks about the last surviving man of a tribe, who looks back in despair. He regrets the loss he has endured in life and accounts for things this advanced world has snatched from him. No matter how hard he tries to relive those moments, the loneliness and grief never allow him to rejuvenate himself. The poem takes a tragic turn when a stray bullet hits that person, putting an end to this remnant of the last generation. Unfortunately, there is no one to mourn this grave loss. On a deeper level, the speaker illustrates how death puts an end to everything. When people are alive, they make big differences in the world with their efforts. However, when they disappear from the face of this earth, it seems that they never existed. They only remain stays relevant and become known to the researchers and historians.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Last of His Tribe”

literary devices such as similes, personifications, and irony are very important elements of a literary text. Their use not only brings richness to the text but also makes the reader understand the story. Oodgeroo Noonuccal has also made this poem superb by using figurative language. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “The voices and the laughter” and the sound of /o/ in “Displaced person in your own country.”
  2. Consonance: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /l/ in “All gone, all gone. And I feel” and the sound of /r/ in “No more for ever. For me.”
  3. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. Oodgeroo has repeated the word “you” in the fourth stanza of the poem to emphasize the point such as;

“You singer of ancient tribal songs,
You leader once in the corroboree,
You twice in fierce tribal fights.”

  1. 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;

“The sudden sting of tears, Willie Mackenzie
In the Salvation Army Home.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Oodgeroo Noonuccal has used imagery in this poem such as; “Lonely in teeming city crowds”, “The soft vowelly tongue to be heard now” and “I look at you and am back in the long ago.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Last of His Tribe”

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. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free verse poem with no strict rhyme or metrical pattern.
  2. Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “All gone, all gone” which has created a musical quality in the poem.
  3. Refrain: The lines “All gone, all gone” show repetition that they have become a refrain of the poem.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem with each comprises of different number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are suitable while discussing the distant yet joyous memories.

Left only with your memories, you sit
And think of the gay throng, the happy people,
The voices and the laughter
All gone, all gone,
And you remain alone.”