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Allen Curnow "Time"


Time     Allen Curnow

1.        I am the nor’west air nosing among the pines

2.     I am the water-race and the rust on railway lines

3.     I am the mileage recorded on the yellow signs


4.     I am dust, I am distance, I am lupins backs on the beach

5.      I am the sums the sole-charge teachers teach

6.     I am cows called to milking and the magpie’s screech


7.      I am nine o’clock in the morning when the office is clean

8.      I am the slap of the belting and the smell of the machine

9.     I am the place in the park where the lovers were seen.


10.   I am recurring music the children hear

11.     I am level noises in the remembering ear

12.  I am the sawmill and the passionate second gear.


13.  I, Time, am all these, yet these exist

14.  Among my mountainous fabrics like a mist,

15.   So do they the measurable world resist


16.  I, Time, call down, condense, confer,

17.   On the willing memory the shapes these were:

18.   I, more than your conscious carrier,


19.  Am island, am sea, am father, and friend,

20.Though I am here all things my coming attend;

21.  I am, you have heard it, the Beginning and the End.



A) Vocabulary – close analysis of the first four stanzas. Here are some notes to help you with the difficult vocabulary


Vocabulary help:

Line 1: pines are evergreen trees that produce woody cones and have needle- shaped leaves

Line 4: Lupins are a common sight on the South Island of New Zealand where they have become wild (plants)

Line 5: sole-charge teachers are found in about 8% of primary schools in New Zealand. These are usually rural schools in isolated villages which consist of only one class and one teacher.

Line 6: magpies are birds noted for their chattering call

Line 8: belting – either the material used to make belts (it could be the belts of a machine) OR belting can also be a beating or a thrashing (being hit with a leather belt)

Line 10: recurrent means occurring repeatedly

Line 12: a gear is a part of a machine used to change speed


B) Questions about the stanzas to help you think about the meaning of the poem.


Stanzas 5-7

a) Look at the simile in stanza five: “like a mist”. Why do you think all of the above memories are compared to a mist? How can memories exist “among my mountainous fabrics”?


b) “So do they the measurable world resist”. Comment on the following line.


c) Look at stanza 6 and suggest the meanings of the phrase “your conscious carrier”.


d) Look at line 16 – what does time do to these memories?


e) The poem is called ‘Time”; pick out all the references to time. What is being suggested about time?


f) The last line ‘I am … the Beginning and the End’ is derived from the Bible:

Revelation 22, v.13. There are also echoes of ‘East Coker’ (Eliot’s Four Quartets)

with its closing lines ‘In my end is my beginning’.

Does this help to reveal the meanings of the poem? OR does the poem remain “private and unanswerable?”


g) Look closely at the final stanza and the use of listing. Comment on the choice of nouns in the list.


h) Look closely at the use of punctuation in the last three stanzas and in the poem as a whole. Comment on the effect of this punctuation.

Does this help to reveal the meanings of the poem? OR does the poem remain “private and unanswerable?”