Out of Time is a poem written by Kenneth Slessor and is one of his personally favorite poems to date he has written. Time is personified in this poem, but also associated with the natural phenomenon of water, or vessels such as yachts seen on Slessor’s favorite location, Sydney Harbor (which is itself personified). Personification gives immediacy to an abstraction such as time, and elicits evaluative responses which are more arresting than an address to an abstraction could ever be. So Slessor finds that Time ‘enfolds me in its bed’, but – in the next line – it is ‘the bony knife’ which ‘runs me through.
Seeing time everywhere, he notes that it flows through all things and his heart rebukes him: “Time flows, not you. ” Kenneth Slessor constantly reminds us during the first part of the poem that time itself cannot be slowed down or stopped; it is just a force that never stops or runs out. He seems pessimistic about the subject of Time though, as he constantly keeps repeating himself which is why he chose the title for the poem as, ‘Out of Time’ because no matter what, Time will never stop for anyone or anything.
He is the pawn of Time whose mastery is complete and indifferent to his emotions: it ‘drills me, drives through bone and vein’, just as ‘water bends the seaweeds in the sea. ’ Time may be cruelly dominant, but the speaker’s view of himself is worse: ‘the tide goes over but the weeds remain’. Yet the engagement with Time and its indifference to us. In both senses, we are, ‘Out of Time’: that is, at once part of its scheme, but then abandoned by it; and also (as in music) out of kilter with its rhythms and purposes.
Contrastingly, in the second section, Time is now seen at a disadvantage (which, again, is given immediacy by personification). Time, always flowing, cannot abide in the lovely moments it affords. Ever changing, he is subservient to ‘to-morrow’ and deaf to the entreaties of such as ‘beauty’, urging him to be ‘still’. This is his ‘fate’. Slessor’s execration of Time intensifies as the stanzas proceed, as he proceeds himself through a depressing sequence of ‘dead now’s and heres’: ‘He keeps appointment with a million years’.
In contrast, by implication, our limited human experience now begins to appear preferable: ‘I and the moment laugh, and let him go, / Leaning against his golden undertow. ’ Thesis and antithesis anticipate synthesis. Slessor’s threefold ordering of the poem has the structure of an argument. Accordingly, the third section celebrates what the first section denigrated: the moment out of time that liberates us from our time-bound world.
Cleverly, Slessor takes a word separate from language to celebrate this escape from ordinariness. The speaker, so critical of himself earlier, now celebrates himself as ‘part’ of a dispensation that is ‘fleshless and ageless, changeless and made free”. His heart, in a rhetorical question, inquires: ‘Fool, would you leave this country? ’ But, as the first word suggest, it is not finally a rhetorical query, as the poem, in closing, returns to its beginning.
Time’s ever-flowing processes cannot be resisted: ‘ I was taken by the suck of sea’, and mortality is grimly recovered is grimly recovered, along with the original imagery of the first section in a rhyming couplet that is too pat: ‘ The gulls go down, the body dies and rots, / And Time flows past them like a hundred yachts. In my opinion this is one of my favorite poems of Kenneth Slessor so far, as all 3 parts interconnect with each other which allows for very deep and meaningful analysis. He also discusses and describe that time cannot be controlled or stopped, it only flow’s on which most people and including me, can instantly relate to.
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