com defines "past" as "[A] previous background, career, experiences, and activities- which is exactly the pretext required to understand the complexity of Gwen Harwood's poetry. By using characters as a portal, Harwood recaptures the past in her poetry and constructs a deep foundation on which she builds an ensemble of emotions.
What was destined to be a hallmark of Harwood's poetry; Enjambment is used to symbolize an eternal struggle, between past and present, in an environment not constrained by earthly needs. "Alter Ego" and "At the waters edge" present direct and indirect references to the past. It could almost be stated that both "At the waters edge" and "Alter Ego" are timeless poems; hence they exist in a realm not affected by the movement of time, or life's journey.
"Mozart said he could hear a symphony complete, its changing harmonies clear, playing in his inward ear in time without extent-.
Simultaneously a source of wonder and paradox, both Mozart and Harwood's "Alter Ego" exist beyond the limits of time. In knowing her alter-ego, total identity will not be revealed until the end of life's journey. Thus, Harwood uses poetry to transcend times limitation through the use of music as a catalyst. Alternately, in "At the waters edge" Harwood uses a seagull to defer the movement of time by reflecting on the contrast of a human life to that of a gull's. .
"You will learn what was breathed into dust the sixth day, when the fowls of the air wheeled over your flightless dominion.".
The penultimate stanza is not so much focused on time directly, but the effect of time in the evolution of mankind and is focusing on the future. The dualities of life must be accepted. Humans have responsibility, which is in direct contrast to the mediocre life of a gull. If anything, this is a temporal reference point; referring the reader to see into the future, but drawing on the past as a source of reference.