The song itself seems to subliminally echo different aspects of colonialism. In part one there are images of colonial domination and the beginning of colonization in almost every stanza which are then contrasted by images of the natural. The barb and bayonet in stanza one, the cormorants in stanza two, and the reference to Shakespeare's The Tempest in stanza four, all echo clear images attached to British colonialism. Part one displays the adventurousness and purity that was believed to be in the new lands which were being conquered and subjugated. "No boot mark here or finger prints," shows the disregard for the native people as equally human. The consistent imagery of water, earth, and their natural elements contrasts with the colonial images to further outline the conflicts. This natural imagery especially the symbol of water changes throughout part one. It begins with lush overgrown nature, with an abundance of water, and by stanza four has degraded to "lowlands," "heat," and "briar."
In part two, The Landlord's Daughter, it seems that a gap in time has passed and that the song skips forward to a more postcolonial context. The conflict with and hatred for the landlord seems to be the overwhelming reason for the rape of the landlord's daughter. When offered gold and silver the rapist mocks the daughter and refuses to even consider taking the monetary payment. This shows that the reason for the rape is for a punishment to the landlord, personal satisfaction, or both. The symbol of water is also brought back into this section of the song, as the rape occurs "down by the water." This aspect will become more significant as it leads into the next part of the song.
In part three, You'll Not Feel the Drowning, it would appear that the landlord's daughter who was raped in part two has been murdered. The rapist and murderer takes great care in his actions by placing dimes upon the eyes of the young woman. This action was believed to be a classical practice upon the death of someone, so that they might have the payment required to pay the ferryman to cross the river Styx into the underworld. Through the repetition in this section of the song and the focus on sleep and peace, it appears that the man may feel some remorse for his actions and be attempting to rationalize the situation. Yet, the overarching theme would suggest that although he may feel remorse, the fact that he refers to her as "ugly" and a "little fool" shows that he did not commit the rape for personal satisfaction and more likely committed the rape and murder as a punishment to the landlord for his likely misdeeds to the rapist. The symbol of water comes full circle in this section of the poem as it no longer represents nature and life but death in the "drowning" of the young woman's corpse.