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Musings in Maoriland

Tarawera. — (June 10th, 1886.)

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(June 10th, 1886.)

Night, Sleep, and Silence brooded o'er the place;
  Their dark-brow'd sister, Death, crouched close at hand,
The moon gave one sad glance, then hid her face
  Behind the sombre clouds that draped the land.
Night, Sleep, and Silence fled: a roar! a quake!
  Peal after peal of thunder! Flakes of smoke—
And strong convulsions made the mountains shake,
  As if from dungeons deep the Titans broke.
Fierce tongues of fire shot up to lap the clouds,
  Volcanoes belch'd their lava in the air,
Jagged projectiles tore the sable shrouds
  That veil'd the moon; while through the gloom and glare
Whirlwinds of meteors shot round and round,
  And blood-red dragons, yoked to blazing cars,
Bursting from Tartarus, with frantic bound,
  Plunged on through thunder bolts and lightning bars.

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Pregnant with horror, from the Stygian deep
  Rolled out in columns dense Hell's sulph'rous fumes,
And over Tarawera's highest steep
  Enfranchised demons waved their flaming plumes.
The waters shriek'd, and crash'd the mountain's wall
  In boiling cauldrons, roaring in their rage;
Deep chasm and vortex yawn'd and swallow'd all
  The wonders that had lived through many an age.
How small is man—how feeble his distress?—
  When Nature's evil passions are up-stirr'd,
Poor human atoms sink to nothingness,
  Their agonising cries are all unheard.
Unheard by us below; but far above
  The earthquake's thunder, there are mansions where
The tones of anguish and the notes of love,
  The cry for mercy, and the fervent prayer
Rise o'er the groans of mountains. God can hear
  His children's earnest pleadings; He can see
The mother bending o'er her darling's bier—
  The suff'ring spirit struggling to be free.
A flying thought! are human souls the same,
  Nathless the hue and texture of the skin?
We prize the picture and regard the frame
  Just as we do the case for that within.
If pure and shapely—be it black or white—
  It matters not the outside of the mould;
The diamond set in copper shines as bright
  As that encircled in the finest gold.
Upon the morning of that fearful day

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  God's handmaid, Duty, saw brave spirits shine,
She noted not the colour of the clay
  That held such souls; she saw the ray divine
Which flash'd in noble deeds, and won a crown
  Of highest worth—a costly diadem—
Their's for all future time is true renown;
  Angels shall praise and men shall honour them.
They're with us yet; but should we mourn the dead?
  Weep if you will—tears sometimes bring relief—
Sorrow is ours to-day, not theirs, who've fled—
  Beyond the grave they know not earthly grief.
The world will soon forget them;—race on race
  In quick succession move across life's plain.
Others shall come, but we cannot replace
  That 'witching scene—it will not come again.
Why should we wonder if so sad a change
  Should call the Taipo up—the weird canoe,
With ghostly warriors? Ay, the story 's strange,
  But stranger stories still are sometimes true.
When ruin hangs above his native earth,
  The patriot's spirit 'scapes to see once more
The hallow'd scenes around his place of birth—
  The hills and vales and lakes he loved of yore.
When Tarawera trembled to her base,
  And shook the bones of heroes in her womb,
The chiefs took mortal shape to warn their race
  Of coming danger and impending doom.
Oh, fairy wonderland of love and light,
  Where long ago wild cascades fell asleep

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In Parian beds of sculptured stalactite,
  And dreamed themselves away in curve and sweep!
Oh, frescoed fountains! Oh prismatic sheen!
  Oh iridescent showers of diamond spray!
Oh, lake cerulean set in richest green!
  Oh, glories traced in pink and white and grey!
Oh, hallow'd spot, whose grandeur filled the soul
  With thoughts sublime—with reverence and awe;
Whose altars grand were carved with many a scroll,
  Quaint hieroglyphics of some mystic law!
Vanished! we cannot realise the thought.
  Has wilful Nature, in a frenzied flight,
Heap'd ruin on the lov'liness she wrought—
  Destroyed her work of ages in a night?
Weird transformation! terrible recast!
  Where order reigned is heard confusion's roar.
Fierce devastation buries all the past—
  All is chaotic riot—nothing more.