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Ranolf and Amohia

Canto the First

page 1

Canto the First.


"Glorious! this life of lake
And hill-top! toil and tug through tangled brake,
Dense fern, and smothering broom;
And then such rests as now I take,
In sunflecked soft cathedral-gloom
Of forests immemorial; Noble sport
Boar-hunting! yet that furious charge, the last
Of the dead monster there had cut it short
For me, and once for all, belike.
Had not his headlong force impaled
The savage on my tough wood-pike
That, propped with planted knee and foot,
Its butt against a rata-root,
From chest to chine right through him passed;
And nought his inch-thick hide availed.
page 2 Or ring-like tusks up thrusting through
The notches of his foaming lips,
By constant whetting planed away
To chisel-sharpness at their tips:
It weakened him—-the knife-dig, too,
He caught when first commenced the fray;
When, as in haste I sprang astride
The narrowed gully—just a ditch
With flowering koromiko rich—
Between my feet the villain drove,
And fierce, with short indignant sniffs,
And grunts like muttering thunder, strove
To gain his haunts beyond the cliffs,
And foil the foes he fled from, yet defied.

"But Nim, my glorious bull-dog! Nim,
My mighty hunter of the boar,
Who never recked of Life or limb
That old antagonist before!
That rip has finished his career—
His last boar-fight is fought; no more
He'll come to greet me as of yore,
Wriggling his lithe spine till his tail
Whipped his black muzzle in the excess
Of cringing canine happiness;
No more his genuine love express
With such dumb signs and tokens clear,
Mock bites and mouthings of the hand,
Easy as words to understand.
Strange, a mere dog should be so dear!
But he is dead, and—done with, must we say?
Poor victim of this universal demon-play
Of Life—my fate to-morrow, his to-day,

page 3

Which I, for sport, have sealed—as God (or no God, then Say you?) that of his myriad worlds and men?
And 'pluck' like his, that nought could quail;
Good temper-—honest, humble love and truth—
These must not live again, for sooth!
No future for the Dog—but why?
Duty, our highest inborn feeling, who
Has stronger than this guardian true
To death? or can we in our own rejoice,
As sprung from self-determined choice?
That Self with so much bias made—
Our will by strongest motive swayed?
Scarce higher than his, our claims, I fear,
To merit of our own appear.
Then compound, too, not simple, he,
A work complete no more than we,
(If stuff for hope therein may be),
Has not his nature, like our own,
Instincts at war, the lower with the high?
With trusts to be fulfilled, obedience shown—
The longing for the ramble, game forbidden,
Or bone, like miser's treasure, hidden?
And if, instead of eyes that often so
With solemn melancholy glow,
He had but tongue to speak with, who can show
He might not tell of hopes, and dim
Perceptions, yearnings, that no longer dumb,
He, too, may rise to human, and become
Erect some day, a ruler and a lord,
And, like his master, loved, adored,
A visible God and Providence to him—
Though swayed, no doubt, full oft, by rage, caprice and whim,

page 4

Poor wretch! we read his fallings at a glance;
All that in this life hinders his advance.
Ungifted to abstract, he can conceive
No clear ideal to aim at or achieve;
Ungifted to reflect—himself discern,
His depth beneath the ideal could never team;
Had he both gifts, would want constructive brain.
To plan the way the high ideal to gain—
Want hands to work with, had he found the way,
So in his low estate perforce must stay

"But are our organs that compare-—combine:—
Dispart and spin deductions fine,
Creations so exclusively divine,
They needs must be preserved compact,
By no harsh doom destroyed, dissolved?
When {though we match the Dog in eyes)
The precious, last, profoundest prize
They palm upon us for a fact,
In spite of all those starlit skies.
Is in our petty selves to see
And what from us (by what decree?)
Is still evolving and evolved,
The highest Being that can be?—
But truce to that preposterous claim—
I take it and stand by the same,
There is no God muck worth the name,
Whate'er their scale, where'er their seat,
Would drop creations, incomplete;
Let any force his plans defeat;
The wants he caused, leave unsupplied,
Desires he gave unsatisfied!

page 5

Better believe all creatures—foul or fair.
One universal endless progress share;
In the procession headed by mankind.
Only a march or two behind;
Each rank of God's grand army onward bent
To higher states and stages—who knows where?—
Of free and fortunate development'"


So mused a youngster as he lay at ease,
Profaning (must we needs confess?)
With chestnut-glossed pet meerschaum the pure breeze;
Enjoying in delicious cool no less
The mighty shade of old majestic trees,
Whose tops the skies beneath our feet immerse,
Down in a land, green waving, grand,
Upon our seeming world-medallion's rich reverse:
The ruder Italy laid bare
By that keen Searcher of the Seas
Whose tempest-battling, never-baffled keel,
Left half our planet little to reveal;
But restless roaming every where
Zigzagged the vast Pacific as he prest
With godlike patience his benignant quest;
True hero-god, who realized the notion
Its races feign of mythic Maui still,
And plucked up with a giant might of will
A hundred Islands from Oblivion's ocean!
Sea-king and sage—staunch huntsman of pure Fame,
Beating the waste of waters for his game,
Untrodden shores or tribes without a name;
page 6 That nothing in an island's shape,
Mist-muffled peak or faint cloud-cape
Might his determined thoughtful glance escape;
No virgin-lands be left unknown
Where future Englands might be sown,
And nations noble as his own.


It was a wondrous realm beguiled
Our youth amid its charms to roam;
O'er scenes more fair, serenely wild,
Not often summer's glory smiled;
When flecks of cloud, transparent, bright.
No alabaster half so white—
Hung lightly in a luminous dome
Of sapphire—seemed to float and sleep
Far in the front of its blue steep.
And almost awful, none the less
For its liquescent loveliness,
Behind them sunk—just o'er the hill
The deep abyss, profound and still—
The so immediate Infinite;
That yet emerged, the same, it seemed
In hue divine and melting balm.
In many a lake whose crystal calm
Uncrisped, unwrinkled, scarcely gleamed;
Where sky above and lake below
Would like one sphere of azure show.
Save for the circling belt alone,
The softly-painted purple zone
Of mountains—bathed where nearer seen
In sunny tints of sober green,
page 7 With velvet dark of woods between,
All glossy glooms and shifting sheen;
While here and there, some peak of snow
Would o'er their tenderer violet lean.

And yet within this region, fair
With wealth of waving woods—these glades
And glens and lustre-smitten shades,
Where trees of tropic beauty rare
With graceful spread and ample swell
Uprose—and that strange asphodel
On tufts of stiff green bayonet-blades,
Great bunches of white bloom upbore,
Like blocks of seawashed madrepore,
That steeped the noon in fragrance wide,
Till by the exceeding sweet opprest
The stately tree-fern leaned aside
For languor, with its starry crown
Of radiating fretted fans,
And proudly-springing beauteous crest
Of shoots all brown with glistening down,
Curved like the lyre-bird's tail half-spread,
Or necks opposed of wrangling swans,
Red bill to bill—black breast to breast—
Aye! in this realm of seeming rest,
What sights you met and sounds of dread!
Calcareous caldrons, deep and large
With geysers hissing to their marge;
Sulphureous fumes that spout and blow;
Columns and cones of boiling snow;
And sable lazy-bubbling pools
Of sputtering mud that never cools;
page 8 With jets of steam through narrow vents
Uproaring, maddening to the sky,
Like cannon-mouths that shoot on high
In unremitting loud discharge
Their inexhaustible contents;
While oft beneath the trembling ground
Rumbles a drear persistent sound
Like ponderous engines infinite, working
At some tremendous task below!—
Such are the signs and symptoms—lurking
Or launching forth in dread display—
Of hidden fires, internal strife,
Amid that leafy, lush array
Of rank luxuriant verdurous life:
Glad haunts above where blissful love
Might revel, rove, enraptured dwell;
But through them pierce such tokens fierce
Of rage beneath and frenzies fell;
As if, to quench and stifle it,
Green Paradise were flung o'er Hell—
Flung fresh with all her bowers close-knit.
Her dewy vales and dimpled streams:
Yet could not so its fury quell
But that the old red realm accurst
Would still recalcitrate, rebel,
Still struggle upward and outburst
In scalding fumes, sulphureous steams.
It struck you as you paused to trace
The sunny scenery's strange extremes,
As if in some divinest face,
All heavenly smiles, angelic grace,
Your eye at times discerned, despite
Sweet looks with innocence elate,
page 9 Some wan wild spasm of blank affright,
Or demon scowl of pent-up hate;
Or some convulsive writhe confest,
For all that bloom of beauty bright,
An anguish not to be represt.
You look—a moment bask in, bless,
Its laughing light of happiness;
But look again—what startling throes
And fiery pangs of fierce distress
The lovely lineaments disclose—
How o'er the fascinating features flit
The genuine passions of the nether pit!


Loose-clad in careless sailor-guise,
But richly robed in that imperial dress
Of symmetry and suppleness
And sinewy strength that Nature's love supplies,
When, at youth's prime, her work, superbly planned,
Takes the last touches from her Artist-hand,
Was he who rested in a forest near
Calm Rotonia's ferny strand.
To him was not denied, 'twas clear,
That best of boons at her command—
A joyous spirit sparkling like the day,
Set in well-tempered, finely-fashioned clay.
His fair complexion, slightly tanned
By central suns' and oceans' glare;
His eyes' gray gleams and amber hair,
Were such as brighten best where gloom and cold
And sombre clouds harsh northern skies enfold:
But curling locks and lip, and glance
Keen for all beauty every where;
page 10 The straight harmonious features—though perchance
Squarer than pure proportion asked, in cheek
And brow, more thought and firmness to bespeak—
Of southern fervor and quick feeling told.
His love of the mysterious—vast—whate'er
Of solemn and sublime could bear
The soul aloft on wings of thrilling awe;
The restless daring that his reason led
To question all he heard and read;
The senses potent to divine the springs
Of pleasure in a thousand things,
Seemed from each, clime some elements to draw—
Like Gothic metal run in Grecian mould.
In active body—vigorous mind,
Such seeming contrasts he combined;
Still, in his face whatever expressions shone,
And to what moods soever he was prone,—
'T was hardy gladness by strong will controlled—
A summer torrent bounding on incessant
Through rampart layers of glittering stone,
Seemed the habitual and abiding one
Blithe Hope upon his forehead bold
Sate like a sunbeam on a gilt mosque-crescent;
And oft, in reverie, if he gazed apart,
His eye would kindle as in admiration
Of some past scene to fancy present,
Or glory glowing in the future distance;
As if one breaking morn of gold
Were round Life's whole horizon rolled;
As if his pulse beat music, and his heart
Clashed cymbal-bursts of exultation
In the mere rapture of existence.

page 11


A shriek within the covert near,
A second, third, assailed his ear;
Straight for the sound at once he dashed;
Through tangled boughs and brushwood crashed.
And lopped and slashed the tangles black
Of looped and shining supplejack,
Till on a startling scene he came,
That filled his soul with rage and shame.

Her mantle flung upon the ground,
Her graceful arms behind her bound.
With shoulders bare, dishevelled hair,
There stood a Maiden of the land.
More stately fair than could elsewhere
Through all its ample range be found.
Two of his comrades, hired amid
The tribes whose chieftains held command
O'er all the vales those mountains hid—
Those western mountains forest-crowned—
Wild striplings, who, uncurbed from birth.
Deemed foulest wrong but food for mirth,
So that their listless life it stirred,
Were basely busy on each hand,
With flax-blades binding to a tree
The Maid who strove her limbs to free.
They knew her—for they oft had heard
Of that surpassing form and face;
They knew the hate, concealed or shown,
Between her people and their own;
page 12 The feuds, when open war would cease,
That smoul dered in precarious peace
They knew the track by which the chase
Had lured them to that lonely place,
Was so unused, so tangled, rough,
They doubtless would have time enough.
And might without pursuit retrace
Their steps through mountain-woods, so dense.
No wrong would be suspected thence,
No outrage dreamt of; so they thought-—
If such a thoughtless impulse wild
Of mischief can a thought be styled—
They fancied, when the Maid they caught
At that secluded spot, alone,
With one slave-girl (who shrieking fled,
while after her a third accomplice sped.
Lest she the alarm too soon should spread)
It was a chance to win a name.
Through all the tribe some facile fame—
Let but their foreign friend agree,
If such a captive to their chief they led,
At his behest, dispose, to be.


Not more incensed—scarce lovelier in her wrath—
The silver-bow'd snow-Goddess seen
By rapt Actæon at her awful bath
Not prouder looked—scarce fiercer in her pride,
The yellow-haired Icenian Queen,
Stung by the tortures she defied—
Than did that flaxen-kilted Maid—
page 13 A warmer Dian—at her russet rise,
Dun-shining through autumnal mist;
A young Boadicea sunnier skies
Had into browner beauty kissed.
So flashed her eyes with scorn and ire,
They seemed, as deep in purple shade
The slanting sunbeams left the wood
And gloomy yew whereby she stood,
Two glowing gems of hazel fire:
And though a single sparkling tear—
Upon each lower eyelid checked,
Whose thick silk fringe, a coalblack streak.
So darkly decked her flushing cheek
In mellow contrast to its clear
Rich almond brown—alone confest
Some softer feelings lurked among
The passions that her bosom wrung;
Yet indignation's withering flame
So towered and triumphed o'er the rest,
Did so enkindle and inform
Her heaving breast, her writhing frame,
Just then, you would almost have deemed,
Her very tresses as they streamed,
With light innings from that inner storm,
And not with flecks of sunset, gleamed,
"Slaves/" she was saying:" this to me!
Me, Amohia! Knoto you not
The daughter of the 'Wailing Sea?'
Is Tangi-moana forgot?
When he shall this vile outrage know,
Your homes shall blase, your hearts'-blood flow;
A life for every hair shall pay
Of her you're dared insult this day /"
page 14 Swift to her aid our Wanderer sprung,
Aside those ruffians roughly flung;
Cut, tore away, the bonds that laced
Those tender arms, that slender waist;
Reproached, rebuked with sarcasm strong
The culprits for their coward wrong;
The Maid with soothing words addrest—
Regret and deep disgust expressed
At what disturbed her—so distrest;
By every gesture, look, declared
How much her grief and pain he shared;
Urged all that might with, most effect
Her anger stay, her grief allay,
And smooth her ruffled self-respect

And if, while thus the Maid he freed
With eager haste, and soon replaced
Her mantle' tagged with sable cords
Of silky flax in simple taste,
He could not choose but interfuse
Some looks amid his cheering words,
Keen admiration's natural meed
To one with so much beauty graced;
Think you, this stranger's form and mien
Could fail to make their influence felt;
Unconscious though she might have been
Of their magnetic power to melt,
Pierce, permeate her spirit's gloom.
And all her brightening breast illume,
Till docile, ductile, it became
To his persuasive voice's sway—
Mild breathings of discretion, reason's claim;
page 15 As on a summer day
The silent sunbeams sink into and fill
A snowy cloud, and make it lighter still
For gentlest breeze to bear away?
And pleased was he, surprised to mark
How swiftly vanished every trace
Of passion so tempestuous, dark;
Its shadow floating off a face
Where, sooth to say, at any time
It seemed as alien, out of place,
As some great prey-bird's, haply seen,
Not mid the awful regions where he breeds,
Sky-sweeping mountains, towering peaks sublime,
But in a land with daisied lawns and meads
And rippling seas of poppied corn serene,


And all her story soon was told;
How she had left Mokoia's isle
That central In the lake alone
Rose high—a bristling mountain-hold.
With fort and fosse—a dark green boss
On that bright shield of azure-stone—
Had left the isle, the time to while
With one companion in her light canoe;
While in a larger came a fisher-crew
She wiselier should have kept In view;
But they two of the sport had soon
Grown weary in the glaring noon \
So landed, from the sun's attacks
Their splendour-puckered eyebrows to relax
page 16 In the refreshing grateful shade
A clump of trees not distant made;
Thence to a spot amid the level hills
Of Rangikáhu, where a hotspring fills,
Near a deserted settlement,
A square stone-tank ('twas Miroa's whim), they went
To boil some sweet roots which they found
As they expected in a patch
Of old abandoned garden-ground:
That done, they strolled the forest through,
And strolled to little purpose too;
Had tried a parrot for a pet to catch
In vain; had seen, by marshy glade
Or woodside brake, look where they might,
No tangle of convolvulus to twine
Into rich coronals of cups aglow
With deep rose-purple or delicate white
Pink-flushed as sunset-tinted snow;
No clematis, so lovely in decline,
Whose star-flowers when they cease to shine
Fade into feathery wreaths silk-bright
And silvery-curled, as beauteous. And they knew
The early season could not yet
Have ripened the alectryon's beads of jet,
Each on its scarlet strawberry set,
Whence sweet cosmetic oils they press
Their glittering blue-black hair to dress
Or give the skin its velvet suppleness:
So they had loitered objectless,
And chauntiug songs or chatting strayed
Till by his rude associates met
Her simple story told, the Maid
Asked in her turn the Wanderer s name;
page 17 Tried to pronounce it too—but still,
With pretty looks of mock distress
And scorn at her own want of skill,
And tempting twisting lips, no stain
Of tattoo had turned azure—found "
Ranolf" too strange and harsh a sound
For her harmonious speech to frame;
So after various efforts vain
"Randró" it at last became,
The nearest imitation plain
Her liquid accents could attain.
Thus, when at length they reached the shore,
Had found and freed and comforted
The damsel who at first had fled
(Poor little Miroa, weeping sore),
And launched the small canoe once more,
'Twas with a farewell kind and gay
She bade the stranger "Go his way;"
'Twas with her radiant ready smile
She started for the mountain-isle
Which then, one mass of greenish gold,
Shone out in sharp relief and bold
Against the further hills that lay
In solemn violet-gloom—grim, dark and cold,


So towards his tent his steps he bent;
Nor marvel if as home he went
His thoughts to her would still recur:—
"—But Amohia! what a glorious creature
In every gesture, every feature!
Such melting brilliant eyes! I swear
page 18 They cast a shadow from whate'er
They rest upon! I do believe they throw
Such shifting circlets of soft light
On what she looks at, as a sunbeam weaves
On the green darkness of the noonday woods,
Through chinks in the transparent leaves!
And then her hair! to see it but unbound!
Such black abundant floods
Of tresses making midnight all around
For those twin stars to shine through while between
In glimpses the fair neck was seen
Just as at night upon those white
And wind heaped hummocks of glimmering sand
Thick flowing sand—so finely sifted
By the gales whereby 'twas drifted—
Soft patches of pale moonlight stand
Beside their sable shadows. Then her teeth!
All things that most of whiteness boast
How dull and dim beside them! The far wreath
Of snow upon those peaks eternal;
The sea-foam creaming round the coast—
The wave-bleached shell upon it tost—
No, none of these—perhaps the kernel
Of a young cocoanut when newly broken
Would best their blue-white purity betoken
But what were graces so inviting
Without the soul—the spirit's charm
That from some well of witchery internal
Comes dancing up, delighted and delighting,
Comes sparkling through them—bright and warm I
How frank and noble is her face!
And what a sunny pride and sweetness lies
In those open brilliant eyes!
page 19 Her voice chimes like a merry bird's—
How winning are her cheerful words!
With what a blithe and stately grace
She drew her glistening flaxen mat,
With chequered border decked,
Into the hollows of her wavy form
And stepped away erect!
A maiden of a million that!"

Strange power of Beauty! in a moment's space
It photographs itself upon the brain,
And though with limnings soft as light, imprints.
Bums in, such deep encaustic tints.
The finest line, the tenderest stain,
No future impress can displace,
No wear and tear of Time efface.