The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3 (July 1, 1933)
I Felt proud when I first owned a bare hundred yards of a stream. I had always cherished the longing to possess a title to running water. I recall how when I first looked upon my stream I regretted that it was not of greater volume, but I was comforted by the information supplied by nearby old settlers, who assured me that it never failed to flow. After all, thought I, such constancy was far preferable to the impetuous waterway that alternated between flood and inactivity. Moreover, my stream was both restful to watch and to listen to, whereas a rushing torrent though interesting to the eye for a time would not calm and might even add to the restlessness which I wished to leave behind me in the city. So it was that my little stream contented me, and I at once determined that we should be fast friends—I decided this without, of course, even thinking that the stream itself could influence my plans.
I pondered over the lines of my poetical namesake, who wrote:
“Oh for a seat in some poetic nook
Just hid with trees and sparkling with a brook
With spots of sunny openings, and with nooks
To lie and read in, sloping into brooks.”
And of Shakespeare's simple hope:
“And this our life, exempt from public haunts
Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.”
I would plant stately trees in the environs of my waterway. Time and industry would clear away the cruel gorse and brambles that now littered the banks and prevented the face of my rill from reflecting back the rays of sunlight.
But in the carrying out of my ideas I must respect the ancient rights of the inhabitants of my stream. Beneath those stones and under those overhanging banks dwelt in unbroken quietude many of God's creatures whose place in the great plan of creation might be as important as my own—for who can tell? In any case I would be a friendly overlord to both the rivulet and its colony.
How many years had passed since this miniature waterway had first begun its individual course? What scenes had been enacted upon its banks by the onetime warlike natives who inhabited these parts in vast numbers? What strange and now extinct animals had quaffed its pure waters? What majestic forest growths had thrived upon its moisture? These and other secrets my stream revealed not.
Its tortuous course I would not change, for it was both picturesque and symmetrical, but I would hinder its progress by the construction of three dams, thus forming as many ponds and cascades. So it was that my little stream and I came into closer relationship.
During the progress of these works I added respect to the affection I had for the brook. In order to “well and truly” lay the foundations to my dams it was desirable to hold back for a time the tiny flow. With the presumption that was mine I piled up sandbags as an obstruction. For a time—a comparatively short time—the waters were held back, but long before my groundwork was completed my stream rebelled and positively refused to be thus bottled up. “Away with your impediments or I shall overwhelm you,” it seemed to say. “I have never ceased to flow for ages past, and have no intention now of tolerating interference. You may use my waters—bridge them—aye, even take of them, but you shall not stay them.”
I was astonished at the steadfast determination of “my” stream, and I felt much humbled thereby; but I loved and respected it all the more, for I had learned that man may pierce and even level the mountains—might undulate the plain, and plough the mighty seas, but he might not unduly hold up the veriest flow of running waters, thus proving the truth of Tennyson's words:
“Men may come, and men may go, but I go on for ever.”
I do not now claim that I own that stream; I am merely privileged intimately to associate with it for a very brief portion of its life—finding solace from its presence—learning lessons from its never-failing constancy—and a due humility from its mastery.