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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May 1, 1934.)

“Ranolf and Amohia.”

“Ranolf and Amohia.”

Alfred Domett's great epic poem of New Zealand may be described as the apotheosis of primitive Maori Land and of the unspoiled native life. The lovers in the enchanted regions of the forests and the lakes and the geyserland provide a narrative of great charm and beauty, in amazingly fluent and expressive language, a poem that runs to 14,000 lines. It has been said that “Ranolf and Amohia” is not inspired by the magic of the highest poetic imagination. Nevertheless, there is a vast amount of beauty in its pages; and several of the loveliest lyrics ever written in these parts of the earth gleam out from its mass of psychological wanderings and philosophical speculations.

Domett is unknown to the multitude because, for one thing, “Ranolf and Amohia” has long been out of print, and for another because casual readers taking up the book in a reference library would find it difficult to see the grand trees for the scrub. The poem greatly needs pruning. Its bulk could be reduced by half, or even more, with benefit to the work and to the reader. Had Domett kept to his narrative and his lyrics and resisted the temptation to preach on all manner of subjects under the sun, the poem would have been the gainer in merit and in popularity. Some day a publisher may discover this and issue it in a convenient volume, sub-edited with discretion. “Ranolf and Amohia” lends itself so well to illustration that a very beautiful book could be produced with drawings by artists who really know the Maori and who can depict accurately scenes of Maori life.