The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 11 (February 1, 1936)
New Zealand Verse
New Zealand Verse
They remember, our oldest men, When tussock blew where now the city stands,
And when the bullock-dray creaked on its way
Towards the hills blunt bonnets cleave to-day.
What change shall our time see?
They tell half fanciful old tales
Of tasks rejoicingly begun,
Of dank grass sweeping over river dales,
Grey where our mills now shoulder
at the sun.
That moment lights again their eyes When the Assemby, troubled by a changing soil,
Paused, high in humility to ask for
And wave on wave of cheering they recall
When engined wheels first shook the sketchy line.
The old guns rusting sightless by the sea
They saw installed, brave threat to distant foes:
These things the old men saw, by rock and tree;
What scenes our eyes shall rest upon—who knows?
Shall over this the high wave curl,
Drowning us deep among the ghostly fish,
Or shall the battled dust become our pall,
And old familiar streets a dying wish?
Or shall routine's smooth warp and weft of loom—
Time's stranglehold on lovely-flowering thought—
Blacken us slowly to the nameless doom
That once hushed Quetzacoatl's citied talk?
Are we too old to know great thoughts again,
Too far bitumenised from earth
To give our limbs to spears of driving rain
And split the crags with labour-loving mirth?
—These things they did, the older men:
What deeds shall our time do?
* * *
In wind-tossed heaps the silken petals lie,
And dewy rain soaks every shimmering leaf,
A misty veil hangs gently from the sky,
As Summer softly chants her poignant grief;
The blackbird sings no longer from the tree,
And dripping stems shake sequins as they sway,
Sweet scent of rain-wet blossom drifts to me,
As twilight sends her shadows, pewter-grey.
O falling rain, like lambent arrows sped
To pierce each crinkled petal, palely strewn,
Pour comfort on each poppy's drooping head,
Send solace to these flowers that fall so soon!
* * *
O joy! I was young,
And all the world sang.
In the stillness,
The wind and the sea
And the pulsating earth
Were an anthem to me.
O joy! I was young.
Came war! I was old,
And all my joy fled
With the slain.
And their youth; with the spring.
O the strange writhing earth
Was a torment undreamed!
Came war! I was old.
I try to forget
That I helped kill the Spring.
And brought grief
To the old; that I fought
In the agonised slaughter
Of those I could love.
I try to forget.
It is always thus with the town where
the young folk come,
As they came in the years of the
Friars, where the Isis flows,
That the chant of the chimes is dim
med by the engines’ hum,
That the towers with the chimneys
vie as the grey town grows.
It is thus with the town that is named
from the northern hill
Where the Scots' King Edin looked
out on a rugged land,
A southern town, where they talk of
the gold rush still,
A dream come true to the seers of
the past who planned.
Here there are steadfast things that
are one with change
And strife, that is oddly knit with the
strands of peace,
And here are groves for the venturing
mind to range,
And here are proven truths for the
But how shall this city live? Shall it
live on dreams?
Shall it live without them? The chime
with its tireless tone
Gives word of a proverb, true as the
cross, it seems,
“Man shall not live to the full by
Yet back of this town there is space
whence it well might be
They carried the Eschol grapes in
times of old,
A land of Beulah, a joy for the eye to see,
Where the conduits lead to the heart
of the fecund mold.
Oh, you who languish, be sure that
your help shall come
From yonder hills, for the heart of a
town shall beat
To the tune that the winds on the
garth or the ploughed glebe drums,
And there's word of the waving corn
in the noon-day street.