The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 12 (March 1, 1940)
New Zealand… A Free Land — The Real — “God's Own Country”
Before Richard Seddon applied the term “God's Own Country” to New Zealand it was used with less justification in the United States of America.
In one of his excellent books on New Zealand James Cowan appropriately quoted these verses of the famous American author, James Russell Lowell—Gudrida's prophecy in the “Voyage to Finland,” a saga of the Vikings:—
Looms there the New Land;
Locked in the shadow
Long the gods shut it,
Niggards of newness
They, the o'er-old.
Little it looks there,
Slim as a cloud-streak;
It shall fold peoples
Even as a shepherd foldeth his flock.
Here men shall grow up
Strong from self-helping;
Eyes for the Present
Bring they as eagles',
Blind to the Past.
They shall make over
Creed, Law and Custom;
Driving men, doughty
Builders of Empire,
Builders of men.
That line, “Slim as a cloud-streak,” is a reminder of the name, Aotearoa (“The Long Bright Cloud”), given to New Zealand by a Maori navigator centuries ago.
But another line, “Blind to the past,” does not apply to the “Brighter Britain of the South,” for the people here cherish the best traditions of the old homelands in the British Isles. They have not forgotten the great feats of the pioneers who crossed half the world to establish themselves strongly in a strange land. The spirit of freedom animated those sturdy voyagers, it put indomitable strength into their bodies and minds. That same spirit of freedom explains the splendid record of the soldier sons of New Zealand in the war of 1914–18–and the same spirit will move the men of to-day.
* * *
Supporting the claim of New Zealand to the title “God's Own Country,” Mr. Cowan has quoted some lines of Deuteronomy which referred to the Promised Land:—“A good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring up out of the valleys and hills…. A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness; thou shalt not lack anything in it.”
Similarly a verse of the brilliant Australian classic scholar, Professor Gilbert Murray—a glimpse of a Paradise of Grecian mythology—could have been truly written about New Zealand,
Where the voice of living waters never ceaseth
In God's quiet garden by the sea;
And Earth, the ancient life-giver, increaseth
Her gifts among the meadows, like a tree.
No man who found himself suddenly endowed with infinite power could design and make a better country than New Zealand—happy isles of heart's desire. Here nature offers mankind every gift for health of body and mind.
* * *
“The shiningest country ever was of hills and streams,” wrote Katherine Tynan in one of her poems on Ireland. page 29 Well, New Zealanders have rightly that belief about their country. The physical features are so wonderfully varied that they suggest a successful effort of nature to show the many wonderful forms which land and water may take. It is easy for anybody to have feasts of this beauty.
* * *
New Zealand has been properly called a “Land of Opportunity.” The people have the opportunity for health, the opportunity for good education, the opportunity for material prosperity, the opportunity for happiness. The way to welfare is not narrow; admission is not reserved to a favoured few; it is a broad highway as wide as the islands—but the seekers of worth-while welfare must do worth-while work. They must work out, not talk out, their salvation.
Kind friends have you heard of the town No Good
On the banks of the River Slow,
Where the some-time-or-other scents the air
And the soft Go-easies grow?
It lies in the valley of What's-the-use
In the province of Let-her-slide;
It's the home of the reckless I-don't care,
Where the Give-it-ups abide,
The town is as old as the human race,
And it grows with the flight of years;
It is wrapped in the fog of the idler's dreams;
Its streets are paved with discarded schemes,
And are sprinkled with useless tears.
* * *
“God's Own Country” would be the “Devil's Own” if the British Commonwealth and France lost the war. This free democracy would become a “demonocracy.”
Peaks piercing the silence of heaven,
Snows gleaming in luminous space,
See her waves round a hemisphere driven
Fling their crests to the winds as they race;
And the stars watch her lamp newly lighted
And its beams shot afar o'er the sea
With a light of old wrongs at length righted
By men who are free.”