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The Godwits Fly


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Robin Hyde's fondness for quoting verse from memory has led her into minor inaccuracies of punctuation and line arrangement as well as several misquotations, although in some instances she may have altered words to make the verse more apt. In any case her own text has been adhered to throughout the book. Where possible the correct versions, sources and authors are given below.

Chapter Two

1. Melrose, Newtown and Haining Street are all proper names; Oddipore is not, but can be safely translated as Berhampore.

Chapter Four

1. O Rome! my country! city of the soul!
The orphans of the heart must turn to thee,
Lone mother of dead empires! and control
In their shut breasts their petty misery.

(Canto the Fourth, LXXVIII.)

: dost thou flow
Old Tiber! through a marble wilderness?
Rise, with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress!

(Canto the Fourth, LXXIX.)
From Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Lord Byron.

Chapter Six

1. ‘Hush thee to sleep, O gentle babe of mine,’ etc.

Although no other copy seems to be extant this is one of Robin Hyde's earliest poems, written when about ten years old, and titled A Soldier's Babe.

Chapter Eight

1. Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'automne

From Chanson D'Automne. Paul Verlaine.

2. ‘It's a far way to England’ etc. A hand-written copy of this poem page 234 by Robin Hyde gives the title as That Journey Home. It was written some years before the novel but date of composition is uncertain.

3. He trod the ling like a buck in spring, and he looked like a lance at rest.

From The Ballad of East and West. Rudyard Kipling.

4. ‘There was a play, in French,’ etc. In 1933 Robin Hyde wrote an undated letter to Mr J. H. E. Schroder in which she mentions that she once played ‘the Bad Fairy's part in a little French play, “La Belle au Bois Dormant”’. The play was most probably a dramatized version of Perrault's fairytale of that title. (The Sleeping Beauty.)

5. Move upward, working out the beast,
And let the ape and tiger die.

From In Memoriam. Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Chapter Nine

1. ‘mamuk’ tree-fern’. Presumably a contraction of mamaku (cyathea medullaris). The term seems peculiar to Robin Hyde—it was never in general use.

Chapter Ten

1. Or phantoms, or their own face on the gloom,
For love of Love, or from heart's loneliness.

From Sonnet. Rupert Brooke.

Chapter Thirteen

1. Our unwalled loves thin out on vacuous air,

From Town and Country. Rupert Brooke.

Chapter Fourteen

1. This verse has not been identified.

2. In your stupidity I found
The sweet hush after a sweet sound.
[Ten lines omitted.]
And when you thought, it seemed to me
Infinitely, and like a sea
About the slight world you had known
Your vast unconsciousness was thrown.

From Retrospect. Rupert Brooke.

page 235

Chapter Fifteen

1. How sad it is to be a woman!
Nothing on earth is held so cheap.

From Woman. Fu Hsüan. Translated by Arthur Waley.

Chapter Seventeen

1. ‘thirty-five or thirty-seven.’ Clearly an oversight on the author's part. The ages ‘twenty-five or twenty-seven’ should be substituted to synchronize with ‘I was seventeen when I got into the very tail-end of the war’ on p. 185.

Chapter Twenty

1. From J. B. Leishman's translations of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘There Where The Line Of Cottages.…’ Poems. Hogarth Press. 1934. (Published some years after the period in which The Godwits Fly is set!)

2. The poet was Rachel Annand Taylor, and the verse should be:

(Ah sleep, sleep!
The gods of beauty crave in the Spring
From out of the world's white flowering
Some delicate thing to keep.
Sleep, Sweet, sleep!)

This verse, which Robin Hyde came across in the Sydney Public Library in 1926, haunted her for many years and she quoted it frequently. It came from a poem, ‘Four Crimson Violers’ in a small book called Rose and Vine, published by Elkin Matthews, London, in 1909. Rachel Annand Taylor (1876-1960) was far from unknown in her day, although her reputation as a writer suffered an eclipse after the 1930s. Robin Hyde's misquotation is understandable here, as it is unlikely that many copies of Rose and Vine reached New Zealand, or that the poems enjoyed a wide circulation.


1. ‘She stands an instant in the sun’. With slight alterations in the present text this poem was published as ‘The Farmer's Wife’ in Robin Hyde's first book of poems, The Desolate Star, Whitcombe & Tombs, in 1929.

page 236

2. There be none of Beauty's daughters
With a magic like to thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me:

From Stanzas for Music. Lord Byron.


1. That was the wonderful deep mine of souls.
[71 lines omitted.]
Already she was no more that fair woman
Who often sounded in the poet's poems,
No longer the broad couch's scented island
Nor yonder man's possession any more.
She was already loosened like long hair
And given far and wide like falling rain
And dealt out like a stock of various goods.
She was already rooted.

From Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes. Rainer Maria Rilke.

Translated from the German by J. B. Leishman. The ‘library volume’ was undoubtedly Poems published by The Hogarth Press, London, 1934. (See note 1, Chapter Twenty.) Except for punctuation Robin Hyde has quoted the lines correctly; however, later books in which this poem appears show that Mr Leishman has revised his translation.

2. This verse has not been identified.