The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1948
[Poems by W. H. Oliver]
I met this great girl in the premature
Idyll of a summer evening. There she stood
Her hands folded like portents, dress like embers
That the fire has left, hair as brown as grass.
And, as the day dropped, she became
The pause that preludes night, the grey caress
That smoothes all shapes and shades into one wide
Anonymous appeal for clammy sleep.
Though she had taken all the city's grief
She had no voice to tell the pain she bore;
She felt the dead rank air run through her limbs
Without a hand to help their fever pass;
So she contained men's sadness in her eyes,
Became the world of sense though made impure
By days and nights of loving when they tore
Her soul apart for momentary joy:
Only as gods love could she breed and bless.
Slowly she sent to heaven like a prayer
Hot tentacles of wind to name her need
That sung like shafts of light bent from no sun
The earth knows. Savage to save
The cool white bars of heaven stretched to her.
And struck her, statuesque in heat, to melt
Her grief through the air as the rain falls.
I lost this great girl as the rain came down.
And soon the air was full of tenderness.
The twilight's ghost had fled, and cool night came
To make her lovely in the eyes of men;
Then she was beauty's self, with long black hair.
And cool and firm her body like a cloud
That bursts in falls of love and makes us one
With earth and life and all above our sense.
An Eccentric Autumn
Leaves are a largess granted each year
By the god of seasons, hid and perpetual
Over the rain-clouds and under the warm earth,
Puissant in frost and fire, slayer and saviour.
Harry Borrer Kirk John Barraud
Leaves are also a veil dropped at this time
By a kindly god over the fretful
Face of old age, making the mourner seem
Beautiful and bountiful, young out of season.
So now are given in due time, lavishly,
Yellow for a gentle grief, and red for pain,
To mask the solitude of death in clothes
As some would dress a body, sad and splendid.
So with the season we mourn. But we
Are also the body thus committed in beauty
To the dark earth where winter cannot touch
Our peace, and where our death is kind.
Sometimes in autumn I have watched the leaves
Settle in street and gateway, make each door and path
A place where feet can walk in majesty and say,
In passing by we've walked the way of grief
And found all beauty mingled in the season.
And as the leaves have drifted slowly down
I've seen them swell into a rolling cloud
And drown the city under me in colour:
Render all passion forfeit in that place
And smother up the breath of urgency.
And then autumnal city, clad in grace
Before this fugitive in places where
A dull grey litter was no cloak of peace
And dressed not joy nor grief, for neither life
Nor death was here triumphant: city,
Then would you not know oneness and devotion
Though it were your final state, and even
While death filled your corners, could you not say,
Peace and salvation are the gifts sent from
The throne of grace uplifted in my midst.