Musings in Maoriland
I have been asked to write a brief preface to this volume, and I willingly comply with a request which imposes no very difficult task upon me, for it is already recognised by many in New Zealand and elsewhere, that Mr. Bracken possesses that deep sympathy with his fellow-men and with nature, which, united with purity of taste, imagination, and power of expression, go so far to form the character of a true poet.
Several of the pieces in this volume will undoubtedly be admitted to bear the impress of merit; and those treating of the sublime and beautiful scenery of New Zealand, are remarkable for their fidelity to nature. This alone is a merit of high order, for every country should have its distinctive character faithfully expressed in a literature which is a reflex of the land in which it had its birth.page 22
Such a national literature must, in each case, be greatly influenced by the nature of the country and the character of the native people with whom the early settlers came in contact. The more stubborn the conflict of races may have been, and the more trying the struggles undergone by the early settlers, the sterner and more earnest, even sometimes more melancholy the character of the national literature is likely to become. In the case of New Zealand, the scenery in which so many early disasters and heart-breaking toils were undergone, was often weird-like and surpassingly grand, and at other times of unusual beauty and softness. The savage fierceness of the natives was also frequently tempered with a knightly generosity, fidelity, and honorable bearing, which are not often surpassed. Thus all the elements appear to be here combined, which may originate and mature a literature equally suited to rouse a people to the heights of heroism, or to soothe them down to the tranquil and blessing-producing joys of domestic life.
The sphere of Mr. Bracken's labours may, perhaps, be thought by some, to be too circumscribed to possess any high degree of interest; but it should be remembered that the early poets of a new country give the first vivid descriptions of hitherto unrecorded varieties of scenery, of new trees and flowers, of the habits of new birds and animals, of the appearance, beliefs, and legends of a newly discovered race of men. If, then, our early poets, with warm sympathies and truth of language, describe the sentiments and reveries that these fresh materials and their endless comparisons and combinations excite in the impassioned or meditative human page 23mind, and especially the incidents which spring from the mingling of two such different races, they must create a present and lasting interest in many readers.
From the poetry of these first singers will also be culled out images and descriptions, which will long endure as household sayings and apt similies [sic] amongst that new race whose artistic tastes they are helping climate and nature to create and maintain in this country.
Let us hope, then, that the fortunate writers who occupy the vantage ground of being the first in this new field so rich in all elements which produce and foster poetry, may call into existence a truly national literature, and that they may continue to show themselves capable of fittingly describing the beauties and wonders which here meet us on every side, from the Bluff to the North Cape, with its mystic Reinga. In the meantime, let Mr. Bracken be welcomed as one of those Pioneer Poets of New Zealand, who have already established such claims on our gratitude and regard.