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The Pigeons’ Parliament; a Poem of the Year 1845. In Four Cantos, With Notes. To which is added, Thoughts on the Wairarapa and other Stanzas

Thoughts on the Wairarapa

page break“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 96.

Thoughts on the Wairarapa.

(Written while resting at Mr. Donald’s Station, Manaia, October 16, 1853.)

How vast the prospect Wairarapa yields
Of great extensive plains! Unlike the Hutt
Or other valleys, pleasant though they be,
Coop’d up in narrow space by lofty hills,
Like prison walls, which limit much the range
Of vision, and a baleful influence shed
Upon the intellect, as bowing down
The soul that would aspire, and cramping much
Its energies with sad decrepitude.
But here—oh! what a change!—we seem set free
From close confinement. Here the roving eye
Delights t’ expatiate with full stretch of power;
The soul exults with inward ecstacy,
As if it bounded with elastic force
From earth to heaven—so much overjoy’d!
It feels a freedom tongue can scarce express
Contemplating the wide surrounding scene.
Aye! what a scene! An open wilderness
Without inhabitant! where nature’s rich
Abundance runs to waste. Though here and there
A stockman’s cottage stands, long miles between,
As a good journey neighbours would divide,—
Can such a land be called inhabited?
How like a hermitage each homestead stands!
Or like a rock above the ocean’s waves—
page 97“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 97. A solitary spot. Yon little hills—
Like ramparts which surround some mighty camp
Long since deserted—only serve to mark
The bound’ry of some country stretching far
Beyond, whose loneliness proclaims aloud
This sad complaint—“There’s no inhabitants!”
There Nature, like some antiquated maid,
Would wear its sweetest smiles and best attire
To court admirers; yet to small effect,
Though full of hope that she may have success.
A virtuous hope it is!—that she may yield
To many her best blessings, and increase
Her gifts the more that she is raised above
This solitary state, and all her wastes
Are brought, by active industry, to change
Their aspects wild to those of fertile joy.

Far in the distant south, from where I stand,
The Rumahaunga rolls, with rapid sweep,
Its greyish flood; while winding on its course,
In serpentine sublimity, scooped out,
Receiving ev’ry tributary stream,
Of no small import; adding to its force,
Chafing the base of many a lofty cliff
Of rock-like clay, the which, (though frowning high
With perpendicular steepness o’er the deep,)
Oft sapp’d below, must fall with fearful plunge.
But see its holmes extending wide and clad
With vegetation of luxuriant growth!
Declaring what fertility abounds,
As if exhaustless—waiting to be turn’d
To more account in benefiting man.

Far to the north, and rounding to the west,
The sky would seem to stoop, saluting earth;
And there, as forming the horizon’s bound,
An undulating scene of hill o’er hill
Appears, with many dells indented deep,
Adorn’d with forests to their ridges high;
Yet all seem rising with a gentle slope
From yon extensive plains. But high o’er all
The Tararua range upheaves its head,
page 98“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 98. As claiming kindred with the northern Alps,
Whose summits treat with scorn the thundercloud,
’Mid azure skies, all white with lucid snow,
Which seem to cry, “Dread nought from over-drought;
Behold in me the source of flowing rills.”

Those belts of forests, as they stretch along,
Or isolated clumps which stud the wilds,
Seem as design’d to variegate the scene,
And form a hedge to break the force of storms
From too severely sweeping o’er the plains;
Or they, in contemplation of the time
When habitants would settle here their homes,
Have been by Nature planted, to prepare
And meet the future wants of those who may
See fit to honour her with their regards.
There the wild pigeon, dreading nought from man,
Coos o er his head, as, with a friend’s salute,
’Twould bid “Good morning,” as he plods his way,
A weary winding cattle track, and lone,
Chequer’d with light and shade; while other birds
Enliven would his loneness with their strains.

Compared with the extent of spreading plains
How dwindled such plantations!*—which proclaim
This solemn truth:—Though the foundation’s laid,
Man must put forth his industry to rear
The structure to completion; and exert

* From various vestiges I have seen, I have reason to believe that several districts have at one time been more greatly wooded than they now are, and also which bespoke a greater native population in such places, and also where both wood and population seem to be extinct. By taking a survey of the country from the top of some eminence, one can see hundreds of square miles of land around that do not own a tree, where no doubt at one time plenty grew. I would humbly recommend to settlers going into such districts, to lose little time in planting young timber belts round their bare lands, which would prove of service now and of value at a future period. In so doing, I would suggest the introduction of the larch, Scotch fir, oak, ash, and beech, &c., and some of the Australian hard timber trees, such as blue gum, stringy bark, &c., along with the most renowned of the native trees—all which will be of advantage at another time.

page 99“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 99. His energies to tame what may be wild
To suit his purpose,—or of bestial tribes,
Or circumstances, which surround his way.—
He must make his own comforts, make his works
Appear a transcript of his nobler parts,
Hewn out of Nature’s roughness; and supply
Deficiencies where found, which will declare
His worth superior—Heaven’s vicegerent—man!

That th’ earth should be replenish’d is the will
Of Heav’n made known to man; but how that will
Has been complied with, all around declare!
New Zealand natives, rank’d as hostile tribes,
Each other would exterminate,* and fill
The land with horrid cruelty and strife;
To whom the sacred arts of civil life,
And peace, have hitherto been quite unknown;
While they, degen’rating to the mere brute
Of savage nature, hateful to the thought!
Instead of rising to that state of mind,
Which Heav’n regards with pleasure, and will bless
As th’ image of Himself! Alas! for war,
And love of fiendish rage! Such ill accords
With the wise purpose of creating God.

Though long in patience such has been allow’d,
Yet, is the the time not hast’ning its approach
When this, like other lands in ancient days,
Must be transferr’d unto another race?
While to Sir George’s influence and power,
And to McLean’s activity and pains,
Much praise are due, as interposing means
Extinguishing the claims of native chiefs
By purchase! rather than aggressive war;
Thus levelling great obstructions, which waylaid
The course of civilisation, and the bliss

* I was shown the site of a native pa, or village, in which, some eleven or twelve years ago (I believe during the winter of 1840 or 1841), one night, Rangiheate, with his tribe, surprised and slaughtered about 300 natives—which place, I now understand, is near the proposed site of the new Small Farm Settlement Township.

page 100“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 100. Attending its career for mutual joy.
The natives, once the terror and the scourge
Of either, now are raised, as from a trance,
By th’ impulse of advantages which rise
From civilisation; whose concurrent bliss,
Which, to possess, they seem as glad to part
With these waste wilds, they cannot occupy!

’Tis thus o’erruling Providence is seen
To bless each effort British power puts forth
As “Heav’ns messenger,” diffusing peace,
And op’ning up new fields of outlet, where
Britannia’s enterprising sons might come,
From teeming thousands and o’ercrowded lands,—
Where blissful energies are often crush’d
By oppositions hard to be o’ercome;—
And with them bring the lib’ral arts of peace
T’exalt the glories of Victoria’s reign!

Oh! is the time far distant when these hills
And plains extending shall be parcell’d out
To active owners?—when their flocks and herds
Shall wake the dull air with their living sound?—
And when this great monotony of scene
Enliven’d be by towns and hamlets fair,*
With church-spires pointing upwards, as to guide
The thoughts of man to heaven! or when th’expanse
Be roused from slumb’rings by the peal of bells;
Or when, like a large garden parcell’d out
In seed-beds, there the hedge-surrounded fields
Shall wave with golden grain, to crown the toil
Of hardy husbandry, and interspersed
With verdant flowery lawns. Aye! sure ’tis thus
The desert will be gladden’d, and exchange
An aspect dull to that of grateful joy.

* *Though the Wairarapa is at present merely a grazing district, I have no doubt but that, at a future period, it will become the scene of many manufactories, as many of the elements of manufacture are of extensive and increasing demand will there be found, as soon as the spirit of enterprise and capital combined can see it their interest to turn their attention in that direction.

page 101“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 101.

Hard is the labour yet to be bestow’d
To bring such large uncultivated wilds
To due subjection. But an ample scope
Is here spread out, inviting enterprise
In even generations yet to come!
T’ unfold resources lying still obscure;
And make those prairies waken into life;
And raise supplies to make New Zealand prove
Itself the purveyor of the Southern world.

Such noble undertakings best will show
The spirit of indubitable worth
Existing largely in th’ enlighten’d minds
Of old Britannia’s sons; alike expert
In war defensive, or the spread of peace.
Aye! such will be display’d, examples meet
To be transcribed by other nations’ sons,
And graven on their souls! aye, more than when
Great deeds are done by her victorious arms!

And may these lines, to future ages, tell
The worth of those, already who stand forth
The hardy pioneers of future things!
Who,——like the patriarchs of old, who trode
Large lands, and they sole occupants!—have come
To this interior, far from friendly joys,
To tend their flocks and herds. What trials they
Must have endured,—but have been o’ercome!
Tell more than flowing language can express,
Of courage to be had in high esteem,
And imitated still in future days!
Nay, more, in hospitality they vie
To passing strangers! as a lesson fraught
With reasons sound, and which to every heart
Speaks its own praise, and homeward thrusts th’,
“Come, thou, and prosper as we here have done!”