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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May 1, 1934.)

The Landscape Poet

The Landscape Poet.

The forest, the unspoiled forest, with its extravagance of loveliness in tree and creeper, fern and moss, is a theme to which the poet returns again and again. He knew the bush as no other poet has known it. His descriptions of the ancient pohutukawa groves on the cliffy shores of Lake Tarawera, and of the Rotomahana Terraces, are pictures of vanished glories that have historic value in addition to their own beauty.

There is a memorable picture of a sunset on Lake Tarawera which seems to me to have been inspired by the view through the once-celebrated stained-glass window in the mission church at Te Mu, at Te Wairoa, a beautiful old place which was destroyed in the Tarawera eruption long after Domett's day:

“Now Sunset's hushed and awful Splendour fills
The solemn scene;—transfigures heaven and earth
With luminous glory as in strange new birth;
Clothes with vermilion woods the Eastern hills;
And where the lake should spread its glassy length
Leaves a great hollow of one hue— blood-red
As the mysterious garments round Him rolled
Who travelling in the greatness of his strength
In glory of apparel unalloyed,
Though stained as one who doth the winepress tread,
From Edom and from Bozrah came of old.”

It was a year or two after Domett had left New Zealand that Anthony Trollope, the English novelist, visited New Zealand; Captain Gilbert Mair accompanied him over those Lakeland scenes. Mair told me that he took his famous guest into that church at Te Mu to view sunset on Tarawera. Trollope gazed at it through the stained-glass window overlooking the lake, which turned everything to a wonderful crimson. After a long look he turned and said: “Mair, that must be what the Day of Judgment will be like.”

The glories of the land, of such a place as the Tongariro trinity of volcanic peaks, are reflected here:

“What need of Temples! All around,
Through Earth's expanse, through heaven's profound,
A conscious Spirit, beauty-crowned,
A visible glory breathes and breaks,
And of these mountains, moors and lakes
A Holiest of the Holies makes!
Above—around—where'er you be,
The true Shekinah shining seel
With ever-fuming incense there
An altar burns for praise and prayer!”