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

The Love Songs

The Love Songs.

There is Miroa's song based on a little love-chant that begins “E tangi e te ihu,” a phrase which the first verse explains:

“Alas, and well-a-day! they are talking of me still:
By the tingling of my nostril, I fear they are talking ill;
Poor hapless I—poor little I—so many mouths to fill
And all for this strange feeling, O this sad sweet pain.”

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There are little lilting songs of simple charm, as Amohia's rhythmic measure that tells about “a maid her home for love forsaking”:

”… . To the current confiding my little canoe,
See! joyously gliding my course I pursue.
Look! carelessly twirling the paddle I sit,
The river deciding which way we shall flit:
I sit all alone, no fear have I, none!
For I know to what quarter its waters will run.”

How true to the New Zealand scene is the mention of the raupo, the whispering reeds by the river margin:

“The ranks of green rushes
With their brown knobs of down,
Where the stream's overflow
Creeps dimpling and slow—
How gentle their stirring
As softly conferring
They murmur so low!
In a moment ‘tis done;
They are still every one!”

Amohia watches the distant sail of her lover's boat on Rotorua, and apostrophises lake and puia:

”… . O dull, dull lake!
How canst thou sleep so blue—nor wake—
Nor rise and wreathe with loving spray my own, my darling lover!
“You vapoury columns that from hot springs rise
(As from my heart such sighs)
So white against the green.
And through the day serene
Now this, now that way lean,
And easier postures take for silent contemplation,
O, why not always turn towards him in speechless admiration!”

But one could quote scores of passages of beauty, fertile in imagery. In contrast to such lines, Domett often lapses into the commonplace. However, that is not uncommon with poets. Pegasus occasionally comes to earth with a bump.

It was in 1883 that the two-volume edition of “Ranolf and Amohia” was published; this is the edition most often seen to-day in libraries of New Zealand books. In this edition there is a foreword in verse (rather trite verse, to be sure), which introduces the reader to the Rotorua Geyserland region. It invites the English visitor “weary of mists” to rove in a land “where the fanciful fountains are raining swift brilliants of boiling and beautiful spray,” a land “where a people primeval is vanishing fast with its faiths and its fables and ways of the past.” Assuredly the picture drawn is an inviting one, a vast and strange and wonderful landscape, with the most romantic story ever told. “Ranolf and Amohia” should be regarded as a national treasure, the greatest gift that ever a poet made to this country. But, as I have submitted before, it would be a greater work if it were less in bulk.