The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 2 (May 2, 1938.)
Backward Glances — The Heady Brew of Memory
Memory is the essence of Experience mellowed in the vat of Time. It is not appreciated until the years have given it the zip and zest of age. It is not for the young who choose the rough-edged ale of Actuality. It is for palates sere and serene which sip and savour in the ingle-nook. When the flame of youth has been regulated by discretion; when Time nips at joint and tendon; when the mind begins its stock-taking and Ambition's tyranny is waning, then out comes the bottle of Memory. The cobwebs are brushed aside, the dust is blown off its neck and gently, almost reverently, the cork is eased out. A sip rolled on the tongue, insinuated over the palate, and allowed to trickle down the swallow, and up rise those vignetted visions which are Nature's compensation for bald heads, stiffening joints and a leaning towards upholstery.
The wise keep their visions under their hats but the unwise prattle of the Past and the young say: “Let's go; the old fellow's at it again.” Naturally the visions of departed youth, clarified and brightened by long and gentle fermentation, appear preferable to the unmatured product of the Present. Thinking of yesterday may breed dissatisfaction with to-day. The coloured motley of Retrospect may make the workaday garments of the Present look drab and dull. But, knowing all this, I yet admit that:-
As I grow older
And my blood runs colder,
I tire of the motor's hoot,
Of the raucous scream
Of the city stream,
And its rumble and rattle and toot.
I weary of dodging to save my bones
By leaping from curbs to safety zones.
I tire of the smell of the city flumes,
Of fish and bananas and petrol fumes,
Of rubber and dust and beer and smoke,
Of second-hand air that makes me choke.
I want to escape the howl of the street
And “beat it” to where the air is sweet—
Where there aren't any signs and there aren't any smells
And there aren't any toots or hoots or yells.
I dream of a place on a windy height,
Where there's never a street or a traffic light,
And I don't have to scoot like the very Divil,
With rolling eye and my neck on a swivel.
I know of a place where the air is good
And you walk as the good God said you should,
With your eye on the things that one should see—
The wind-blown grass and the crested tree,
The round green breast of recumbent Earth,
Where the “worthless” things are the only worth.
On a creaking saddle I want to ride,
With the friendly warmth of a horse's hide
Fanning my nostrils with odour sweet,
While I sway to the motion of iron shod feet.
I want to hear the sheep again,
Mooning their everlasting paean,
To watch the long grass toss and leap,
As its answers the warm nor'wester's sweep,
To lie on my back and, while I nod,
To hear the bell-bird strike his rod.
I want to feel lonely, with time to dream,
Away from the streets and the siren's scream—
To watch the hawk, as there I lie,
Weaving his pattern across the sky.
All these I had and I let them go
For rush and tumble, but now I know
The gifts of the gods are not in the street,
But up where the hills and the heavens meet.
As I grow old and my blood runs cold,
I yearn for the things Ambition took;
Forgetting the hoot of the motor horn,
I finger the pages of Memory's book.
And what do I find in Memory's book that's not in the Turf Guide or at the Squawkies?