The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 3 (June 1, 1939)
New Zealand Verse
New Zealand Verse
When drum beats loud and trumpets blow,
And gaily down the city street
In bright array the soldiers go
With rhythmic tread of marching feet,
Then every sluggish pulse is stirred,
Dead dreams of conquest rise again,
And we forget our spoken word
And raise our songs in martial strain.
So I would have the soldiers come—
Not bright and trim, with spurs agleam,
With streaming flag and throbbing drum,
Bold heroes of an outworn dream;
But I would have them worn and spent,
And staggering by as racked with pain—
With bandaged limbs and tunics rent
And garments splashed with crimson stain.
And I would build a splendid fire
Upon the city's topmost hill
And burn the drum, whose notes inspire
Our thoughtless hearts to maim and kill.
And all the warlike songs we sing—
The bugle that but flaunts our shame—
The spurs and medals. I would fling
Within that sacrificial flame.
And I would furl the flag, that we
At last should know how wars may end,
And man ‘neath other flags may be
No less our brother and our friend.
* * *
(Legend Tarawera, Rotorua).
On silent wings, above the forest's sheen
Where moonlight slants among the branches grey,
And eerily the night birds lonely keen
White gulls speed seawards o'er a ruffled bay.
The slight night whispers, in the heat browned grass
Whirlpools of dust, upon a windless road
And the still list'ning, where night creatures pass
Timorously fretful urged by hunger's goad.
Trees exotic tall in a stranger land
Flaunting their plumes where ti-tree scorns to grow
Wave upon wave, to Rainbow's coloured sand*
Guarding weak streams who murmur as they flow.
Across the moon's face silent wings beat on
The Arawa again seeks out the sea
He hears again Hawaiki's old love song
Strong pinions beating in sweet ecstasy.
* * *
What shall I wear if the day be fine
The sprigged and all-be-flowered frock?
Or just a muslin, so still and cool,
As I stand trembling at Robin's knock.
What shall I say when he takes my hand
And looks at me with his easy smile?
“Good morning, sir. How are you, sir?
Mother will come in a little while.”
What shall I say if he whispers, “Will you?”
Oh, heart stop trembling at such a thought.
I may not love him, I may say “No.”
And all your flutters will be for nought.
What shall I do if he goes away
And his eyes still speak, tho’ his tongue be dumb.
Oh, I shall die; for I love him dearly,
Heaven be praised, for to-day he will come.
You are swept by the call of the Greeks
For a new thing,
You are cowed by the bezom that seeks
For a wasp's sting
In the plaster.
And the songs I proposed for your claribel dwindle and die,
For a prophet hath risen who passes our melodies by.
His verse is a fevered mosaic of bits and of ends
From the slag-heap of sapience. Potsherd with amethyst blends,
And his rhythms are tuned to the girding of ratchet and rod
Or the syncopate cough of exhaust; but you dither and nod
At the thought incandescent. You mow at the sizzle and spark,
But I, Durse, await you without in the cool and the dark.
I am still as a cairn. I am fey as a pondering faun.
Oh, let me come into your eyrie and play lepracaun.
You have spurned our old songs for the dread
Of a new scorn,
There's a load of ellipses instead
On a wheel borne
But you follow the press as they puddle the future to shape
Lest they lift a compassionate brow at the song of “escape.”
Still, I bide your good moment. I dwell in the casual call
Of a bird you might name as a throstle by sedge-way and wall
That tells of a matter which never aforetime was known
Till it came to your ears. I dwell in the touch and the tone
Of the wood acquiescent that housels the sentient strings
Of a maestro's viola. I light on the tendril that clings
To the casement at dusk. I dwell in the dewy reverse
Of the frond and the blade, in the hawthorn at noon. I am Durse.
* Rainbow refers to Rainbow Mountain.