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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 6 (September 1939)

New Lealand Verse

page 35

New Lealand Verse

Russell: Centenary.

Below her hill the lazy beach
Dreams in the sun of days gone by;
Of paddles slipping through the tide,
And white-plumed spears against the sky;
Of wild war-fleets upon the breast
Of these calm waters long at rest.
Within these guarding island arms
The whaling fleet at anchor lay;
The light of try-works’ fires as red
As though the night were eerie day,
And up against the tranquil stars
The tracery of wind-strained spars.
The bells have struck the slow sea-hours
From frigate and from battle-sloop,
And rung an echo on the hill.
From frowning bow and brass-mouthed poop
Across this blue wind-sheltered tide
The smoke of guns has rolled and died.
Blue harbour, rest of many ships,
The anchors of a vanished fleet
Have lain upon your rippled sand.
No more the old sea-rovers meet
And drink and dice, and tell strange tales
Of Southern seas and Southern gales.
Below her hill the lazy beach
Dreams in the sun of days gone by,
And seas white-winged across the tide,
Where only seagulls drift and fly,
The spread of canvas on the breeze
Of long-dead ships of many seas.

* * *

The Night Express.

Last night I stood and waited for the
passing midnight train,
The wide, grey sky was clouded, the
earth was drenched by rain,
The fences were but shadow-shapes, the
trees, etched ebony,
And lost was all the landscape in a dim obscurity.
In the silence and the shadow of that
lonely, wayside place,
I thought myself the centre of a vast,
enchanted space—
The axis of a universe, of blue-black
earth and sky,
And I was one with Magnitude, the hub
of all was I.
Then suddenly a murmur stirred the
silence of the night,
And round the bend afar-off, showed a
glaring point of light,
The rails flashed into golden, and the
beat of every wheel
Urged faster, faster, faster, the livid
pulse of steel.
Gold grew the night's dark spaces that
lined the lonely track,
Fire-gems flew from the furnace, then
faded into black,
And on the passing shadows, fell a
latticed, amber chain,
And a whole great world came thunder-
ing in a mighty midnight train.
Then I, who had been standing in a
world that seemed my own,
Saw worlds and worlds unconquered,
dreamt dreams before unknown,
And left there in the darkness, I knew
that one day, I,
Would be trysting with Adventure when
the night express went by!

* * *

My Flocks.

I have no sheep;
God knows I could not keep
Even a few!
I who must lie
For ever on my bed
With unraised head,
Watching through latticed pane,
The changing sky—
There do my flocks go by!
Feathered and winged, they sway
That way and this,
Wondering which fields that day
Have the sun-god's kiss.
Farmers complain,
Cursing my flocks that eat their golden grain;
Yet how can I
Mew in a fold that which was made to fly?
Up and away
E'en would they be,
By the first streak of day,
Fluttering-winged, free!
What can I do
But harken to the benisons that fall
Through the soft light
When night doth fold us all?
Marauders they!
Yet do I reap great gain
Watching my flocks pass by my latticed pane.

* * *

The Onewai.

Down in the onewai, bough-red,
Go, heart-tired, and the year dead,
Where the hills are old
With bird sighs,
And in the quiet, amaranthine glow,
Innumerable buds burst, break and
Sobbing down time until
Time sobs and dies.
With all your songs unsung, go down
Undulating wood-paths on the brack-
ened, brown,
Old, mellowy ways
Of green sweet clover,
To the onewai lying where high trees
Blurred against the dim-remoted gloom
Of far waters crashing,
And the year creeps over.
And fair it seems to sleep, and never
Heart star-ful, hidden in the brake,
A world away;
Too sweet and high
The bird-voice, mocking, shrills and
Cool-lipped oblivion falls in hourless
On all things elemental,
Trees and earth and sky.