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Golder Editorial : the Poetry of William Golder (1810–1876)

Components of the Edition

Components of the Edition

The core of the edition is the poetry William Golder published in New Zealand. Additional material which can assist interpretation of the poetry is also provided.

The newspaper reports and the pictorial materials are not intended to be read as exact equivalents to the poems. They are different modes of representation informed by different conceptions of their social purpose. The accounts given in the newspaper reports cannot be assumed to represent Golder’s views; and the scenes depicted are not presented here as scenes which Golder specifically had in mind when composing his poems. What they do offer is further insight into the cultural and physical environment in which Golder lived and wrote and therefore the opportunity to produce richer and more fully contextualised interpretations of his poetry.

Three other men whose lives and interests intersected with Golder’s are represented by a selection of books and other documents associated with them. They are William Swainson, William Lyon and James Coutts Crawford. Taken together with Golder’s writings, this body of work provides valuable access to the cultural, religious and intellectual environment of early Wellington.


Among these poems is a number of lyrics for which Golder has included the name of a traditional Scottish tune. Music from contemporary and authoritative sources for these tunes, and the traditional verses which were written for them, are included.

It is not known whether Golder drew upon a particular print collection of Scottish traditional music. The versions of the tunes included here are taken from George Farquhar Graham, The Songs of Scotland adapted to their appropriate melodies, arranged with pianoforte accompaniments by G. F. Graham [et al.]; illustrated with historical, biographical, and critical notices (Edinburgh: Wood, 1856).

John Purser, Scotland’s Music. A History of the Traditional and Classical Music of Scotland from Earliest Times to the Present Day (Edinburgh and London: Mainstream Publishing in conjunction with BBC Scotland, 1992), writes of this collection that “Copious notes and a high standard of piano accompaniments make this an important collection” (289).

A comparison between the traditional verses and those written by Golder can provide a clear understanding of the models Golder was employing, and the nature of the changes which he made to the traditional wording. Those changes are particularly indicative of the new environment of New Zealand and its incorporation into, and modification of, the Scottish traditional form.

As performances of Golder’s lyrics to the traditional tunes he named for them can be arranged, the record of the performance will be added to the edition.

Newspaper reports

Reports in the Wellington newspapers provide a valuable context for the poems Golder wrote in response to local events. Transcriptions of these reports are linked to the related poems.

The newspapers are The New Zealand Gazette, The New Zealand Gazette and Britannia Spectator, The New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator, and The New Zealand Spectator, and Cook’s Strait Guardian.


Golder’s poetry is focussed on the scenes and situations of his immediate physical environment and the places in the lower North Island which he visited. Stanzas can often have the effect of completed images, like a drawing or a photograph. A number of his poems are responses to local events which were well known to the settlers in the Wellington area.

Among the collections of the Turnbull Library are a remarkable group of drawings by another early settler in the Hutt Valley, William Swainson (1789-1855). Partly because Golder and Swainson were acquainted, and partly because many of Swainson’s drawings are of scenes in the Hutt Valley during the 1840s, a selection of them (with a few pictures by others) has been included and links made to specific poems.

For further information about Swainson see:

William Swainson F.R.S., F.L.S. naturalist & artist : family letters & diaries 1809–1855, final destiny New Zealand, transcribed, edited and published by Geoffrey M. Swainson (Palmerston North, [N.Z.] : G. Swainson, 1992).

William Swainson F.R.S., F.L.S. naturalist & artist: diaries 1808–1818, Sicily, Malta, Greece, Italy & Brazil, transcribed, edited and published by Geoffrey M. Swainson (Palmerston North, [N.Z.] : G. Swainson, 1989).

Sheila Natusch and Geoffrey Swainson, William Swainson of Fern Grove F.R.S., F.L.S. &c. The Anatomy of a Nineteenth-Century Naturalist (Wellington, [N.Z.] : Published by the authors with the aid of the New Zealand Founders Society, 1987).

More than 100 images by other artists are being added to the edition, including one of James Coutts Crawford’s sketchbooks in which recorded his surveying expeditions in the lower half of the North Island.


The early maps have been included because their representations of New Zealand, and especially the part lived in and travelled through by William Golder, remind us by their remarkable difference from the now conventional map of New Zealand of just how little British settlers knew of the land they were settling, and how little of it was yet marked by naming, land clearance, settlements and communications links.

Books and Other Publications

The following titles have been digitized. They have been selected either because Golder referred to them or because they contribute to defining the intellectual and cultural contexts in which Golder’s poetry is written.