The Canterbury Gilpin;
The Capture and Flight of the Moa.
Wellington: James Hughes, Steam Printer, Lambton Quay.1880. page break
Lest some of my readers should never get to the end of the following verses, I will, shortly as I can, tell them what it is that forms the burden of my song, and its history.
All know that there once lived in New Zealand a very large bird, the bones of which are of frequent occurrence in the bogs and swamps of the country. We speak of this bird as the Moa, though why it should be so called is not very clear. No white man, and perhaps no Maori, has ever seen one alive. Some suppose that the Moa became extinct a very long time ago; others as sagely aver that they may not be all dead yet. There has been a considerable variety of opinion upon this subject. Of late years frequent reports have been circulated—the wish being father to the thought—that live Moas have been seen in various parts of the South Island; and in one case it was widely published, in the press of the Colony, that two living examples of the famous bird had actually been secured. Fortunately for the Moas perhaps, but unfortunately for the accuracy of my poem, these never reached their destination, which was said to be Christchurch.page 4
I have imagined that one of the Moas did actually reach town, and that the various incidents connected with its arrival and subsequent hasty departure did take place. Having once given the rein to imagination, it was but natural to suppose that such an acquisition to science, such confirmation of the opinions of some, should be displayed in public, and equally so, if I thought myself fit for the undertaking, was it, that my story should be told in verse.
I have not placed the whole of my story before the reader, but hope to do so at some future date.
Come, I have matter for your ear,
I have a tale to tell,
A song to sing, a race to ride,
And would acquit me well.
Speak of my effort what you may,
But read it all the same,—
Read it, 'tis written to be read,
Laughed at, and read again.
'Tis true that you may not approve
Of all that you may read;
Yet I would claim attention,
Though the reader shakes his head.
For I would please, ev'n tho' I touch
A sore place now and then;
And I would spare, or lightly touch,
Where I give only pain.
Man errs in giving pain, if he
Can not with ready hand
Pour in the balm that soothes again,
Meetly to the demand.
We err at all times, when we leave
A canker at the heart
Of those of whom we address. My aim
Is that in peace we part.
A skilful surgeon with free hand
Strikes deep the lancet, where
He knows disturbing tumors lie,
And lays the fester bare.
But with the lightest of light hands,
He binds again the wound;
And if he pained he pleases more
When this is safely bound.
I have a case upon my hands,—
A patient 'neath my care,
And must use strongest remedies,
This patient to repair.
Around me if I look, I see
What pleases me but ill;
Yet though I scotch the venomed snake,
I scarce may hope to kill.
If I believed such skill were mine,
I should not hesitate
My page with horrors for to fill,
And these again rebate.
Thus might the fabric rise again,
In health and strength throughout;
But much I fear effectual cure
Hangs on the side of doubt.
I hoped my purpose to effect,
No actors being seen
Conspicuously upon the stage.
This proved an idle dream.
So, long with reverie I held
Communion, to decide
What should be done; and no one else
Gave council me to guide.
At length the present and the past
Rose mentally in view;
And there stood figures, not my choice—
So here they figure too.
I saw what I would here narrate,
And lies with me the blame;
If blame there be, it needs must lie
With those I shall not name.
Yet think not with remorseless scourge
That I lash everywhere,
Or to destruction, for I strike
Alone where vice lies bare.
Sooner would I throw down my pen,
And in dismay look on,
Than that one soul should justly say
I meditated wrong.
So much for my intent. I know
That I shall not escape
The charge of being personal,
And writing this in hate.
And truly I would here confess,
I would not choose my friends
To figure here; those that are not,
I owe them no amends.
I do these no injustice, since I
think I make it plain
My tale is but a fable, and
Need not apply to them.
Yet there may be who do insist
They see their portrait drawn;
And, in reply, I'm bound to say,
"Thou art the very man."
The Canterbury Gilpin.
The prowess of the snorting steed,
And skilful charioteer,
Since Troy besieged has been a theme,
The muses have held dear.
Dear to the muse, and dear to man,
The horse race leads the way
In all our sports, since man and horse
Combine in the display.
Pedestrian sports of every kind
Must take a second place;
These lack the double charm that gives
Excitement to the race.
And hence through all the range of time,
Whenever sports are sung,
Equestrian games, if there at all,
Come first the lyre to tune.
Though honour's his whose pen portrays
The athlete's strength and speed,
His subject rises if he mounts
His hero on a steed.
So doubtless they that saw so thought,
When first the untamed horse,
Some savage rode across the Steppe,
Scarce guiding well its course.
So think we in the present day,
When horse and horseman's trained
To such perfection, that it seems
No more can be attained.
The highest of our honours we
Must with the steed divide;
And if a hero would be great,
That hero, he must ride.
In modern times when high-trained bloods
The Derby do contest,
Rider and horse, with equal pride,
Stand ranged within the list.
The thousands upon thousands there,
All babelous yet intent,
Decide beforehand, right or wrong,
How ends the great event.
A signal given. And no more
May one his neighbour see;
And eyes there are that watch the course
With fierce intensity,
Noting the varying chance that first
May this or that horse place;
While hope or fear, in many breasts,
Rides yet a keener race.
And now the horse and rider keen
Are one in this; they aim
To keep the vantage they have got,
Or vantage ground to gain.
Like drifting clouds before a gale,
Around the course they fly;
Or like an eagle on the wing
That cleaves the nether sky;
While sways the crowd as if impelled,
Like waves, beneath the blast,
That break upon a rocky beach,
Yet cannot sink to rest.
The race must end, and then, O then!
Surges excitement's tide!
'Tis run, and lost, and won, and quick
The news spreads far and wide.
Whether in chariot we would ride,
With Nestor's skilful son;
Or from a vantage ground behold
The latest Derby won;
Alike we join a noted race.
How many he between,
Sung and unsung, I may not tell,
Since such is not my theme.
These for a trophy strive; much more
Must horse and rider strain
To reach the goal, when life's the prize,
They struggle to retain.
For then no longer 'tis in sport;
The race is changed in kind,
Not only is the prize in front,
The penalty's behind.
Such fearful rides must form a theme
For every country's muse—
A living foe, the flames, the flood,
From these we pick and choose.
And scarce a poet's page we turn,
But that we find the ride
Of some great hero is the point
Where centres all his pride.
John Gilpin rode a noble race,
Though 'twas in fable sung;
And all have read of Tarn's famed ride
Across the "Brig O'Doon."
And later still, we all have rode
With brave young Lochinvar;
These, and Mazeppa's dreadful ride
A few examples are.
And yet another famous race
Is waiting to be sung,—
A race in some respects unique,
That lately hath been run,—
This race began in Christchurch town,
The reader will not doubt;
Though where it ended has not been
So easy to make out.
He who knows best is reticent
When friends do him implore;
And if a friend should say "I know,"
But holds his tongue the more.
Yet it leaked out, as those things will,
Which fondly we would hide,
Though where and how, for reasons grave,
We will not now decide.
A Gilpin might my hero prove,
I hoped, that hope was vain;
Too surely must I cast my verse
In quite another strain,
Since more Mazeppa-like my tale,
Save that we lack the maid;
Nor did our hero back return
With fierce revengeful blade.
Yet from the wild the steed untamed,
Like Byron's far famed horse,
Was brought, and showed in limb and frame,
Fleetness, endurance, force.
Amid the mountains of the west,
Far from the dun brown plain,
The Alpy giants upward soar,
And send afar their fame.
These constant winter mantles white
With ever deepening snow,
Relieved but by the avalanche,
Or silent glacier's flow.
Ages untold those heights have stood,
And watched the Ocean eat
Or yield again the lower lands,
That mantle round their feet.
Calmly they watched old Neptune thus
Waging remorseless war,
Unthinking that his stolen spear
Should yet repulse his car.
The winds from Neptune's steaming brow
Waft to the low-lands rain;
But solid ice now piles the slopes
Of all the mountain chain.
The glacier ever swelling still
To greater length attains;
With carried Titan loads once more
It reinstates the plains.
And fiery Vulcan still maintained
The never ending store
Of stony wreck, which, east and west,
Drove the retreating shore.
Yet who shall wage a ceaseless war,
Nor suffer from its rage?
The mountains stand, yet paid the price
Of the great glacier age.
We reap the benefit, and till
The hot-contested plain;
And looking westward, we may thank
The mountains for our gain.
(Heaven grant this gain may be assured
To those who till the soil,
That their just rights may be maintained,
Whose hands are hard with toil).
The arsenals, that yielded forth
Munitions for the fray,
Show what the struggle was, and is,
In places to this day.
Yet still where once the rigid rocks
Were by the ice-mass worn
Lies many a vale with verdure bless'd,
Which trees and shrubs adorn.
A mountain torrent, rushing o'er
Its rugged stony bed,
Leaves, first on this side then on that,
Green glades with flowers o'erspread.
The mountain spurs, now dark with wood,
Do shelter and divide
The level ground, which, thus embayed,
Strange forms of life doth hide.
In every vale—and many they—
These fairy glades abound,
And thence they lead to wider fields
Where freer scope is found.
But still the watch-towers pierce the air,
As in the days of yore;
And still the glaciers slowly glide,
And avalanches roar.
This was the native region of
The steed our hero rode;
But not a sire of his had seen
A bridle or been shod.
Where Browning's Pass 'mid snow divides
An Alp on either hand,
The royal brood from which he sprang
Roamed free o'er all the land.
And still, as fable tells he did,
He might have eaten air
In freedom, but in evil hour
He fell into a snare.
Yet, with a soul above deceit,
Suspicion was not his,
The shackles, bound upon his legs,
Half pleased, were half a quiz.
The smile upon his captor's face
That broadened to a grin,
Indexed alone an honest heart,
As it was read by him.
From hence, the wonder of the age
Was straight conveyed to town,
A princely Moa in the flesh,
A bird of great renown.
Now Rumor runs and Fable rides—
What steed so fleet as they?
And far and wide electric wires
The startling news convey.
'Twas said a mountain had brought forth;
Only one truth was said,
That S-, the famous Nimrod, had
A princely capture made.
And soon the news was brought to town,
Which slumbering peaceful lay:—
"The latest wonder of the world
Will be in town to-day,
To-morrow at the latest;" and
(As fire takes the town),
Echo the tale repeated, till
By all the news was known.
Uprose the town in raptures, and
Many a busy brain
So turned the shapeless story o'er,
That it told fresh again.
And so the captor and the prize
Still in importance grew,
Till some began to wonder if
The tale was really true.
* * *
Amid tall trees, a spacious pile
The country's treasures hides;
Treasures of time, whose use for us
A Savant great decides.
The noisy news, spread o'er the town,
Soon reached the Savant here;
He shook his head, he stroked his beard,
And stood 'twixt hope and fear.
But credence pressed him, till at last
He hailed the news as true;
And soon he acted. His clear head
Saw quickly what to do.
The fleetest horse that Christchurch held
Was soon at his command.
Give, said he to his messenger,
Whatever they demand.
And so was sold the wingless bird,
That hath a world-wide fame;
To Science known but by its bones,
But yet well known by name.
Just when yon snowclad pyramid
Seemed to devour the sun,
The long expected then arrived,
Two Moas? No! but one.
A fair round sum was given to
Its captors to divide.
It passed to other hands, a prize
He gloried to describe.
Long had this subject vexed the wise,
Were Moas still extant;
With such a proof before his eyes,
Could more the sceptic want?
Some senseless ass describes the last
In agonizing throe,
While murdered by a savage horde,
Ten thousand years ago.
Yet here is proof that wiser brains
Construed and read aright,
That Moas lived to present times
On plain and mountain height.
Of such were thousands in the land,
Since last these isles arose,
'Mid fiery strife, from Ocean's bed,
Upheaved 'mid earthquake throes.
Back to the misty Miocene,
Along the page of time,
We read the history of the race
Which we Dinornis name.
When chilly death grasped every height,
Ere the wide plain was seen,
Despite the rigour of the clime,
They braved the Pliocene.
E're Man, their last relentless foe,
Had barbed his shaft with stone,
This feathered race had seen its prime,
Its youth had come and gone.
Now Maori hunted, o'er the hills
Fell old and young the same.
Hunger spared not the germs of life,
The nest it yielded them.
Craft with a thousand subtle schemes
Led persecution on.
There came a day, long past it seems,
The race no more was known.
The fastness of the desert wild
The savage had not dared,
To future times, but all unknown,
A remnant yet had spared.
And now another race of men
Appeared upon the scene;
And Savants groping through the past
Saw dimly what had been.
But facts too oft took colour from
A brain-disordered sight
And so opinion grouped itself,
Around two points of light.
Two schools maintained a common plea,
But differed on this fact:—
Fell the last Moa only now,
Or fifty centuries back.
And other pleas that rose from this
Did complicate the strife;
Nor cooled its ardour, till it looked
Like war, war to the knife.
So shifts and so returns the field,
To where the fight began;
And now the Moa is discussed,
Now Palaeolithic Man.
Blows stoutly dealt on either side
Made printer's devils groan,
And puzzled many an honest wight
Who shared the fight at home.
Exhaustion brought a treacherous lull;
No truce was in the calm;
Each watched his foeman's weakest point,
And did the victory claim.
And now the hour of triumph's come;
Contention's bone is here;
The prize has fallen to the truth,
For truth has naught to fear.
By what strange chance should it be thus?
Or what kind fortune threw
The prize within the fittest hands
Of all the knowing few?
This first of living Moas seen
By savant or by hind,
Though taken as their average type,
Would not have shamed his kind.
Proudly, not sixteen hands but feet,
His head rose in the air;
His limbs were lithe, yet wondrous strength
Was plainly seated there.
His levelled back and arching neck
Shewed grace in every line;
His head was beauty in itself,
His eye a diamond mine.
No gaudy plumage needed he
To drape his majesty;
So nature, ever true to taste,
Clothed him in sober gray.
No gauds or ornaments enhance
What's noble in itself;
When nature smiled, for other forms
She kept her bright-hued wealth.
See, as befits those sinewy legs,
What armature is there,
Laid on with the profoundest skill,
That comes of subtle care.
Set free and in his native wild,
O what a sight to see!
Though nature gave not wings for flight,
Few birds so swift as he.
Who at a bound might reach his back,
An athlete must be trained;
A Moa horse! no saddle-flap
His plumage yet had stained.
O such a horse, and who shall ride?
Or who shall worthy be?
Or who shall dare? let him who dares,
Well to his trappings see.
To ride a moa like a horse,
Well, the idea charms;
I hail the fields of pure romance,
And here my fancy warms.
Fiction outstrips the truth; Ah, no!
This notion was not mine,
And I must yet contented write
The truth in every line.
Delighted since, at last, he had,
A living moa found;
Sudden a thought possessed the Sage,
That he would ride 'it round,
That folk might see the noble bird
For which their money went;
And so a special riding rig
Was from the saddler's sent
The day arrived, the hour was near,
And crowds assemble round
The portal of the wide Domain,
Where this strange steed stood bound.
And Christchurch had a holiday
To witness the event;
From all the bells, o'er all the town,
So norous joy was sent.
Her Sages met not to debate,
Nor to have honour done,
But this to do, to honour him
Who had their chief become.
The heroes of the Sumner Cave
Were foremost in the throng;
They bore the brunt of all the strife,
And set right what was wrong.
When dared a filching nondescript
To steel a march on them,
With dignity they did assert
Their so-called rights again.
And now they held a blazing shield
Unspotted to the light,
And if a fly dared light thereon,
They slew the parasite.
Beneath the roof, where doth the pride
Of former ages lie;
They have assembled, here was brought
The Moa. Ask not why.
Yet if thou never hast beheld
The relics of this kind
That Glenmark yielded here set up;
See these, and pleasure find.
And now the living Moa stood
Amid his kindred's bones,
While his huge frame was close compared,
Adding insult to wrongs.
(Man arrogantly doth conclude,
That he alone respects
The relics of his kind when dead;
But mercy this suspects.)
Of Didiformis, first a leg,
Was 'gainst his own compared;
And the due ratio of its size
Was by the Sage declared.
See how, he cried, the South hath erred,
And how withouten fail
My theory holds, long since I saw
What now these facts entail.
Then Owen's monograph was spread,
And soon he pointed where
The due proportion was defined,
With an exactness rare.
The multiple, diameter,
And length are not the same;
And, by this rule, 'tis needful that
This gets another name.
Then cried the Sage, "with wider scope
This law applied to man
Might point distinctions, where we group
The huge and small the same.
Well could I love to think myself
Of species quite distinct
From yonder dwarf, whose gainless form
Shows the misshapen imp."
Affinity and homologue,
With many kindred terms,
Are freely used as this great man
Upon his subject warms.
The smile of those around repayed
His anxious care to please;
But are our pleasures always such
As give our neighbours ease.
Then for a contrast Gracilis
And Gravis were arrayed;
Palapteryx ingens then was next
Against our bird displayed.
Next Elephantopus for strength,
And Maximus for size
(Nor saw they that a watery flood
Swam in the Moa's eyes.
Our freedom lost, yet if caressed
We slavery might bear;
But disregard of all we feel
Makes ev'n the meekest dare.
A tyrant does not always use
The obvious forms of power;
Sneering he smiles, nor thinks his smile
Brings the avenging hour.
We were not born but to be free,
And each restraint that chains
The free impulse that springs of right,
Adds misery to our pains.
Nature will not allow a man
To yield his right for ever;
Nor can he crush his free-born soul
That still its bonds would sever.
Not on our fellow man alone
We tyranny deplore;
The Moa felt this in his heart,
And so his eyes ran o'er.
Yet for himself not all his grief,
But what his eyes had seen,
(The sacrilege upon his kind)
Yet more afflicted him.
Then they in triumph led him forth
For wonder and display;
And loud and long the people cheered
The bird in trappings gay.
A feathered biped for a steed
The Savant had bestrode,
And sixteen stone of flesh and blood
Were sure sufficient load.
At length the gates were open flung,
And issued forth the pair;
The lion-hearted rider's pride
The sages round did share.
But the poor bird was in a plight,
Guarded lest he should run,
And hobbled too that safely so
The journey might be done.
First the procession did
proceed The city streets about;
And that the show was wondrous rare
There could be little doubt.
Up Cashel street, Colombo street,
With slow and stately pace,
A royal ride; the rider smiled
With condescending grace.
Below, the pavements overflowed As pressed
the crowd along;
From window high and balcony,
Beauty with smiles looked on.
Peeled yet again the bells, and throats
Ten thousand rent the air,
And proudly thus our hero rode,
To halt in Market square.
End of First Part.
Rise with the morn,—the early morn
Of a December day,
And climb that bold and rugged height,
That overlooks the bay.
Look backward, and beneath thee lies
The shipping at thy feet;
The Port, a snug romantic town,
There terraces the steep.
Away, beyond the rolling hills
(The wreck of former fires),
Lend to "The Bays," which they enclose,
Whate'er romance requires.
Far to the east, the slumbering main,
Unshadowed by a cloud,
Begins to sparkle as the lark's
Clear song is heard aloud.
Turn to the westward. From afar
Grey mountains greet the eye;
While o'er the fertile boundless plain,
A generous fog does lie.
Far to the north, the unseen sun
Just tips, with rosy light,
The rugged bold Kaikoura chain,
That first throws off the night.
Now, quivering on the furthest line
Which distant ocean leaves,
The god of day in glory leaps
From mid'st the tumbling waves.
Shoots his clear rays o'er the expanse
Of Pegasus' wide bay;
Catches the mountains of the west,
That flash beneath his ray.
Now, as the sun invades the sky,
Stirred by his generous warmth,
In broken clouds the fog, dispersed,
Melts 'neath his gathering strength.
Now keep thy perch, and view the scene
Without a shadow's stain;
Withhold thy praise, no praise can paint
The Canterbury Plain.
Nor I; and if my reader hath
So very luckless been,
Then haste thee to the vantage whence
This paradise is seen.
For thou may'st tell of glorious alp,
Chill with an epoch's snow;
Or castled crags that watch the Rhine,
'Neath thy romance may glow;
And thou may'st vaunt the champaign fields,
That Frenchmen do delight,
But hast reserved for thine eye
A yet more glorious sight.
Beneath the eye the distant plain,
On the horizon lost,
Lies bounded by the Southern Alps,
And by the reeking coast.
Nearer and nearer in the view,
And more and more distinct,
Hamlet and hut embossed by trees
Do town and country link.
Fields, waving now with richest
green, Unbounded promise give,
And these with flocks and herds
display How well the farmers live.
Now thickens 'neath the nearer view
The groves which taste set there;
Studding the plain are country seats,
Wealth built with wealth to spare.
Now gardens gay and cornfields rich
Please and bewitch the eyes;
While gracing the suburban towns,
The spires of churches rise.
The Avon and the Heathcote glide
Like shining serpents on;
Now east, now west, unseen or seen,
Past many a happy home.
As one within their estuary,
They mingle without war,
And thence their flashing waters roll
Across the Sumner bar.
Fair of itself, this glowing scene
Might long the eye detain;
And every spot, that holds the eye,
Might share of rapture claim.
From morn till noon thou there might'st sit,
And skim the landscape o'er—
But no, thy glance already set
Forgets to wander more.
Now, if thy tongue hath eloquence,
Rocks shall record thy speech.
Ah! thou art silent, but thine eye
Thy ecstasies doth teach.
That's Christchchurch, and need I say more,
Christchurch is widely known.
Trees, houses, gardens, palaces,
All blend to form the town,
Beset with rural towns, as is
Some landscape known to fame,
By less yet charming views embossed
Upon the golden frame.
'Tis noon, and heed'st thou not the ray,
Hot beaming on the hill.
There thou might'st sit till close of day,
And yet not gaze thy fill.
O beauteous queen of the vast plains,
That round thy outskirts wide,
Stretch to the mountains of the west,
And to the rolling tide!
O grand conception of thy sires,
Who did thy site reclaim
From mud and mire, from bog and swamp,
And gave thy sounding name!
They planted seedlings in thy streets,
And clothed thy Avon's banks
With willowy shade, and thus have earned
The lovers' grateful thanks.
City, whose streets whichever way,—
Must with a garden end;
Whose fountain-wells, from far below,
Cool crystal waters send.
City of squares, thy wide domain,
All blushing fair with flowers,
Deserves all praise as they deserve
Who tend thy fairy bowers.
If Nature here but little gave,
True taste with art combined
Has made for thee a paradise,
The grief of all the blind!
Thy youth and beauty here are seen.
Like poppy flowers are these!
Most tempting fruits in ripeness hang
On not forbidden trees.
But Wisdom lords it o'er the scene.
We mark those sober halls,
Within whose precincts no gay words
Re-echo from the walls.
Cathedral City! here would I
In quiet choose to live,
And watch thy towers that slowly rise,
From whence reproach cries "give."
O Christchurch! glory of the South,
And worthy to remain
The great emporium into which
Is poured the yellow grain.
Since that great day when through thee rode
Victoria's second son,
Wonders indeed thou hast beheld,—
Like this day sawest thou none.
Nor had'st thou ever yet a morn,
That breaking smiled like this,
Nor yet a noon so richly charged
With every form of bliss.
The tools of labour everywhere
Aside neglected lie;
The bee itself keeps holiday,
Disporting through the sky.
The sunshine playeth in thy streets,
The wind toys with thy trees;
Thy sons and daughters shout for joy,
Bright heavens laugh at these.
The gay and joyous, here they come
Their holiday to keep;
The wicked and the worldly shun
Their foul or dark retreat.
Thy children's children with them bear
Wherewith to weave a crown;
'They bend their steps to Market Square,
And still they crowding come.
Here he, in all but regal state,
Who ne're saw fortune's frown,
Yet further favours did await
To swell his great renown.
Now sober sage philosophers,
For which this town is famed,
With bright-illumed address, stood forth,
Which they had jointly framed.
And there was one the phalanx led,
And who the missive bore;
The plumage of the Tui speaks
The garments which he wore.
Approaching there the middle space,
In view of all around,
Before the Moa-riding Sage
They bowed them to the ground.
Expectant silence hung o'er all,
Attention bowed the Sage,
The parchment-roll one moment took,
Its string to disengage.
Up rising all with head erect,
They thus a paean sang;
In powerful tones, clear and distinct,
Around the square it rang.
They sang the labours of their friend,
And blazoned his reward,
A name which far posterity
Would reverently regard.
Thus, "We, who circle round the sun
Of science that doth shine,
The light of this yet sends it rays.
To many a distant clime;
"And who as satellites reflect
A secondary ray,
Would here in public, at this time,
Desire to convey
"Our sense of what we do believe,
All men already know;
And by our platitudes we would
Our estimation show.
"The orb of day's a satellite
To a yet greater sun;
But thou in thy peculiar sphere
Art second unto none.
"Rivals indeed there may have been,
Who for a moment shone,
But 'neath thy glory so they fade,
They scarce are looked upon.
"Thy triumphs since we all have shared,
So be our fate like thine;
We never harboured any doubt,
But trusted still to time.
"We still believed when thou foretold.
The time for doubt is past.
Thou sitst on the prophetic beast
Discovered at last.
"Now let the sceptic go and burn
His hypothetic stuff;
We always had, and now the world
Has had of his enough.
"And now, we here with pride would point
To thy career that's gone,
And paint that future which thou art
Just entering upon.
"You found us many years ago
Secluded and unknown,
Possessed of qualities that make
A people wise and strong.
"With'raw material that proved
Too oft of little use,
Thy schemes for future benefit
Met sometimes with abuse.
"And ever ready at all times,
False prophets raised the cry,
Thou only did'st pollute the spring,
Or thou did'st drain it dry.
"And, this when thou but deeper sank
For more abundant store,
And if of this thou claimed'st thy share,
Thy merits claim yet more.
"Now flows the fountain strong and clear,
And near the muddy wells
Of false report, both North and South,
Delusion only dwells.
"And thou, with ample honours bless'd,
Forget'st what thou hast done;
Abeyance seizes on the past,
Thine eye's on what's to come.
"We and a grateful people raise
This our triumphant strain;
We honour thee, and future time
Our verdict shall sustain.
"Thou only, of this mighty throng,
Art honoured so to ride;
So wear thine honours. May thy foes
Shame and confusion hide.
"Thy name adown the centuries '
As household-words' shall be;
And thy remembrance yet shall live
With all posterity.
"We, by direction, on behalf
Of all assembled here,
Present thee with the people's gift,
Whose interests you hold dear."
Their duty done. Then borne away
(As crowds are often swayed)
By eloquence, the wild impulse
No mortal man had stayed.
Broke from the dense excited crowd
A shout that breathed their soul,
First like a thunder-clap at hand,
Then faint as distant roll.
The murmer hushed, all eyes beset
The centre figure there,
Our hero—his hot joy proved more
Than silent he could bear.
* * *page 34
O happy, honoured, much loved man,
Enjoy while yet you may.
Thy cup of nectar's full! enjoy
The honours of the day.
Heed not yon lowering thundercloud,
It cannot fall on thee,
But drain thy cup, it hath no dregs,
It holds no misery.
Why should it? Hath not hitherto
Fair breezes set thy sail;
And thy expectancy hath
seen Fruition without fail.
So, if a morning bright and clear
Gives promise for the day,
Hope should be thine, and thou may'st still
Rejoicing keep thy way.
Ah! life hath many turnings short,
Beyond which and unseen
A blacker prospect opens out,
Than what the past hath been.
And many a sunny morning-sky
With clouds has been o'ercast
Long 'ere 'twas noon, betokening
The coming stormy blast.
And I have seen all heaven ablaze
Beneath the tropic sun,
And darkness blotting out the light
Before the dread cyclone.
But, since no shadow falls on thee,
Still give the hour to joy;
Thou hast no cares to fling away,
Enjoy thyself, enjoy.
* * *page 35
While to his brethren in reply
The rider still held forth,
It happened, (how was then unknown,
And I but state the truth).
Freed from his fetters stood the bird,
And in that moment free
His frame was nerved, and his bright eye
Glowed with intensity.
He saw again his mountain home
Rise up before his sight;
And, stirred by hope of freedom won,
He gathered all his might.
His rider quickly realised
His was an awkward plight,
And speedily he aid
besought, So that he might alight.
But suddenly a mighty rush,
And pell mell all around
Philosophers were strewed about,
Upon the dusty ground.
Like thistle-down among tall grass,
They stoutly did resist
The furious bird, and sought to save
Our hero at their best.
But terror, rising like a flood,
And self, proved far too strong
For their resolve, and so they lie
Confusedly piled or prone.
Ye gods! what sad misfortune now
Swells the big womb of fate?
What dread calamities arise
Upon the wings of hate?
What eye of evil on us now
Throws its malignant glance,
Making our highest joys collide
With this accurs'd mischancc?
A moment hath sufficed to change
Bright hope to black despair,
And blanche the face when almost yet
The set smile lingers there.
Who could foresee this fated hour,
Which late did smile so fair?
Quicker the lightning through the night,
Leaves not a blackness there.
In grief, O Christchurch, now behold
Thy mighty overthrown,
Thy talent in its aggregate,
As senseless masses groan.
A huge collapse of moving flesh
Piled in confusion lies;
Each, brave, behind his neighbour's bulk
To hide his body tries.
I had a simile that would
Just here have suited well,
But decency pronounces it
Too horrible to tell.
Thus suddenly this rapid change,
In less time than 'tis read.
A plague of terror seizes all.
The stoutest heart is dead.
A moment more, then horrid yells
And shouts of murder rose;
Ye powers! from what? must I say men
From men we must suppose.
On sped the bird, and what so fleet!
I might in vain essay
The lightning's flash, a hyperbole,
As is the sunlit ray.
The Derby winner; that's too slow.
Well, then, what can be done?
There's nothing left, and, so I say,
He ran as Moas run.
O'er fallen foes, but what of that,
He spurned them with his feet,
And at a bound he strode along,
And cleared the fallen heap.
Horror of horrors yet await
The great illustrious———;
Fate, or his own mismanagement,
Had bound him doubly fast.
Shall words suffice for his dismay?
Apollo answers, no!
In vain to Dante I appeal,
He can no equal show.
Say, what is terror in the night
To one who waits his doom?
And counts the moments as they fly,
Lest morn should come too soon.
Say, if this wretch hath heap on heap
Piled higher human woe,
Yet with a craven heart must keep
Appointment with the foe?
Not yet enough—"all hell in arms"
Must shrink in horror back,
The livid hue that paints' his cheek
Hath deepened to a black.
With wild contortions, struggled there
The giant figure, borne
Light as a babe on such a back;
Yet Fate but smiled in scorn.
O what a prize, in such an hour,
Hath he who still must own,
If life her lease begin anew,
He'd do as he had done.
But ah! frail man, 'tis but a few
This high estate can reach,
Which even for a fallen foe
A sympathy should teach.
Yet so it is; but such is life;
And, far too surely, there
Are but a few whose honest heart
Them scatheless thus would bear.
And yet, O God, why should it be,
That death so seldom comes
Without repentance? while in life
We all are chosen ones.
Yet still the tide of life rolls on,
No man knows how or where;
Each in his own heart best can judge,
What conscience sayeth there.
But we return. The Moa fled,
Disdained to cross the bridge,
But sprang across the Avon's tide,
As 'twere a two foot hedge.
Waked from the stupor of surprise,
With a tremendous roar.
The frantic multitude gave chase;
In vain, in vain they bore
Down on the bridge, where crushed in heaps
With rear still pressing on;
Ensued a tumult which the like
Had Christchurch never known.
Heedless of all, the flightless bird,
Meanwhile a winged horse,
Steady, but with a frightful speed,
Unwavering held its course.
Dwellers on Papanui Road
Had never seen the like;
The women screamed, the men did stare,
The boys yelled with delight.
To Carleton then the bird sped on,
Where stockmen do abound;
And many a well-trained hack and whip,
Did there the bird surround.
Tumultuous shouts and horrid din
Behind, still urged him on;
Yet due respect seemed to be paid
His giant-limbs so strong.
So plied they fast the good cow-hide,
And shouted one and all;
But louder roared the frightened Sage,
On whom the blows did fall.
O what a plight! methinks I hear
The writhing victim's yell,
As the long serpentine-like
lash A biting fury fell.
"Mercy! in Heaven's name," he cried,
"Is this the aid you give?
I am not rich, but take my all,
Save me, for I would live."
Who in the desert wilderness
Has felt his life decay,
A thirsty madness, he alone
Can picture his dismay.
But now the bird has passed his foes,
And left them all behind,
Their utmost speed was nothing to
"The eater of the wind."
Houses and gardens, trees and fields
In circles seemed to team;
And to the rider's giddy brain,
Seemed mad as round they spun.
And now, as Speed with steady hand
Still urged the Moa on,
Obstruction everywhere gave place,
And thus was freedom won.
Hast thou beheld the reflux tide
Thrown back from either shore,
When doth a steamer, at full speed,
A confined space explore?
Or, hast thou seen an avalanche
Descending from on high,
And, with a scarce diminished speed,
Through waving forests fly?
When southern gales heap up the tide
That toils through the French Pass,
Hast thou then seen it chafe and roar,
Right onward to the grass?
But here, repelled with sullen roar,
Thrown back it boils among
The rocky crags that pile the shore,
While high it's spray is flung.
So yields, so roars, the live gorse-fence,
As back the cloven air's
Impetuous rush stirs all that's loose,
And high its wreckage bears.
Fate seemed averse. The rider's head
Sank drooping to his breast;
But, suddenly, he seized a straw,
A feeble hope at best.
It mattered little that 'twas vain,
It not the less was dear
(In darkness light's contrasted ray
Yet brighter doth appear.)
His consolation and his hope,
The railway gates in view,
O fatal chance! wide open stood,
The fugitives passed through;
And, thundering o'er the open plain,
A steady course did keep;
While from their path, on either side,
Fled far the frightened sheep.
The Sage, in this his trial come,
Unaided and alone,
Had safety only in himself.
To succour him were none.
He seized the Moa by the neck,
And sought its course to turn;
But here he found his strength was matched
As well had he foreborne.
* * *
Now think of all thy greatness,
And now upon thy fate;
Think how thy friends in secret laugh,
And how thy foes in hate.
Think what, with justice from thy hand,
The worthy might have been;
But look not on that grinning ghost,
For thou that face hast seen.
Scan all thy years of honour past,
And pluck the fruit that's there;
I pray thee look not on thy last,
If thou would'st not despair.
Take council with thyself not now,
All counsel is in vain;
Repulse that mockery of regret;
Nor think that thought again.
Wish that thine eyes were blind; but no!
It is thy mind that sees;
What is't that rides upon the wind?
What demons say are these?
Scorn and contempt come from the South;
Hate fills the northern air;
Here, justice hovers o'er thy head;
Full in thy face despair.
And, madly though thou yet art borne
With unremitting speed,
The fearful images unchanged
Are hovering o'er thy head.
A thousand forms come flocking in,
As time and distance gain;
And not an imp can cast one glance
That may relieve thy pain.
No witch-dance this, nor there "Auld Nick"
As piper at their head;
But stern and gloomy, silent all,
Through the thin air they glide.
* * *page 43
And now, the once far distant hills
Are swelling to the view;
Attempt one desperate effort more,
Else bid all hope adieu.
Yet, as before his struggle's vain,
And this last effort past,
Both hands within a feathery mane
With desperate clutch held fast.
But what avail to tell you more,
Since none but one can tell
The horrors of his further ride,
Or on his fears to dwell.
How he the gods invoked for aid,
And yet no aid was found;
And how his misery lessened not,
From plain to hilly ground.
He sensless now had quite become,
With horror and dismay;
Whither he went he could not tell,
And shall I dare to say.
End of Second Part.
James Hughes, Steam Printer. Etc., Lambtom Quay.