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The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1948



There is no judgment of poems this year. This is not because this country contains no inexhaustible supply of judges, yes, a supply far exceeding that of readers of verse. It is not, I am told, because the editors think that these many judges, or at least a certain, not negligible, number of them, cannot penetrate into these verses with commendable sensitivity and acumen.

It is rather, that they have doubts about the beauty and appropriateness of this very convention of judging. What benefit is it to the judge, that acute and sensitive man whose life is spent, presumably, in the admiration and creation of poetry, selecting his reading according to the needs of the moment and fairly indifferent to that which does not serve his present purpose. His sympathies are wide perhaps, but not unlimited. His impulses in the direction of criticism are satisfied by what he says of work of his own choice, and what he says of work imposed upon him will probable inspire him to inferior writing. Indeed, the national culture is better served if these men are not asked to divert their sensibilities in this somewhat frustrating fashion.

And what about the judged? The little workmanlike hints which are a feature of the judgments could be made more subtly and more helpfully in private contact. Anyway, they are not of crucial importance. It is of crucial importance that at least some readers experience the poems in the right way. And it is not with this purpose in view that one sends one's produce to the competition. Indeed, the sportsmanlike poet who on the receipt of his magazine at once consults the Judge's page is not obsessed, if he be prudent, by the question did this man understand my soul?' but rather by the more tickling one: 'did I obtain a first, or a guinea?'

Such thrills are excluded from this volume. The contributing poets do not hope to find in them the sympathy they require, and consider the spirit of sport, delightful otherwise, an undesirable intrusion upon the spirit of poetry. In this they are not impelled by an exaggerated appreciation of their own verse, but a proper regard for the spirit itself of poetry; for verse may be good or bad, and its influence on other men's souls may be enormous or negligible, but in as far as poetry is not serious it is not a matter for competition; rather, it is a joke. When a poem is very bad, one laughs; when page 20 it is extremely good, one also has the reaction of delirious laughter. Most verse exists between these two extremes. One claim that may at least be made for the poems which follow is that they are all a product of some sublimation and not constructed by any act of will. Their authors lived for a while in that blessed world that is bounded on one side by the ridiculous joke and on the other by the sublime one.

P. Wilson is of them all the least concerned about the game of living. His poems are descriptions of little experiences, told in a soft tone, mostly without any climax. Some of the great laws that govern being somehow seem to concern him, but he never philosophizes. His attiture to his abstract observations is rather sensual. In Little Verses' he pictures the spontaneous growth of what is beautiful from its insignificant beginning to greatness; his consciousness of the beautiful is never shown by more than' the quick and sudden glances you would not see. The salvation army-like chorus singing its homage for God in A Christmas Carol' does not hope for more reward than that its listeners may raise their heads.

Lorna Clendon has more sense of the hardness of life. In contrast to P. Wilson, her world is 'bound to the human world ', this boundness being its only security from an original state of utter helplessness. In accordance with this, the tone is resigned and placid.

The peculiar characteristic of W. Oliver's verse is the solidity of its thinking. The contrast between what lives by seasons and what lives independently from them is his primary belief; and both the power of eternity and the power of temporal things and their various interactions are developed in his work, with constant repetition of the same symbols. His private language having been developed he speaks in it with varying degrees of seriousness: in 'The Mediator' the woman, essentially a personification but assuming some half-defined humanity, is at one moment connected with eternity and at another, and more crucial one, exercises the influence which 'makes us one with earth and life'. At present however he is mostly more concerned with the sensual elaboration than the resolution of his duality.

In Elizabeth Entrican on the other hand the sensual approach is all and no spiritual resolutions are looked for. She seems, from the poems, a close approximation to a woodland nymph: she touches all the flowers.

In contrast to all the rest, the verse of 'a' seems in quite another sphere, at once more personal and more worldly. We feel that it is from his personal, specialized, attitudes that his inspiration comes; yet it functions among things once well-known, and so makes its communication—almost well-known, almost not known at all.

Alistair Campbell's work is by far the most striking. The poems here presented are only a selection from a complete volume to be published one day if the Gods are favourable. Their unusualness lies in their simplicity, the absence of anything but song and homage. The symbols are almost symbols of fable, but hard modern images easily slip into his universe on occasion without causing much upset. The reason is that the fabulous elements are to the poet entirely modern; they do not belong to a romantic world but rather are manifested, each in isolation, in the New Zealand environment. Homage is done to such objects of beauty as have always commanded the particular attention of poets, who have given to them very beautiful epithets not to be improved. Alistair Campbell quite happily revives these epithets, considering that many things can cause ugliness, but not the quality of having been very long admired. When expressing matters of some complexity he deeps far from the analytical and prefers the felicity of a conceit: 'more than sea to all my drownings'. But here intentionally only the easy poems have been selected, perhaps because the reader should at all costs be prevented from using the admirable, but over-intrusive exegetical apparatus with which this institution of learning is equipping him.

page 21

Love Poems


At the great water's edge
Golden Narcissus lies;
Hand propped under his chin;
Bees at his thighs;
His eyes fixed on nothing
Where his image lies.
O Echo, Echo.

Like the neck of a swan,
In the indifferent stream
The other hand trails;
Sleek as cream
Are his dimpled cheeks;
His plump mouth dreams.
O Echo, Echo.

The bruised flower of his mouth,
The honey-bee stings;
Rain in his small delicious ears,
Like a dragonfly sings
At noon; between his toes
The grasshopper springs.
O Echo, Echo.

Closes a blue-veined lid
On velvet eyes;
Falls the sleek hand; falls
The hand from the thighs;
From the brimming mirror dim,
The image flies.
O Echo, Echo.

In his great golden helmet
The small wren builds;
To the bee his rotten rich mouth
Sweet honey yields:
This proud young man like a stage
Once trod these fields.
O Echo, Echo.

For this is great Narcissus
Who moulders here;
Watercress grows from his eyes
And grass from his ears;
From his thigh a honey-sleek flower
At its image stares.
O Echo, Echo.

page 22


Girls in bright frocks
Will never be done
With laughing; the rocks
Hum like a gramophone

To the electric pulse
Of the sea; the tired
Crafts slowly waltz
On the distending tide.

A dog barks at the waves;
Brilliant naked thighs
Flash as a yielding grave
Closes on her; surprise

Upon her; field of veil-white
Flowers drifting seaward,
Drifting seaward. Bird alights
On sand, cruel eyes seaward.

Face downward on the flood,
My true love lies;
Like a swan with not a word to say,
My true love lies.

Fish leap at her crumbling mouth
Where my kisses lay;
The waves roll her body over and over
Forever and a day.

Eyes look your last, hand touch,
Mouth you may seek;
Heart, break into a thousand pieces:
She sleeps, she sleeps.

O great black dog on the sand
Trembling exquisite with fear;
Bark, bark at the down-crumbling waves:
She may hear, she may hear.

But your tail is between your legs,
Your whining fills me with fear;
And my words lie bruised on the waves,
And the seawind blinds me with tears.


Warm heart, warm mouth,
Lie still; lie beautiful.
page 23 You have no need to stir
Anymore, today;
You have no other function to fulfil.

Was it like this you
Lay, cool in your frock,
When your lover came
And kissed you
In the grass, and you lay still as a rock?

Is this white hand
A dove, that the small
Wind seems to lift it from
The grass, lady
In the frock that half from the shoulder falls?

Are your eyes flowers?
Do they call you Rose,
May or Elizabeth? And are
Your limbs always
So white they show like snowflakes on the grass?

Warm heart, warm mouth,
Lie still; lie beautiful.
You have no need to stir
Anymore, today;
You have no other function to fulfil.


I should have met you at the outskirts
Of your populous childhood, emerging
With your blonde face exquisite with wonder
Out of the golden shadows that used
To romp and whisper like silk about you,
And invite you into their marvellous
Intrigues. O love, I should have seen you then,
Sleek head golden with wonder, stepping
Like Venus out of the rustling folds
Of your childhood. Not now. Not now.

Now you are constantly
Foolish; constantly smiling in drink.
The freshness has worn (someone has taken
The sun!) The mask slips away from the face
At a ridiculous angle when you least
Expect it to; and the face underneath
Is waxen with blown-out bulbs for eyes.

page 24

The Mediator

I met this great girl in the premature
Idyll of a summer evening. There she stood
Her hands folded like portents, dress like embers
That the fire has left, hair as brown as grass.

And, as the day dropped, she became
The pause that preludes night, the grey caress
That smoothes all shapes and shades into one wide
Anonymous appeal for clammy sleep.

Though she had taken all the city's grief
She had no voice to tell the pain she bore;
She felt the dead rank air run through her limbs
Without a hand to help their fever pass;

So she contained men's sadness in her eyes,
Became the world of sense though made impure
By days and nights of loving when they tore
Her soul apart for momentary joy:

Only as gods love could she breed and bless.
Slowly she sent to heaven like a prayer
Hot tentacles of wind to name her need
That sung like shafts of light bent from no sun

The earth knows. Savage to save
The cool white bars of heaven stretched to her.
And struck her, statuesque in heat, to melt
Her grief through the air as the rain falls.

I lost this great girl as the rain came down.
And soon the air was full of tenderness.
The twilight's ghost had fled, and cool night came
To make her lovely in the eyes of men;

Then she was beauty's self, with long black hair.
And cool and firm her body like a cloud
That bursts in falls of love and makes us one
With earth and life and all above our sense.

An Eccentric Autumn

Leaves are a largess granted each year
By the god of seasons, hid and perpetual
Over the rain-clouds and under the warm earth,
Puissant in frost and fire, slayer and saviour.

page break
Executive 1948

Executive 1948

J. B. Butchers Kathleen Langford J. R Battersby Margaret McKenzie J. O. Melling (Assistant Hon. Secretary)

D. J. Brown K. O'Brien (Hon. Sec.) Hilary Wilton (Women's Vice-Pres)

Harold Dowrick (President) Alec MacLeod (Men's Vice-Pres) E. M. Casey

P. G. Morris absent Marie Irwin

page break
Harry Borrer Kirk John Barraud

Harry Borrer Kirk John Barraud

page 25

Leaves are also a veil dropped at this time
By a kindly god over the fretful
Face of old age, making the mourner seem
Beautiful and bountiful, young out of season.

So now are given in due time, lavishly,
Yellow for a gentle grief, and red for pain,
To mask the solitude of death in clothes
As some would dress a body, sad and splendid.

So with the season we mourn. But we
Are also the body thus committed in beauty
To the dark earth where winter cannot touch
Our peace, and where our death is kind.

Sometimes in autumn I have watched the leaves
Settle in street and gateway, make each door and path
A place where feet can walk in majesty and say,
In passing by we've walked the way of grief
And found all beauty mingled in the season.

And as the leaves have drifted slowly down
I've seen them swell into a rolling cloud
And drown the city under me in colour:
Render all passion forfeit in that place
And smother up the breath of urgency.

And then autumnal city, clad in grace
Before this fugitive in places where
A dull grey litter was no cloak of peace
And dressed not joy nor grief, for neither life
Nor death was here triumphant: city,

Then would you not know oneness and devotion
Though it were your final state, and even
While death filled your corners, could you not say,
Peace and salvation are the gifts sent from
The throne of grace uplifted in my midst.


I walked in the garden in Autumn, and the trees
Were infinitely sad and tender, and strangely at ease,
And old with knowledge of the seasons, buried under their bark
Deep in the deep dead yellow of a wood heart.
Wind woke in the night, and blew the rain under my door
And kneeling at my prayers to morning. I felt on the damp floor
page 26 The tears of the trees at the year's mourning, their pain—
And the spirit of Autumn touched my heart with the touch of rain.

Spring—Nga Tawa

Spring stood singing at my window, and lighting
My eyes with the fire that burns on the green altar—
The lawns touched with sun, after the shower's magic
Sweeping briefly the sky on the first morning.

I laughed, spring careless, tramping the straight road, treading
Is rain-black gloss and the pools of the sky, cloud broken,
And finding at last white flowers on the wild plum trees
Leaning, now with, green lips, over the fences
In a tangle of pussy willows; and, dearest, flaunting
Its gold above bare boughs of the waking apples,
My wattle of spring, on a bed of blue periwinkle.

Wanton, I plucked those blossoms of spring, standing
Heedless my shone shoes in the rain wet grass,
Breathing only the wattle scent, and the white perfumes of the clouds—
And the blossoms I flung with youth's hand into the vase of my heart.

"As it was in the Beginning ..."

When bombers blossomed overhead
we dived for fox-holes out of bed
and seconds staggered into hours.

But now the very years are days
and time alone is what one pays,
and were those aircraft flowers?

Like alien flowers against the stars
the symbols of mind's bitter wars
thoughts fall like bombs.
Upon the airstrips, jungle, unreal palms
explosions menaced major harms
to bodies that were tombs.

Happier then, in ignorance,
we heard no music for life's dance
and only longed to live.
But now that we are faced with life
how preferable that former strife
when war had peace to give.

page 27

To Be Afraid

To know each day that this may be the last,
that from this flight your friend may not return;
to fly with him though you are far apart
and feel for him each shock and blast,
to be beside him in the flames that burn—
this is to know the lonely heart.

Although for you the lovely sky
is cruel a mistress as to him
because together her you serve,
yet you forget that you may die—
you know cold fear when eyes grow dim
because his plane may be that flaming curve....

Take the child and bind it carefully,
Bind it to the human world,
Take the child and clothe it rightly,
It must learn the human way.

This separate spark is blown among us,
Blown into the world of time;
Flickering in the shapes of space,
This new mind will pass its day.

Bound by form and bound by senses,
Bound into the world of space,
This new consciousness is come
Imprisoned in a human self.

Take the child and bind it carefully,
Bind it to the human world,
Take the child and clothe it rightly,
It must learn the human way.

The City Shepherd

If I was waiting for a tram
By judge's Corner or at the Bay
And you came by,
We'd go together down the street
And watch the hours fly.

page 28

In a myriad travellers' features,
Various as my mind's sight,
The hours would pass,
And each small second have meaning
Or a joy for us.

And my coin would then be honoured
By the quick and sudden glances
You would not see,
Though through me you'd know truly
We had come safely through.

The Unhurried Thought

When the painter takes his brush,
When the heart its colours knows
And then the sounds begin to weave
The harmonies of their intent,
When the pallid mother-clay
Is fastened on the potter's wheel
And the poet of the world
Finds his golden, motiveless phrase,—
These signs of craft and worldly skill,—
The tiny pursing of the lips,
The small, created pause in choice,—
Make all things at home again,
At home, and in final safety
And in earned joy.

Little Verses

If it began by candlelight
Then it will end when the great sun
Glows down the east side of the river
And the birds begin and small waves rise.
As music it was soft in the dark,
Stretched, like the sparse, bright rays
Of candlelight, through the perceiving mind.
Then darkness turns to the waves' ripples
And the birds' song is the bright ending,
Just like my love shall always be.
A raising of the spirit in love
Is a bare, bright, joyful light;
If it began by candlelight
Then it will live by the sun at the end.

page 29

A Little Pattern

A twilight by the beach
When the tide is low
And a seaside radio
Sentimentalizes each
Impulse of gratitude,
The far-off water,
The great, bare beach,
Make their quiet vicissitude.
Hearing may falter
While they come down to our reach.

A Christmas Carol

With faith unto our Lord
We sing this chilly eve,
For on this night we celebrate
What we at least believe.

And you in your warm houses
Built in a modern time,
Lining streets in a modern way,
May note our verses rhyme,

Our tune is bold and clear,
Our scansion carefully made,
And our voices true and high
And all our words well said.

And will you find our faith is good?
You cannot know or care:
The wind comes down this chilly street
And frost is in the air

And our words rise in clouds to the sky,
And when you raise your head
And hand us benediction
You think that's all we get;

But there you are wrong, my lords,
Wrong as a telling tongue;
For even as you raise your head
You grace the song we've sung.