Pax Vobiscum

We present this work in honor of the 125th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Thomas Bracken
Kiwi
1843 – 1898

 

In a forest, far away,
One small creeklet, day by day,
Murmurs only this sad lay:
‘Peace be with thee, Lilian.’

One old box-tree bends his head,
One broad wattle shades her bed,
One lone magpie mourns the dead:
‘Peace be with thee, Lilian.’

Echoes come on every breeze,
Sighing through the ancient trees,
Whisp’ring in their melodies:
‘Peace be with thee, Lilian.’

Mellow sunbeams, morn and eve,
Quick to come and slow to leave,
Kiss the quilt where daisies weave
Rich designs o’er Lilian.

When the dying blossoms cling
To the skirts of parting Spring,
Wattle-boughs and branches fling
Showers of gold o’er Lilian.

When the Summer moon mounts high,
Queen of all the speckless sky,
Shafts of silver softly lie
O’er the grave of Lilian.

Mystic midnight voices melt
Through each leafy bower and belt,
Round the spot where friends have knelt—
‘Peace be with thee, Lilian.’

Far away from town and tower,
Sleeping in a leafy bower,
Withered lies the forest flower—
‘Peace be with thee, Lilian.’

There, where passions ne’er intrude,
There, where Nature has imbued
With her sweets the solitude,
Rests the form of Lilian.

Dear old forest o’er the sea,
Home of Nature’s euphony,
Pour thy requiem psalmody
O’er the grave of Lilian.

Guard that daisy-quilted sod:
Thou hast there no common clod;
Keep her ashes safe; for God
Makes but few like Lilian.

Sceptics ask me: ‘Is that clay
In the forest far away
Part of her?’—I only say:
‘Flow’rets breathe out Lilian;

‘From her grave their sweets mount high—
Love and beauty never die—
Sun and stars, earth, sea and sky
All partake of Lilian.

New Zealand

We present this work in honor of Waitangi Day.

James K. Baxter
Kiwi
1926 – 1972

 

These unshaped islands, on the sawyer’s bench,
Wait for the chisel of the mind,
Green canyons to the south, immense and passive,
Penetrated rarely, seeded only
By the deer-culler’s shot, or else in the north
Tribes of the shark and the octopus,
Mangroves, black hair on a boxer’s hand.

The founding fathers with their guns and bibles,
Botanist, whaler, added bones and names
To the land, to us a bridle
As if the id were a horse: the swampy towns
Like dreamers that struggle to wake,

Longing for the poets’ truth
And the lover’s pride. Something new and old
Explores its own pain, hearing
The rain’s choir on curtains of grey moss
Or fingers of the Tasman pressing
On breasts of hardening sand, as actors
Find their own solitude in mirrors,

As one who has buried his dead,
Able at last to give with an open hand.

The Old Place

We present this work in honor of the 15th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Hone Tuwhare
Kiwi
1922 – 2008

 

No one comes
by way of the doughy track
through straggly tea tree bush
and gorse, past the hidden spring
and bitter cress.

Under the chill moon’s light
no one cares to look upon
the drunken fence-posts
and the gate white with moss.

No one except the wind
saw the old place
maker her final curtsy
to the sky and earth:

and in no protesting sense
did iron and barbed wire
ease to the rust’s invasion
nor twang more tautly
to the wind’s slap and scream.

On the cream lorry
or morning paper van
no one comes,
for no one will ever leave
the golden city on the fussy train;
and there will be no more waiting
on the hill beside the quiet tree
where the old place falters
because no one comes anymore
no one.

Sorrowing Love

We present this work in honor of the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Katherine Mansfield
Kiwi
1888 – 1923

 

And again the flowers are come,
And the light shakes,
And no tiny voice is dumb,
And a bud breaks
On the humble bush and the proud restless tree.
Come with me!

Look, this little flower is pink,
And this one white.
Here’s a pearl cup for your drink,
Here’s for your delight
A yellow one, sweet with honey.
Here’s fairy money
Silver bright
Scattered over the grass
As we pass.

Here’s moss. How the smell of it lingers
On my cold fingers!
You shall have no moss. Here’s a frail
Hyacinth, deathly pale.
Not for you, not for you!
And the place where they grew
You must promise me not to discover,
My sorrowful lover!
Shall we never be happy again?
Never again play?
In vain—in vain!
Come away!

A Folk Song

Jessie Mackay
Kiwi
1864 – 1938

 

I came to your town, my love,
And you were away, away!
I said “She is with the Queen’s maidens:
They tarry long at their play.
They are stringing her words like pearls
To throw to the dukes and earls.”
But O, the pity!
I had but a morn of windy red
To come to the town where you were bred,
And you were away, away!

I came to your town, my love,
And you were away, away!
I said, “She is with the mountain elves
And misty and fair as they.
They are spinning a diamond net
To cover her curls of jet.”
But O, the pity!
I had but a noon of searing heat
To come to your town, my love, my sweet,
And you were away, away!

I came to your town, my love,
And you were away, away!
I said, “She is with the pale white saints,
And they tarry long to pray.
They give her a white lily-crown,
And I fear she will never come down.”
But O, the pity!
I had but an even grey and wan
To come to your town and plead as man,
And you were away, away!

The Storm and the Bush

Arthur Henry Adams
Kiwi
1872 – 1936

 

There are only two things in the world –
The storm in the air and the stretch of green leaves;
The flesh of the forest that quivers and heaves
As the blast on its bosom is hurled.
Above is the whip of the wind
That scourges the cowering forest beneath:
The Storm spits the hiss of the hail from his teeth,
And leaves the world writhing behind!
Like a beast that is bound in a cage
When the keeper’s lash lights and the keeper’s goad stings,
Each tree his great limbs to his torturer flings
In a groaning and impotent rage.
As the leaves to a fiercer gust lean
The wind throws their undersides upward to sight,
And the foam of the forest-sea flashes to white
Out over full fathoms of green.

Soldier Settlement

We present this work in honor of the 60th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Alan Mulgan
Kiwi
1881 – 1962

 

In Comfort Street the shop-fronts blaze;
The well-fed people laugh and drift
Along the smooth, enticing ways,
And wear their fortune as a gift.

Here wheels in cushioned service purr,
And buttons pressed command delight;
And soft, obsequious odours stir
The languors of an ordered night.

And in the frippery of talk
You catch: “Here’s butter down again—
Poor farmers!”—“Yes, I think The Hawk
Will win… Ten quid on Lover’s Lane.”

Haggard he looks about his world—
The leaning shack, the broken fence,
The little flag of green unfurled
Before the forest’s walled defence;

The dwindling, unconditioned herd
Nosing about the barren burn;
The mocking of the care-free bird;
The creeping barrage of the fern.

Without, the hidden enemy
That strikes beneath its green deceit;
Within, the long-drawn agony
When love and hope may never meet.

He looks along the bitter years
To when the myriad bugles thrilled;
When duty banked the fount of tears,
And life with high adventure filled.

In that unfathomable pit
Of blasting death or doom long drawn,
Where anguish of a night was lit
By presage of a dreadful dawn,

He saw beyond the murdered earth
And moaning of the tortured skies,
The promise of his place of birth,
A dream-home to his weary eyes.

And over all the undying Cause,
And goodly fellowship of kin.
“If I should die ‘twould make no pause
In certainty’s long reckoning.”

For there death could not conquer hope,
Master of faith was never found,
And on the long, red battle slope
The soldier fell, but won his ground.

But here, in this remote reward,
No banner flies aloft to cheer;
The arm that, stricken, drops the sword
Sinks in a common black despair.

Resolve with love high-hearted went
To fame this gift of wilderness;
Now high is low and hearts are spent
And lord of all is sharp distress.

All this he sees, and turns again
To face dear eyes that love but dread—
Hunger and want, the deeper pain
That knows at last that hope is dead.

Dully by fire’s caprice he reads
In news prepared by comfort’s hands,
Of how the city over-breeds—
“The land, young man! Go on the land!”

A Song of Light

John Barr
Kiwi
1809 – 1889

 

There have plenty songs been written,
Of the moonlight on the hill,
Of the starlight on the ocean,
And the sun-flecks on the rill,

But one glorious song has never
Fallen yet upon my ear,
‘Tis a royal song of gladness,
Of the gaslight on the beer.

I have watched an amber sunset,
Creep across a black-faced bay;
I have seen the blood-flushed sunrise,
Paint the snow one winter day,

But the gleam I will remember
Best, in lingering days to come,
Was s shaft of autumn radiance,
Lying on a pint of rum.

I have seen the love stars shining,
Through bronze hair across my face,
I have seen white bosoms heaving,
‘Neath a wisp of open lace,

But resplendent yet in memory –
And it seemeth brighter far –
Was a guttered candle’s flicker,
On a tankard in a bar…

Sauntering Home from Church We Lingered

Ursula Bethell
Kiwi
1874 – 1945

 

Sauntering home from church we lingered
looking away northwards over the white gates.
I see our visitors in go-to-meeting dress.
I do not see my parents. Perhaps that day they chose
to ‘stay behind’ – mysterious phrase of those times,
meaning reserved from children, I must think.

Above that gate the downs. I see them now,
I see them gentle brown and amethyst.
Our grown-up guests the landscape viewed
and commented – Lovely! perhaps a sketch?
My eager praises added met with prompt rebuff.
Too young, too young to notice lovely views.

Wrong, Madam, wrong – dear Wordsworth was more reasonable.
Too late! the great African bishop rhetorician
cried out upon himself, too late have I sought thee,
Beauty! – His vision abides. Let us begin here
upon the downs… A few years gone
I passed them by in autumn and their fields
a basket of ripe fruit, of purple plums
and yellow apricots, ruddy pears –
but to my memory of earlier day, soft pasture.

The guardian Mt Grey still casts a spell
of greatness, majesty that does not go with measurement,
a mien of kinship with all renowned heights,
a look of having kept inviolable for a thousand years
a secret of great comfort. Who has not traced,
looking from southward hills, its noble outline?
Who has not watched the pencilled shadows deepen
upon its flanks? I do not see you there,
Mt Grey, looking down at the end of our village streets,
but I was conscious. I have found you, since,
something familiar, and I salute you now, for your significance.