We present this work in honor of the poet’s 115th birthday.
why not merely the despaired of occasion of wordshed
is it not better abort than be barren
the hours after you are gone are so leaden they will always start dragging too soon the grapples clawing blindly the bed of want bringing up the bones the old loves sockets filled once with eyes like yours all always is it better too soon than never the black want splashing their faces saying again nine days never floated the loved nor nine months nor nine lives
saying again if you do not teach me I shall not learn saying again there is a last even of last times last times of begging last times of loving of knowing not knowing pretending a last even of last times of saying if you do not love me I shall not be loved if I do not love you I shall not love
the churn of stale words in the heart again love love love thud of the old plunger pestling the unalterable whey of words
terrified again of not loving of loving and not you of being loved and not by you of knowing not knowing pretending pretending
I and all the others that will love you if they love you
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 155th birthday.
I know not why I love your baffling face, Or, lonely, to your cold caresses steal, Or what the charm persuades my wearied eyes Follow the clues that gleam and, wavering, go, Or spell the syllables of poems new I fancy floating through your gloom or grace! Sphinx of green riddles Time shall not unseal! Mystical knot no stratagem, unties! I do not comprehend you, but I know I am not happy long away from you!
Ardent we come, but that averted gaze Discrowns emotion, and your lips austere, Native to one in whom the gods confide, For us breathe only murmurs dim and lone As are the lullabies of crooning dew Or dwindling dirges of benighted fays For queen marooned in a forgotten mere; Yet though ’tis not for man your witch-words ride Forsaken winds that know not why they moan, I am not happy long away from you!
Do you ignore our presence, or disdain Our pert intrusion on your fettered trees? Is all our knowledge darkness to the light That through their woody crevices you pour, Garnered for them from suns we never knew? Or can it be your brooding peace is pain? Do sighs innumerable build the breeze That mournful walks the soughing waste to-night? But tell me why, if woe be all your store, I am not happy long away from you!
You sprawl your reticence of green and gray Over the no more mute basaltic deep, Below the sister deafness of the sky; Nor myriad boughs’ hypnotic undertones, Shadows in orgy, nor haphazard hue Of flower, nor green delirium will say One shining word to beacon us who creep Amid their bedlamry and forms awry: Yet, Miser, though for bread you give me stones, I am not happy long away from you!
Although we gather only in your glades The tasteless berries of monotony, Withering leaf, frustrated blossom, white Skeleton eucalypt’s unmeaning woe, Or wrack of huddled tea-trees, knouted all askew To serve an old wind’s whim, yet from wan shades Entities ambushed seem to bear to me, On a rhythm craftsman never tameth quite, The Song all poets soaring seek, and so I am not happy long away from you!
Are you the long-forgotten hermitage Wherein immortal cities crept to sleep? And do their rooted folk unresting try, With perfumes wild of some Atlantis old, To link our dormant hearts akin anew? Or young auspicious years do they presage To something watching in me cradled deep, That knows unknown to me the reason why, m an orb’s dim throes, by iron stars controlled, I am not happy long away from you!
Though fierce assault not pilgrim prayer avail, Nor shall we glimpse, however far we seek, The long importuned palace of your pride, Yet you-if darkly-to my faith disclose That duly will Hy-Brasil globe in view! Ay, can it be that glinting is the Grail? Do fairies gather ferns along that creek? Is very God the Merlin that you hide? Ah, can I wonder, necromantic Rose, I am not happy long away from you!
We listen long for words the world awaits, Nor quite lose hope that we shall overhear Strange Huntsmen faint hallooing, or surprise The filmy spears the dark earth-legions throw Across the void against the retinue Auroral of the solar potentates; Yet, though your tongues betray the expectant ear And dappled melancholy foils our eyes, Your trees of whispering knowledge call me so, I am not happy long away from you!
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.
This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to change beds; one man would like to suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health beside the window. It always seems to me that I should feel well in the place where I am not, and this question of removal is one which I discuss incessantly with my soul. ‘Tell me, my soul, poor chilled soul, what do you think of going to live in Lisbon? It must be warm there, and there you would invigorate yourself like a lizard. This city is on the sea-shore; they say that it is built of marble and that the people there have such a hatred of vegetation that they uproot all the trees. There you have a landscape that corresponds to your taste! a landscape made of light and mineral, and liquid to reflect them!’ My soul does not reply. ‘Since you are so fond of stillness, coupled with the show of movement, would you like to settle in Holland, that beatifying country? Perhaps you would find some diversion in that land whose image you have so often admired in the art galleries. What do you think of Rotterdam, you who love forests of masts, and ships moored at the foot of houses?’ My soul remains silent. ‘Perhaps Batavia attracts you more? There we should find, amongst other things, the spirit of Europe married to tropical beauty.’ Not a word. Could my soul be dead? ‘Is it then that you have reached such a degree of lethargy that you acquiesce in your sickness? If so, let us flee to lands that are analogues of death. I see how it is, poor soul! We shall pack our trunks for Tornio. Let us go farther still to the extreme end of the Baltic; or farther still from life, if that is possible; let us settle at the Pole. There the sun only grazes the earth obliquely, and the slow alternation of light and darkness suppresses variety and increases monotony, that half-nothingness. There we shall be able to take long baths of darkness, while for our amusement the aurora borealis shall send us its rose-coloured rays that are like the reflection of Hell’s own fireworks!’ At last my soul explodes, and wisely cries out to me: ‘No matter where! No matter where! As long as it’s out of the world!’
When the world itself looked exhausted, revolving round the sun; when a bumble-bee sounded tired of humming round a ternate leaf; when a few fishermen were venting their rage on their net – they looked fed up of mending their net off and on – and when the fish were leaping and playing in the river, sure as they were the net won t be thrown over them, yonder on a field a serpent was shedding its slough, indifferent to a group of women wending their way across the field and to a pedlar crying his wares along the road that ran parallel to the field At this moment, as usual, a boat rowed in disgorged two men onto the bank. A music strummed on a violin floated in the air for a while, then rose up and disappeared into the sky. Presently the men returned empty-handed to the boat and winked at the boatmen to row the boat away. Suddenly the sky got covered over with pitch-dark clouds. The fishermen looked up and thought there would be festivities of lightning and the river would dance to the rumblings . They prayed for the safety of the men on the boat. In response to their prayer the clouds went away across the sky. The fishermen resumed mending their net; the world continued revolving round the sun; the bumble-bee went on round the ternate leaf and the fish were still leaping and playing in the river . But the serpent had shed its slough and slid into its hole.
Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step, She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage To meet him in the doorway with the news And put him on his guard. “Silas is back.” She pushed him outward with her through the door And shut it after her. “Be kind,” she said. She took the market things from Warren’s arms And set them on the porch, then drew him down To sit beside her on the wooden steps.
“When was I ever anything but kind to him? But I’ll not have the fellow back,” he said. “I told him so last haying, didn’t I? ‘If he left then,’ I said, ‘that ended it.’ What good is he? Who else will harbour him At his age for the little he can do? What help he is there’s no depending on. Off he goes always when I need him most. ‘He thinks he ought to earn a little pay, Enough at least to buy tobacco with, So he won’t have to beg and be beholden.’ ‘All right,’ I say, ‘I can’t afford to pay Any fixed wages, though I wish I could.’ ‘Someone else can.’ ‘Then someone else will have to.’ I shouldn’t mind his bettering himself If that was what it was. You can be certain, When he begins like that, there’s someone at him Trying to coax him off with pocket-money,— In haying time, when any help is scarce. In winter he comes back to us. I’m done.”
“Sh! not so loud: he’ll hear you,” Mary said.
“I want him to: he’ll have to soon or late.”
“He’s worn out. He’s asleep beside the stove. When I came up from Rowe’s I found him here, Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep, A miserable sight, and frightening, too— You needn’t smile—I didn’t recognise him— I wasn’t looking for him—and he’s changed. Wait till you see.”
“Where did you say he’d been?”
“He didn’t say. I dragged him to the house, And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke. I tried to make him talk about his travels. Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off.”
“What did he say? Did he say anything?”
“Anything? Mary, confess He said he’d come to ditch the meadow for me.”
“But did he? I just want to know.”
“Of course he did. What would you have him say? Surely you wouldn’t grudge the poor old man Some humble way to save his self-respect. He added, if you really care to know, He meant to clear the upper pasture, too. That sounds like something you have heard before? Warren, I wish you could have heard the way He jumbled everything. I stopped to look Two or three times—he made me feel so queer— To see if he was talking in his sleep. He ran on Harold Wilson—you remember— The boy you had in haying four years since. He’s finished school, and teaching in his college. Silas declares you’ll have to get him back. He says they two will make a team for work: Between them they will lay this farm as smooth! The way he mixed that in with other things. He thinks young Wilson a likely lad, though daft On education—you know how they fought All through July under the blazing sun, Silas up on the cart to build the load, Harold along beside to pitch it on.”
“Yes, I took care to keep well out of earshot.”
“Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream. You wouldn’t think they would. How some things linger! Harold’s young college boy’s assurance piqued him. After so many years he still keeps finding Good arguments he sees he might have used. I sympathise. I know just how it feels To think of the right thing to say too late. Harold’s associated in his mind with Latin. He asked me what I thought of Harold’s saying He studied Latin like the violin Because he liked it—that an argument! He said he couldn’t make the boy believe He could find water with a hazel prong— Which showed how much good school had ever done him. He wanted to go over that. But most of all He thinks if he could have another chance To teach him how to build a load of hay——”
“I know, that’s Silas’ one accomplishment. He bundles every forkful in its place, And tags and numbers it for future reference, So he can find and easily dislodge it In the unloading. Silas does that well. He takes it out in bunches like big birds’ nests. You never see him standing on the hay He’s trying to lift, straining to lift himself.”
“He thinks if he could teach him that, he’d be Some good perhaps to someone in the world. He hates to see a boy the fool of books. Poor Silas, so concerned for other folk, And nothing to look backward to with pride, And nothing to look forward to with hope, So now and never any different.”
Part of a moon was falling down the west, Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills. Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand Among the harp-like morning-glory strings, Taut with the dew from garden bed to eaves, As if she played unheard some tenderness That wrought on him beside her in the night. “Warren,” she said, “he has come home to die: You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.”
“Home,” he mocked gently.
“Yes, what else but home? It all depends on what you mean by home. Of course he’s nothing to us, any more Than was the hound that came a stranger to us Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.”
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.”
“I should have called it Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”
Warren leaned out and took a step or two, Picked up a little stick, and brought it back And broke it in his hand and tossed it by. “Silas has better claim on us you think Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles As the road winds would bring him to his door. Silas has walked that far no doubt to-day. Why didn’t he go there? His brother’s rich, A somebody—director in the bank.”
“He never told us that.”
“We know it though.”
“I think his brother ought to help, of course. I’ll see to that if there is need. He ought of right To take him in, and might be willing to— He may be better than appearances. But have some pity on Silas. Do you think If he’d had any pride in claiming kin Or anything he looked for from his brother, He’d keep so still about him all this time?”
“I wonder what’s between them.”
“I can tell you. Silas is what he is—we wouldn’t mind him— But just the kind that kinsfolk can’t abide. He never did a thing so very bad. He don’t know why he isn’t quite as good As anybody. Worthless though he is, He won’t be made ashamed to please his brother.”
“I can’t think Si ever hurt anyone.”
“No, but he hurt my heart the way he lay And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back. He wouldn’t let me put him on the lounge. You must go in and see what you can do. I made the bed up for him there to-night. You’ll be surprised at him—how much he’s broken. His working days are done; I’m sure of it.”
“I’d not be in a hurry to say that.”
“I haven’t been. Go, look, see for yourself. But, Warren, please remember how it is: He’s come to help you ditch the meadow. He has a plan. You mustn’t laugh at him. He may not speak of it, and then he may. I’ll sit and see if that small sailing cloud Will hit or miss the moon.”
It hit the moon. Then there were three there, making a dim row, The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.
Warren returned—too soon, it seemed to her, Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.
We present this work in honor of the 5th anniversary of the poet’s death.
This is where they came from, the Raw Men. …And from the raw men they came. The dark men, the squat men, the slope-shouldered, solid-built men, neat in khaki.
This is where they came from, the brown men, the dark-lipped, thick black-haired raw men, born for the uniform.
Praised in the deserts of Tobruk, hailed in the heats of Mersa Matruh, gloried in Greece. We salute you, sons of New Zealand, Maori Battalion. ‘Kia ora koutou. Kia ora nga tamariki o Aotearoa’.
Yes, this is where they came from, the Raw Men, the fearless marauders of the Middle East, the ‘hard-doers’ with hearts of lions. collecting medals like stones on Hill 209 Tebaga Gap, Tunisia.
From the pubs they came, drunk on a Saturday afternoon, and the neighbour’s house afterwards, staggering, stumbling, stone-tripping homewards through the half-light of dawn.
Yes, this is where they came from, the Raw Men. From the crude-hewn, back-block, saw-screaming, sweat-sapping timber mills, they came trudging to work in the early mornings, their breaths rising in mists with the cold.
From the bush covered hill-slopes, they came, plodding homewards down the snigging track with axe slung on shoulder. Only the step is quicker now. Not the ‘Government Walk’ of the morning, going to work. And then the voice in the evening, loud & clear, carried on the throbbing air, now that the mill is silent and the darkness is falling. ‘Come round to my hut after e hoa Tai. There’s still a couple of bottles left from last night. We’ll clean them up’.
Yes, this is where they came from, the men in khaki, Tigers of Tunisia, cursing in the rains of Cairo, singing in the heats of Helwan … With a rifle in one hand and a guitar in the other. That’s us! …And a song ever ready on the tongue. That’s us! …Play hard and fight hard. That’s us! …‘Real ‘hard-doers’ those boys’, they say, ‘But I’m glad I’m on their side. Good fighters’. That’s us! The guitars and the song. The work in the mornings plagued by the dry horrors. That’s us! ‘Poor old Rangi’s got the shakes. Ha! Ha! Where you been last night e hoa?’ That’s us! The ‘No thanks, I don’t drink. Just pour it all over me, I like the smell of it’, Ha! Ha! That’s us!
Yes, this is where they came from, those men. From the street fights, the bar fights, the party fights. From sleeping with another man’s wife. From the hotel maid’s room in the morning, climbing out the window and whistling down the street, happy and full contented, home-bound, to fall into a deep, dreamless sleep. But always there is the laughter, the white teeth flashing against the thick dark lips, The grating spit-bubbling, carefree laughter. The conversation, coarse and harsh.
Yes, this is where they came from, the Maori Battalion. From the timber mill villages. deep-bushed. From the back-block settlements fringing isolated roads that make passers-by ask, ‘Don’t you get lonely here?’ And chilblain-footed children with bare feet walking to school on icy roads on frosty winter mornings.
From the shearing sheds they came. The Freezing Works. The Wool Stores. The Power Board. The bush felling. The scrub cutting. The post splitting. Truck driving. Bully driving. Cow spanking. Cattle mustering. The City Council, bare-torsoed with pick and shovel and jack-hammer, breaking up the tar-sealed pavement. ‘Gee! there was some beaut sheilas went past today’.
From the Hydro Works they came. The Construction Sites. The coal mines. Naked muscles straining, pride in pitting physical strength against work. Sweat and dirt intermingled. The Public WorksDepartment, with the children standing on the roadside, laughing and teasing, repeating what they heard their parents say ‘P.W.D…. Poor Working Devils!’ as the truck passed them along the road.
Yes, this is where they came from, those men. Knights of the Middle East. From the prisons and the borstals they came. From country school teaching and offices in a Government Department. In a city office. The WelfareDept. Maori Affairs. From lonely coastal farms, with the sound of the surf ever lapping. From sulking, slouching, lost and lonely, sullen in the alien city. Open-neck shirted wharfies. Wild in a dance, noisy in the films. Cigarette drooping-mouthed, fish and chips eating from newspaper wrappings. Billiard room haunting. Hanging about. Drunk on the street, annoying the passers-by. But always there are the exceptions. The quiet ones. The earnest ones. The deep-thinking, serious ones. As it is with everything there are the exceptions.
Yes, this is where they came from, the Raw Men. From singing in a bar led by a rich baritone voice, ‘ …Tomo mai e tama ma, ki roto, ki roto …‘ All around they are singing. Everywhere there are mouths opening and closing. Feet placed firmly apart, heads thrown back, eyes opening and shutting, enraptured in the singing. Always there is the singing. At the parties back home there was the singing. In the deserts of Egypt there was the singing. On the battlefields of Libya there was the singing. In the streets of Rome there was the singing. Going to the war and returning, there was the singing. Always there is the song and the guitars. Above it, beneath it, right through it all, there is the singing and the dancing and the laughing.
We present this work in honor of April Fool’s Day.
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did, In a Sieve they went to sea: In spite of all their friends could say, On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day, In a Sieve they went to sea! And when the Sieve turned round and round, And every one cried, ‘You’ll all be drowned!’ They called aloud, ‘Our Sieve ain’t big, But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig! In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!’ Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve.
They sailed away in a Sieve, they did, In a Sieve they sailed so fast, With only a beautiful pea-green veil Tied with a riband by way of a sail, To a small tobacco-pipe mast; And every one said, who saw them go, ‘O won’t they be soon upset, you know! For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long, And happen what may, it’s extremely wrong In a Sieve to sail so fast!’ Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve.
The water it soon came in, it did, The water it soon came in; So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet In a pinky paper all folded neat, And they fastened it down with a pin. And they passed the night in a crockery-jar, And each of them said, ‘How wise we are! Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long, Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong, While round in our Sieve we spin!’ Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve.
And all night long they sailed away; And when the sun went down, They whistled and warbled a moony song To the echoing sound of a coppery gong, In the shade of the mountains brown. ‘O Timballo! How happy we are, When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar, And all night long in the moonlight pale, We sail away with a pea-green sail, In the shade of the mountains brown!’ Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve.
They sailed to the Western Sea, they did, To a land all covered with trees, And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart, And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart, And a hive of silvery Bees. And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws, And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws, And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree, And no end of Stilton Cheese. Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve.
And in twenty years they all came back, In twenty years or more, And every one said, ‘How tall they’ve grown!’ For they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone, And the hills of the Chankly Bore; And they drank their health, and gave them a feast Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast; And everyone said, ‘If we only live, We too will go to sea in a Sieve,— To the hills of the Chankly Bore!’ Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve.