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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 4 (August 1, 1933)

New Zealand Verse

page 30

New Zealand Verse

The Old Queen's Dash.

A whisper was heard in the Thorndon sheds,
“They are sending a special through
To carry the big men home in their beds—
Ere the break of the day she's due.
The Queen of the Ranges will take the train,
The order has just come in”
Ah! the grades and the distance would fight in vain
For the staunch old Queen would win.
Heavier trains would have burst her heart;
But the special was light, and so
They were going to let her play a part
That she played in the long ago—
When the hills and the valleys and open plains
Had rung to her whistle's chime,
Making the speed with the fastest trains—
To the tick of the clock—on time!
They backed her out ‘neath the wintry stars,
And soft as a ghost she moved;
They chained her fast to the silent cars,
For the task that the old Queen loved.
Her whistle spoke—just a signal low—
Her deep exhaust came fast,
And she took the road that the through trains know,
To the beat of her quickening blast.
She took the grade in a storm of sound,
High-flung and strong with speed.
She shook the bridge and the solid ground
Where the five quick tunnels lead
To the curving track, where the Ngaio hills
Look down, as the giants climb
On their all-night journeys whose magic thrills
As they fight with the miles and Time.
They clocked her out of the “Paikok” yard,
“One minute and ten” ahead,
With the Queen of the Ranges fighting hard
And the passengers all in bed.
She crossed with a roar the Ohau Stream,
And slowed for the Manawatu;
Said Jonah, who drove, “How little they dream
What this darned old Queen can do!”
By Palmerston North and Greatford Rise,
And Marton's branching ways,
She shot her smoke to the starry skies
From her furnace fires ablaze.
By viaduct, tunnel and papa bank,
Round Mangaweka's lights,
She sped with galloping wheel and crank
Toward Taihape heights.
She blew, as she raced, a boastful call
To let Taihape know
'Twas time to be letting the signals fall—
A long, deep-throated blow,
As though she would shout to the world that she,
An engine from out the past,
Could handle the special from sea to sea
And do it alone—and fast!
A heavier engine would take the train
To Auckland; her task was done.
She might not be making that trip again,
Or any such long, fast run.
As they backed her down to the engine shed,
Like a ghost of the past she moved,
And Jonah, who loved her, looked down and said
”‘Twas a job that the old Queen loved.”

* * *

A Ship Goes Out.

A ship goes out from Wellington,
Smoke-smooth, at night,
A shadow on the waterways,
An etching of delight;
A grey ghost of silence,
That bears my eyes away,
Straining to follow to a new land's day.
A ship goes out from Wellington,
Swinging on the tide,
Soot-black the headland,
Pencarrow light beside;
The eternal grace of water
Is a marvel to me,
As a ship goes out at evening,
Away out to sea.

page 31

The Calling of Wi Maia.

The sea desired his body's grace of youth,
The fair, brown, tapered limbs of him,
The suncrisped hair of him,
His bright, dark eyes and smiling curved mouth.
“Wi Maia, come, O come!”
Proud in his youthful strength he stood upright
And spread his arms into the air,
He let the breeze kiss where
It willed, and felt the cool spray at his feet.
“Wi Maia, come, O come!”
With pliant and desirous flow the weed
Waved long arms on the foam-laced surge,
And with melodious urge,
In mournful monotone, the waters said,
“Wi Maia, come, O come.”
Grey gulls rode feather-light about the cove,
Borne effortless upon the stream,
And in an envied dream
Of ease they circled, settled, soared above.
“Wi Maia, come, O come!”
Wi Maia sighed. Cool was the beaded spray,
Cool was the breeze that kissed his brow
And O so swiftly, now
And then, moved darkly rippling on the sea.
“Wi Maia, come, O come!”
Earth gave no answer to his ardent grace
Nor to the light foot's swift caress
Yielded in tenderness;
The small waves murmured with a languorous peace,
“Wi Maia, come, O come!”
Again his strength he poised and on the rock
Stood like a flax-spear, slimly tall;
Unclad and naked all
He stood, then leaped to meet a wave that broke;
“Wi Maia, come!” “I come!”

* * *

The Limited.

The long train shuffles outward, deeply sighing.
The slim rails slip together—slide apart.
The lights fade backward, wingless we go flying
In rocking, reeling flight. No god-like dart,
No upward swing or swerve; the lashless stars
Lesser than lamps are, and the blustering dark
Less strange than our strange eyes and lips that are
Shouting in glance and tone against the stark,
Wide mouth of Noise. Vanity's crowned us all.
Pale, resolute, dark mantled kings in flight,
With superb sorrow mourning a throne's fall—
Racing on chanting steel throughout the night!

To a Dead Tree.

Once thou wert fair, O Tree, and thy green crown
Rose towering o'er thy fellows to the sky;
What force constrained thy life-flow thus to stay?
What cruel power decreed that thou should'st die?
Once Spring-time in her course revived thy strength,
Bestrewing through thy branches blossoms rare—
Sweet, modest blooms, retiring ‘neath thy leaves,
Yet streaming fragrance on the forest air.
Once summer saw thine increase, green and bright,
In pendent drupes enhance thy leafy charms;
Once autumn's threshing flails their harvest swept
Of purple berries from thy laden arms.
But now no more to thee the season calls
With full fruition in her golden train;
And to thy cold and unresponsive heart,
The rich earth offers up her wealth in vain.
And yet, perchance, in my poor reckoning,
I count thee lost who art not really dead;
Perchance this stark, corrupting trunk is but
The husk from which thy leafy spirit fled.
This, then, my prayer, O Tree, for thee and me—
Thou, springing green in some celestial glade
Where my tired soul, released from earth, might find,
Eternal rest beneath thy spirit's shade.

* * *

The Late John Neverready.

John Neverready lived.
It was his fate
To be forever late.
No matter how he'd fume and fuss,
He'd miss the bus.
He was, of course, a failure.
John Neverready died.
Arrived an hour late
At Heaven's gate,
And was condemned to Hell;
But though he fell,
Of course he missed the bus!
John Neverready, spook,
Thus has no home,
But is condemned to roam
Through all eternity—
Make you and me—
Well—miss the bus!