The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 9 (January 1, 1934)
New Zealand Verse
New Zealand Verse
When the day's farm work is ended
And the cows are milked again,
When the sunset shades are glowing
O'er the hazy purple plain;
Then I walk with lingering footsteps
At the dusky hour of day,
Coming through the bush at twilight
As I wend my homeward way.
There's a light within the window
Of the house just through the trees,
And a sound of homely voices
Carried to me on the breeze;
But I pause a while and listen,
Heedless of the light and sound,
To the strange mysterious voices
In the twilight all around.
There are chatterings and twitterings
In the tree-tops overhead,
Of the little feathered creatures
Fluttering noisily to bed,
As they talk and laugh and chatter
In their bright excited way,
And discuss with one another
All the happenings of the day.
There are strange and muffled whisperings
In the darkening leafy shade,
Like the sound of fairy voices
Echoing through the forest glade;
And the punga fronds, soft swaying
In the light a faint moon brings.
Seem like mystic moving shadows
Of a thousand fairy wings.
There are dim and doubtful tree trunks
In the deepening gloom around,
Like a mighty ghostly army
Risen from some burial mound,
Standing up in awesome silence,
Seeming half afraid to move,
With their mighty arms raised upward
To the leafy dome above.
There are little insect voices
Faintly stirring in the air,
As they sing their evening praises
And repeat their evening prayer.
All the bush is full of music
And of deep mysterious things,
And it all blends in together
In the song that Nature sings.
Thus I end each day of toil,
Thus my homeward way I bring,
Thinking of the wondrous mystery
That is filling everything.
These are some of countless fancies
That I dream of on my way,
Coming through the bush at twilight,
At the dusky hour of day.
* * *
A railway train is a gallant thing!
I can't describe a bit of her gear,
For alas, I am not an engineer;
But I watch her go with an easy swing,
Clank-clanking gaily—the North Express—
As smart as a girl in her dancing-dress.
She is ready to run three hundred miles,
On the winding ways of the narrow gauge,
Whether the moonlight calmly smiles,
Or whether the floods and the tempests rage.
“Who-oo!” she whistles, and ringing back,
The hill-born echoes attend her track….
Midnight! Though some in their berths may sleep.
So safely guarded the whole night through,
'Tis worth their while if a watch they keep,
For the Three Volcanoes swing into view!
Stern Ngauruhoe, as dark as sin.
Steam-plumed without, and on fire within;
Grand Ruapehu, his mantle white,
Of the purest snow, shining through the night;
Old Tongariro, beyond the two.
Not dead, but sleeping—one midnight view!
Another train I have loved to see
Is the Wairarapa, with engines three,
That over the Rimutaka climbs,
With the pluck to climb it a thousand times.
All black with coal-smoke, and soot, and oil,
She tugs and labours, she hisses and sobs,
But she won't give in while her boilers boil;
Not she! while a single engine throbs.
Fear nothing! She is not the sort to stop;
But through bush-scenes beautiful, as a dream,
She wraps herself in her clouds of steam,
And pulls till she's up and over the top.
“Who-oo!” she whistles, “and there's a grade!
I wonder how it was ever made.”
Oh, a railway train is a gallant thing!
And to my thinking, the best of men
(They may grumble a little, now and then,
So seldom do any their praises sing),
Are the faithful fireman and driver and guard,
Who work so nobly for small reward.
'Tis a beautiful land where their work is done,
In summer and winter, 'neath stars and sun;
But horror would blacken the face of Beauty
In the hour that they ceased to do their duty.
* * *
O proud, majestic language! You enshrine within your words
The green quietness of forests and the honeyed songs of birds.
Rolling down from the Cloud-piercers, wrapped in darkness, there first came
The grave measure of your thunder, sonorous yet keen as flame.
Tumbling through you like the bubbling of bright springs the voices flow
Of the ever-singing waters clear and cold and pure as snow,
Moving deeply in the music that, as wind moves in a tree,
Swells your rhythm with the long and lonely echo of the sea
Till all sounds of earth and water through your substance flash and gleam,
As a lake reflects the movement of the reeds that round it dream.
Even as a kauri, kingly in the grandeur of its might,
Is nourished in the darkness that its strength may pierce the light,
So your poetry, deep-rooted in the richness of the earth,
Beats and pulses with the Nature that first gave it vibrant birth,
And her colour burns within you like a rata bough flung high,
In a rushing cloud of crimson, up against the windy sky.
Elemental and eternal as her spirit, may you be
Rooted through the complex ages in a strong simplicity …
Like a kauri, like a Piercer of the Clouds whose sky-steeped snow
Lies remote above the changes that the changing years know,
May you tower above the turmoil of the centuries fretting by,
Giving back the rolling voices of the earth and sea and sky
In the grandeur of a measure beating out your ancient place,
O proud, majestic language, as the guardian of a race.
* * *
Here's a secret—hold it tight—
Someone's going out to-night.
When the moon arrives and shines,
And the folks pull down their blinds,
Then I'll tidy up and go
To a little place I know,
Where with somebody I'll hide,
Down beside the rolling tide.
All the pictures you have seen,
In a picture magazine,
Are as nothing to compare
With the beauties you'll see there.
So let's sing a merry song
Where the breakers roll along,
Let's all chant a melody
Down beside the rolling sea.
Where the zephyrs come and go,
Sighing measures sweet and low,
Here the tender lovers croon
Underneath the mellow moon,
As each other they entwine
In a rhapsody divine,
Love-enraptured, side by side,
Strolling by the rolling tide.
Hear the stories they repeat;
Note the hearts that skip a beat
With exciting joys that thrill
As their souls with magic fill,
Loving, in the same old way,
By the silver and the spray
Of the ocean deep and wide—
Down beside the rolling tide.
* * *
When the old road's been re-graded,
And it's “pegged” from end to end,
And the devil has been taken out
Of the devil's elbow bend,
Then send along your “grader”—for the work they say she'll do,
(The work of twenty shovelmen) by the turn of a wheel or two.
You'll find us in the back-blocks
On a Taranaki road,
Breaking Taranaki boulders,
Twelve or thirteen to the load.
They blast them in the quarries
And they're cursed upon the roads,
As they bring them in the lorries
In their never-ending loads.