Te Whetu Plains
A lonely rock above a midnight plain,
A sky whose moonlit darkness flies
No shadow from the 'Children of the Rain',
A stream whose double crescent far-off lies,
And seems to glitter back the silver of skies.
The table-lands stretch step by step below
In giant terraces, their deeper ledges
Banded by blackened swamps (that, near, I know
Convolvulus-entwined) whose whitened edges
Are ghostly silken flags of seeding water-sedges.
All still, all silent, 'tis a songless land,
That hears no music of the nightingale,
No sound of waters falling lone and grand
Through sighing forests to the lower vale,
No whisper in the grass, so wan, and grey, and pale.
When Earth was tottering in its infancy,
This rock, a drop of molten stone, was hurled
And tost on waves of flames like those we see
(Distinctly, though afar) evolved and whirled
A photosphere of fire around the Solar World.
Swift from the central deeps the lightning flare
Piercing the heart of Darkness like a spear,
Hot blasts of steam and vapour thunder'd through
The lurid blackness of the atmosphere.
A million years have passed, and left strange quiet her
Peace, the deep peace of universal death
Enshrouds the kindly mother-earth of old,
The air is dead, and stirs no living breath
To break these awful Silences that hold
The heart within their clutch, and numb the veins with cold.
My soul hath wept for Rest with longing tears,
Called it 'the perfect crown of human life'-
But now I shudder lest the coming years
Should be with these most gloomy terrors rife;
When palsied arms drop down outwearied with the strife.
May Age conduct me by a gentle hand
Beneath the shadows ever brooding o'er
The solemn twilight of the Evening Land,
Where man's discordant voices pierce no more,
But sleeping waters dream along a sleeping shore.
When I, when Youth has spent its fiery strength
And flickers low, may rest in quietness
Till on my waiting brow there falls at length
The deeper calm of the Death-Angel's kiss -
But not, oh God, such peace, such ghastly peace as this
O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 0 19 558003 6