The Brave Days To Be.

written by

« Reload image

I looked far in the future; down the dim
Echoless avenue of silent years,
And through the cold grey haze of Time I saw
The fair fulfilment of my spacious dream.
My Maoriland! she sat a new-crowned queen,
Hilarious and radiant with youth,
Superbly throned above a world of peace
By the mere power of loveliness. She held
No tribute lands that she had trampled on
With pitiless foot of triumph; but she lay
Alone, incomparable, complete, the one
Untarnished blossom of the sterile sea,
Thrusting her dazzling petal-peaks above
A world of waving green.
Her daughters fair —
Their hair a halo darkly clustering,
Their rich brown cheeks brides to the southern sun —
Lifted their regal faces like a blaze
Of summer blossoms swaying on lithe stems!
Her sons — a grove of slender saplings tall
And sun-flecked, quivered with a joy all Greek
To every passing breath of loveliness:
Their forms were moulded with a supple might,
Yet in their blood a subtle languor dreamed.
Not theirs the hearts Titanic and the thews
Of those who first a meagre sustenance tore
From the reluctant soil, whose axe and torch
To the grim depths of forest fastnesses
Brought the parturient light.
This was the time
When all were children of a mother State,
And for the common weal did common work;
And all had freedom, for no man was free
In thought or deed to do his neighbor scathe.
This was the culminating noon, the crown
Of Time, to which our leaders, rudely husked,
But kernelled with a rich humanity —
Struggling, confused, with steps irresolute,
Now crashing forward in a moment's space
Through barriers that a thousand grey-haired years
With hands laborious had built; and now
False paths retracing with a tardy step;
Anon awaiting with a wearied hope
More light, more light, to see the forward path;
Brimming with pride and huge with selfishness,
Yet with a patriot purpose burning deep
And one great yearning hope unquenchable —
Had won their way!
And while my lusty land
Felt in her veins the triumphant sap, and heard
The wonder of the Spring shout in her heart,
Across the waters peering, chin in hand,
A grey old crone mumbled the name that once
Was Britain! Spent with mighty pasts her soil,
And sodden with a hundred histories;
Her old frame enervated with the pangs
Of bearing progenies of giant men
Who shackled the careering centuries
To one small island's name! The end had come.
Upon her fallow fields huddled her brood
Of teeming pigmies, craven beneath their pride;
Too weak to wield the sword their fathers forged,
Too rich to risk the shock of war. Like leaves
In autumn winds, about their uncertain feet
Their shrivelled greatness swept.
And in that time
My land was still unconquerably young —
Bland skies above and freedom in the air —
And in her children irresistibly
This charm of surging youth swirled into song
Supreme — a strain to which the ancient globe
Surrendered in still rapture. As I dreamed
I heard that chorus of the future swell
Above the clanging years. Within those songs
The dreaming rivers of the yellow plains
Rippled and rustled ever; and the creeks
Through green-draped gullies of the listening bush
Ran garrulous; and in the shadowed gorge
The great tides, placid, imperturbable,
Marched to the distant sea.
The mountain peaks
Struck proudly through the mists, and on their sides
The sun a thousand changing colours flung
Till in the eve they flamed like pennants far
Above the flood of gloom; and pile on pile
The massive ranges to the westward swept,
With all the opulence of purple bush
Imperial. At their feet the great lakes dreamed
In august taciturnity, their robes
Hemmed with the sullen blaze of rata-fire.
Above, the silence of the forest hung —
A firmament with white clematis starred —
Where never cry of bird or beast rang out
Piercing the tangle of the undergrowth,
Save that afar a plaintive weka wailed,
Or high upon some noble ancient tree,
Moss-hung and creeper-broidered, all his soul
A tui poured into one soft refrain.
Out in the open by the swampy pools
The army of the waving grasses went;
First in the van the hosts of raupo reared
Long lines of ruddy spears; close following
The green ranks of the harekeke came;
Lifting aloft their sullen flashing blades
And sturdy bronze-brown standards; and, behind,
The toi's white battalions flaunted far
Their dazzling banners and soft silver plumes;
While gaunt and motionless upon the hill
The naked cabbage-trees stood sentinel.
And in the haggard country of the North
Between the uncouth hills of manuka
The white steam drifted like the dying breath
Of some huge dragon overthrown. The earth
Writhed with a scrofula of quivering sores;
Her thick warm blood, exuding sluggishly,
In pools of ugly reluctant bubbles oozed.
Yet, like a poet wedded to his pain,
Who, in a clogging body crucified,
Binds his fierce heart-beats into spheral song,
The troubled earth wove from her agonies
Such fret-work fantasies of silica,
Such wonders of ebullient steam, such pools
Of quivering heat, such crater lakes that were
Cool chalices uplifted, that the land
About that mystic lake — where like faint winds
Old haunting legends drifted, sad with tears —
Was all an elemental epic wrought
Of fire and earth and water.
But alas!
Over the isles a whispered story went —
A memory of vague laughter and of life
Irrevocably mute, for ever mourned.
From his high place the Maori, the erect
Brown, sturdy efflorescence of the isles
Had fallen. Nevermore the warriors
Superb in pride of kingly thews, with spear
And murdering mere through the shrinking land
Imperiously strode; or with the tune
Of even-plashing paddles woke to life
The silent reaches of the dreaming fiords.
And nevermore through nights perfumed with love
Lay Hinemoa hidden, listening
Amid the prattle of the troubled reeds,
And heard across the lake the flute-song swell —
The token that Tutanekai was true.
His race had lapsed and dwindled, withering
In too luxurious a land of peace,
And pining, like a frail transplanted flower,
For those strong bracing winds of lust and war
That were his life. Stifled in summer calm,
He should have died in harness, fighting still;
Hurling against the changing tide of things
A word for endless war: like Rewi, when
Erect amid the remnants of his tribe,
Looming Titanic o'er his ruined world,
He stood, and to his white foes' proffered peace
His last defiant challenge proudly flung —
"We shall fight on; there shall no peace be made
For ever and for ever and for ever!"

© Arthur Henry Adams