For Roy M Dickson,

killed in the Alps, 1 January 1947,

aged 20


I The Hollyford Valley

Storm. Storm in the trees.

Everywhere the hidden sound

Of water, like hives of bees

Uptilted deep underground.


The shattered cliff’s sheer

Face spurts a myriad

Waterfalls, like tears

From some deep-bowed head


Whose colossal grief is stone.

Great trees, rooted fast

In ice, nightlong moan

Down the gleaming pass.


II Now He is Dead

Now he is dead who talked

Of wild places and skies

Inhabited by the hawk;


Of the hunted hare that flies

Down bare parapets of stone

And there closes its eyes;


Of trees fast rooted in stone

Winds bend but cannot break;

Of the low terrible moan


That dead thorn-trees make

On a windy desolate knoll;

Of the storm-blackened lake


Where heavy breakers roll

Out of the snow-bred mist

When the glittering air is cold.


Of the Lion Rock that lifts

Out of the whale-backed waves

Its black sky-battering cliffs;


Of the waterfall that raves

Down the dark mountain side

And into a white cauldron dives.


III A Dead Thorn-tree Stands

A dead thorn-tree stands

Half-way up a dark mountain;

Goats and sheep sheltered there

From sun and wind; a spring


Wells out of its roots forming

A cool basin, moss-lined

And overflowing. The musterer’s

Dog drinks there, or did once.


In these dusty branches

No birds build; but once

A tui lighted there, sang

A few bars, until wind moaned.


The bird fell dead. Now

No sheep or goats come near

That spot, but when wind moans

High over it the wild birds cry.


IV Now Sleeps the Gorge

Now sleeps the gorge, the pale moon’s steaming disc

Desolate and glimmering through the gusty mist;

The storm that through the wind-cropped tussock

Screams, and screams where the great hawks rest


Upon comfortless stone their arrogant hearts;

Now sleeps the mist whose tumbling woods unroll

Upon gullied hills, and with the dawn depart;

The streaming woods, the pigeon-moaning knoll,


And swarming under cliffs like smoking swords

The rock-torn Clutha. O this bare place

Embalms such glory, there’s not a creature

Walks or flies but in its living grace.


V Reverie

Sleep on, restless heart

In the wild fruit tree;

May quiet windfalls ease

Your troubled reverie.


Sweetness at the root,

May the tree climb high;

Close against the sun,

Let all its branches sigh.


Leaf and blossom lost

When hill streams are dry —

O lay to your wild breast

Wind’s disconsolate cry.


VI Driftwood

In a sun-rinsed rockpool

An intensity of weathered wood

Caught and dazzled my eyes.

Water had carved out intricacies


Of violence and wild grace:

A nude girl dancing, men

Wrestling, flung back, twisted

Together like gigantic roots;


And someone fleeing

From what might be death,

So fearful its beauty seemed.

And one smaller than the rest


Had so piteous a form,

Being warped by sun and wind,

I couldn’t look at it.

It was his form, his face.


VII Wind and Rain

Rain on the roof, darkness of rain

In the orchard where boughs break

And crash amid great winds;

And all night I’ve lain awake


Listening to the thunder tread

Upon the hill, and waters race

Above the house, and could not sleep

Remembering a storm-delighting grace


And a rare gentleness that seemed

More wonderful in one so young;

And all night long I have tried

To still the heartache and give tongue


To his memory, and have failed,

And will fail, as long as the wind

Moans through the trees, and rain

Brings its agony to my mind.


VIII Farewell

Dear head, struck down; bright flesh

That made my dark night sweet,

All bruised and bleeding; fond feet

Twisted in Death’s hideous mesh;


What mountain climbed, what rock,

What dead thorn-bush that drips

With mist, what fall that slips

Into a fiery gorge, but mock


Your memory and my despair?

For you, still glimmering hand,

No hand through Death’s blind land

To guide you, no heart-wrung prayer


For your journeying forth avails

The piteous groping, the drag

Of hesitant feet. What brag

Has Death not fulfilled? What fails


But hope, pride, and majesty,

Like the sun setting, when head

Moans and slumps back like lead

Amid some wild bird’s ecstasy.


IX The Laid-out Body

Now grace, strength and pride

Have flown like the hawk;

The mind like the spring tide,


Beautiful and calm; the talk;

The brilliance of eye and hand;

The feet that no longer walk.


All is new, and all strange,

Terrible as a dusty gorge

Where a great river sang.


By Alistair Te Ariki Campbell