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The First Christian Martyr of the New Zealand Church.
OH would that I might dwell by Taupo's lake,
And gaze on its magnificence; or read
On its reflected page the wond'rous skill
Of an Almighty Hand; or roam amid
The lofty cliffs; or scale the dizzy heights
Of Tongoriro's mist envelop'd cone;
Or peer into its dark and yawning caves. --
But stay the rash desire; for, lo! from out
Each dark defile, on whirlwind's wings propell'd,
Descending fast, the angry tempest roars;
The dense and darken'd forest creaks, but yields
A stubborn homage to its ruthless pow'r.
No longer Taupo's lake in beauty smiles,
Its dark and troubled waters madly roll
In wondrous turmoil. The cautious Mao'ri,
By sad experience taught, and, thus forearm'd,
Has beach'd his bark, and, with averted eye,
Seeks his sequestered glen. --
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Before me lies expanded, in length six leagues,
And with a breadth scarce less, this fickle lake.
At its southern end Waikat'o enters
From afar, bearing beneath its dark expanse
The elements which boiling springs and lakes
Sulphurous have pour'd within its bosom;
On either side stand cliffs, gaunt sentinels,
Breasting th'impetuous stream. On Taupo's
Southern shore, embower'd 'mid treacherous hills..
Te Rapa lies. Above, beyond, around,
The signs of nature's throes are thickly strew'd.
From off a hill hard by the snow-capp'd cone
Of Tongariro's lofty peak is seen,
His hoary head uprais'd eight thousand feet;
Forests of matchless beauty, cloth'd in green,
Close girt him round, from profanation's touch
The holy mount protecting; from within
Deep sounds of awful import rise; anon,
The mutter'd groan, the harsh and savage growl,
The hollow tone of dark despair. Scatter'd,
In dark abraded blocks, or molten mass,
Lie lava, once pour'd forth in liquid form
From Tongariro, or, from one still more
Majestic, though more silent now than death,
The roaring Ru'apahu. --
Conceal'd beneath the lichen and the moss
Boil many a spring, whence vapours rise
To life destructive. From Egmont seated
On Taranaki's lovely coast, a queen
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Of beauty, to Edgecombe's mount, far distant
T'ward the eastern shore, range, in order
Scarce intermitted, volcano, geyser,
And signs of vast internal agony.
For many a mile are fields of liquid mud,
Of hard vibrating surface; from frightful
Caverns but precarious guard. Above
Projecting may be seen the carved posts
Which once enclos'd a village, now no more;
At midnight's silent hour, with stealthy tread,
The evil spirit op'd the jaws of earth,
And to the regions of the dead convey'd
A tribe renown'd. The air with shrieks was rent
And suppliant cries, as boiling masses
Of earth's elements, exulting clasp'd
The quiv'ring members of once boastful man. 1
These strange vicissitudes too truly told
Of man's inconstancy, and well portray'd
The changing aspect of the human mind.
Be such my theme, though tremulous my flight. --
In time unknown, but, without doubt, remote,
Long ere the billows of the southern sea
Had forc'd the isles asunder, a frail bark
Convey'd across the main from Hawaikee
A wandering tribe. Arts, form, and language,
All combin'd, declare resemblance close
To the more northern Polynesian race.
Distinct from this, another class exists,
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Which Australasian kindred clearly shews, 2
But never to the seat of power rise.
High reverence does the Mao'ri pay
To Mau'i and his brother, to whose skill
They owe the land's emergence from the deep.
E'Panu shares their love; his thoughtful care
The sweet Koomeera brought from distant shores.
Though mortals once, they now exist endow'd
With superhuman power.
No idol stains their creed, nor will they bend
The knee to aught but At'ua divine.
Essence immortal, immaterial shade!
Stooping to man's infirmity he takes.
In faith's extended view, material forms;
The flying cloud, the soaring bird, the dull
And sluggish lizard, each and all,
As fertile fancy suits, or need suggests. 3
With power infinite for good or ill,
Hovering around, existing, though unseen,
Are agencies ethereal, the souls
Of mortal men from bodies disenthrall'd.
The future, which to the mind enlarg'd
By reason's pure and bright effulgence
Bears compensation full for present woes,
And re-attunes the symphony of Heaven,
To them gleams darkly, if it gleam at all:
Their future but the present amplified.
Their joys the same, their sorrows not unlike
The keen emotions of the passing hour.
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Th'enfranchis'd spirit "does but dive in death,
"Dives from the sun in fairer day to rise,
"The grave his subterranean road to bliss."
No longer to earth's surface closely bound,
It springs aloft, and swiftly cleaves its way
To where the north cape bold confronts the sea,
Thence plunging into the depths unfathomable,
The monsters of the deep, affrighted, yield
A ready passage to a neighb'ring isle.
Emerging thence its essence it divides,
Each part embody'ng in a mortal eye,
The one remains terrestrial joys to seek,
And revel in the luxuries of war;
The other, free as ether, upward bounds,
And in the galaxy of heaven's orbs,
Assumes its place a bright and glitt'ring star.
But not on all is such a noble end
Conferr'd; this destiny divine is given
To chiefs alone; the common herd
Existing, die; and, dying, never rise.
Such were the thoughts of God and man they brought
From distant lands: such the cheerless hope
To nerve the heart in danger's troubled hour,
Its guide in doubt, its solace in despair,
And in the fearful agonies of death
Its rod, its staff, its stingless victory. -- 4
But to return. Borne on the gentle wings
Of favouring winds, full many an hour,
And many an anxious day had pass'd
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In dark conjecture: oft the straining eye
Had swept the wide expanse, and pierc'd the gloom
That mantled night; oft the eye upturn'd
Had gaz'd on Pleiades, their chieftain's home,
Imbibing from their mild and steady light
A soothing hope, a calm reposing faith.
No frowning cloud, nor exhalation dense,
The pure transparency of heaven dimm'd;
The stars in all their brilliancy divine
In ether swam; the planets glittering
Figurately spoke of life's alternate shade;
The rising moon, enrob'd in roseate hues,
Impatient leap'd the boundaries of earth,
And with a rich and lavish hand bestow'd
Its clear and silv'ry beams on all around.
Omen auspicious, harbinger of peace. --
Far in the distant west, a lurid light
Bursts on the astonished view; silent
They gaze, and each from each inquiring asks,
By rapid interchange of speechless thought,
Whence comes this strange appearance? They gaze,
From Cynthia rising in the distant east
T"ward th' opposing west, and fancy paints
In glowing tints a cloud reflecting back
Its borrowed beams. Bright and brighter still
The meteor shines with intermitting light,
While o'er the main reverberating sounds
Are tremulously borne. Hours onward roll.
The moon her zenith reach'd; with haste declin'd,
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And parts the briny wave; night reassumes
Her dark domain, and clouds of sable hue
Obscure the brightness of the host of heav'n.
Thoughts, emulous of Nature's dreary garb,
Enthrall the mind and ev'ry ray expunge. --
Dominion short retain'd. The rising sun
Gleams 'mid dissolving clouds, and richly tints
The snow-capp'd tops of distant central hills;
While, not remote, in liquid fire involv'd,
With fierce and deaf'ning shout, and breathing steam
From ev'ry pore vast Rangitoto foams.
Leaving its sulphur cones behind, they steer
T' wards the north, where, with fascinating smile,
The Bay of Islands undulating slopes,
Clad in the verdant hue of early spring.
Scarce had they leap'd from off their fragile bark
Than on their bended knees, with grateful hearts,
They pour the notes of deep impassion'd praise;
Recalling all the watchful care, the love
Divine, which, 'mid the ocean's trackless waste,
Had safely guided to a land of rest.
A council quickly form'd as quick decides
The land to search; they start by diverse routes;
And quick return. The forest dark and dense
No passage gives; festoon'd and interloop'd
In ev'ry form, at ev'ry varying height,
The treach'rous parasite declines to yield:
Below, a tangled web of mesh-like roots
Arrests the steps, and all advance denies.
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One pair alone, dauntless and undeterr'd,
Their weary way pursue, and southward trend
Until they reach the liquid chain of springs
To fury lash'd by fierce internal flame.
Affrighted they return, their perils tell,
And tell of wonders passing human thought.
Deep in the dark recesses of the wood
Mistrustful, though alone; or perch'd aloft
On overhanging hills; or screen'd beneath
The green mosaic, might, at times be seen,
Though but as a vision of the night,
Forms much akin to human, but, in height
The height of man exceeding, with coat of hair,
And arms prolong'd; traditionally view'd,
As ruined relics of a bygone race.
Amid the lofty pines, or, on the edge
Of mountain streams, gigantic bipeds brows'd
To whom in size the ostrich, now supreme,
Can scarce compare. Gliding through brake and reed,
In solitary gloom, strange reptiles roam'd,
The fabled dragon scarce less awe inspired. 5
Fain would I linger here and lightly sketch
Conjecture's dim surmise, from whence and when
These races sprang; and tell of one vast land
Of which the South Sea Isles but fragments are
Of lofty Alpine ranges deep submerged.
But other scenes invite, and scenes on which
My mind untrammell'd fondly loves to dwell. --
Unnoted centuries pass; Man proudly claims
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By right divine, dominion o'er the beast,
And they, by instinct taught, allegiance yield,
Their haunts desert, and scarcely leave a trace
To mark they once were masters of the land.
Man occupies the void thus timely made,
And reigns supreme amid its hills and dales.
Would that he rightly viewed the power thus gain'd
And turned his strength to subjugate the beast;
But once the warlike spirit roused, he spurns
The gentle arts of peace, and slothful gleans
The earth's spontaneous fruits; the hunter's fire,
Insatiate burns against his fellow man. --
The human tide now ebbs towards decay. --
Strangers from distant climes the ocean plough
In mighty ships and anchor off the coast.
The gallant Cook unfurls the British flag
And claims, as civilization ever claims
Against a barbarous race, a prior right;
This right he pressed, not at the cannon's mouth,
But by the kindly offices of love.
Such friendly acts were not without effect,
And promise gave of rich and plenteous fruit.
But, as the smallest spark may raise a flame
That oceans cannot quench; so, one rash word
From Furneaux's crew, or one misconstrued act
Inflamed their slumbering ire; the past,
With all its kindly feelings, is forgot,
And man, embruted, revels deep in blood. --
Again I take my stand, and gaze intent
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On passing scenes. --Whence comes that piercing shriek?
Whence rise those feeble moans? is that the cry
Of woman's agony?--Alas! too true.
The sound falls dead on unresponding hearts,
And not a chord vibrates to mercy's call.
Strange contrast this. When first we view'd the coast,
A prostrate feeble tribe our vision met
In grateful adoration lowly bent;
But now, within that circling host there lies
A quiv'ring corpse, clasp'd in the puny arms
Of helpless infancy; while, with downcast
Eyes and frenzied look, fast bound to trees
Contiguous to the spot, are swarthy men
Who oft have "braved the battle and the breeze,"
And ne'er have quail'd before their fellow man.
They view the crackling flame, the scarce cold limbs
Asunder torn; and fear, before unknown,
Usurps their minds. Their respite short indeed;
The war-club gleams on high, and swiftly falls
On their devoted heads; the stranded ship
In desolation weeps, amid its shrouds
The howling gale a requiem sadly sings. ---