new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

The Conquerors And Other Poems

The Tree
Full twenty years: rainbow and sungleam plaited
Into the uttermost fibre of my heart:
The trees my kinsmen, they whose tawny matted
Thin roots search downward, grope in every part
Of my still soul. I hear their bright leaves say,
"Here is a child whom we shall hide away.

"Here is a friend sealed from his boyhood ours —
Let us then make his eyes like forest pools,
In depth of shadow veil his dreaming hours
Like purple caverns." Ah, beloved fools,
Do you not know in what strange crippled guise
I yet must show you wounded hands and eyes?

Yea, from the destined hour when I was born
Planted was I as an unpitied tree
Whose very sap must sicken of the thorn
Ere the full crown of blossoms men shall see.
But hold me now. It cannot be for long
That any hour of mine shall gleam with song.

In that old shop of Joseph’s I have stood —
His naked feet seemed sunken in the ground,
And the sharp odorous tang of new-peeled wood
Poured out its clean, calm loveliness around.
Were I but of his loins, my side would be
Unvext by any spear of mystery.

Then with craft-lessoned and unfearing hands
I had built argosies for fairytales,
Knowing their voyages could touch no lands
Where sudden doom might wrack the tiny sails.
Or I had carved a cradle for a child
Whose mother need not tremble when he smiled.

But oh, half-longed-for, half-forgotten God
That burns in me, hast Thou not better wrought,
Who raised these soaring columns from the clod
To shape the perfect temple for Thy thought?
What leaf of Thine but sings? Shall I not trust
The hand that builds so greatly from the dust?

Raise up the shining knife. Where is the loss
If sap run down from this Thy chosen wood?
The world is thirsty for half-understood
Glory to be revealed upon a cross,
Truth to be framed in thorns. Sweet whispering leaf,
When I must hang beside a dying thief,

Know how I loved thee, ere men stripped thee bare
And hewed the kind boughs to a shape of death.
Murmur thou then what doomed men long to hear,
And let this amber light, this forest breath,
Creep back to him and me. Tall tree most wise,
Thou too shalt be my friend in Paradise.


Last updated 11 September, 2003