new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

Persephone in Winter

The Corn Child
When the good reasons for silence —
Caution and pride and shame —
Are small as the dust-motes dancing
In a summer’s cloudy flame,

Take then this too strong body,
Set it upon your shield,
And rest it in farming country
Where the poor man waits the yield;

Under the rippling barley
And the cauldron of wheat, white-hot —
Mine was desire too urgent
Ever to answer not.

Earth that is flame and fusing
Will know that I am not dead.
The seed will be swift ye sow here,
And the grass have a lofty head.

I shall not bear bending willow
Nor wild rose wan as a star —
My sons will be wheat-spears, valiant
And setting forth to war;

My foes none less than rivers
In the roaring strength of flood,
And the vulture drought, that waiteth
With seared eyes red as blood;

The locust out of the skyways,
The blight on the springing stem,
These shall I send my challenge,
And by turn shall vanquish them.

My music will be no viol,
Serf to a nodding moon,
But clarion-shrill cicadas
And hooves on a road at noon.

There is not a white-faned lily
So well will please the eye
As yellow grass in the scythe-hook
And the stack ten cubits high.

It were well that a heart so restless
Move free at the last, and dead —
But I shall feed the hungry
And be broken up in bread.


Last updated 24 September, 2003