new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

Persephone in Winter

The Dryad
Then in the moonlight shoulder turning
She to the trees so nearer drew,
With that cold garment fire burning
O’er her in patterned foliage, blue
As eucalypt, I sat appalled,
Whiles down white breast and flank there grew
The strange and leafy panoply
That holds the dryad-maids enthralled.
Thus their green genealogy
Took charge of her, and named her kin
By old, arboreal, rustled names;
And other were their prides and shames,
(Thin-horned through sylvan heraldry),
Than known to mortals; smiling, she
Sat fixed, and coiled her roots within
The ribs of rocks, the peering stones;
And from a whitened forest’s bones
Was framed her new anatomy.

I could not touch her flesh, where clung
The small-leaved manuka, and young
Mists from black birchwoods. Pendent red
Wild fuchsias pointed either breast,
And ferns were casqued about her head.
In her, I knew, lay thresholds gold
With moss, or offering standing-hold
For dark-clawed flax, bent down with birds.
Honey she hived, the wild bees’ quest.
Like a swan’s plumage, but hued green
And crackled brown, with what tints more
Are painted on the forest’s door
And garland thickets dimly seen,
The siege of leaf had won her o’er;
Shadows of boughs her parted lips
Made enigmatic. Green plumes sped
Subtly down from breast to hip,
And the green victory helmed her head.
One smile she made, as though she sought
Love should take root, and dare all chance
Of axe or songbirds, nor no words
Use longer, but viridian dance
Of glassy leaves that make their sport,
With the wind piping, clouds like curds,
And none to save us from the trance.
I, if I touched, had gathered her;
Yea, broken off, her limbs had bled
A resin potent more than myrrh,
With drops of green in lieu of red.


Last updated 24 September, 2003