new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

Persephone in Winter

Black Easter (1936)
You by the labyrinth cities of stone,
We by desert and cave —
You of the pride that can stand alone,
But we with a lion’s lair for a throne,
With the grate of iron on ankle-bone,
And the asking eyes of the slave:
Yet, O friends, are the pathways met,
Is the table that joineth the kindred set.

Out of past glories one like the sun,
One like the argent moon
Met where the rivers of Aethiop run,
Fierce with the flooding of fates begun —
Our land was footstool for Solomon,
Palm-shade for Sheba’s noon.
Rive ye the rocks, lay bare the place,
Ere ye wrest that crown from the Aethiop race.

Ashes the loins that were young in lust,
Years fell as grains of sand:
Old grew the glory we held in trust —
Yet, when the seats of the Kings were rust,
Did not a black King risen from dust
Tall by a Manger stand?
Stooped not the wand of the quivering Star
Over the marches of Balthasar?
Spread then the cloth for the Paschal feast,
Look to the wine and bread:
But turn in your singing towards the east,
Hearing the cry of that cruder priest
Whose cities are stall for the steel-girt beast,
Whose drink shall be over-red.
O ye who taste of the Lenten meats,
Look on the shame that your brother eats.

You by the path of blessing and palm,
We by the whine of shell:
You with the praise of a lofty psalm
For Him arisen past mortal harm,
But we with the thrust of a broken arm
Staving the siege of Hell:
And the Aethiop woman takes the sword
Hot from the grasp of her dying lord.

You with the eyes fulfilled of peace
Answer Him straitly now.
Tell how the moan and the striving cease,
How the blinded eyes behold release,
As the black race beaten down to its knees
Lifts the Thorn from His brow:
O ye who shared in the quivering Star,
Speak for the children of Balthasar.


Last updated 24 September, 2003