new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

Persephone in Winter

"Give the sick fields to corn," he said, whose voice
Made a new moon on valleys held in scathe.
Teach unto Europe she has yet her morn
Of pride unguessed at, so her hand make choice
Of the full ear, the ripe and gleaming swathe
That dies against the sickle, but for bread.
Here where the guns sowed iron in the field,
And eyes grew blind that waited for the yield,
Ask back your reckless acres from the dead.
Nothing shall save us now, but only corn.

"Leave to the lost no empty sanctity;
(Oh young beloved! — oh swiftly-sprung as spears! —)
Those lie beneath who never gleaned the years,
Nor went time-heavy to the granary.
Ours not to mark repentance with these solemn
Withholden plains, the poppies’ fluttering column;
Too red her hue to ease an agony.
Nothing shall still the cry, but only corn.

"Drop apples where the young lips strove for breath,
Bend towards whitened bones the laden bough.
Here waits the anguish of a love ungiven,
And chaff to them the winnowed stars of Heaven,
And dust to them all laurels of the brow,
Who died for earth, whose will is pent in earth.
Then make a springing pillar of their death,
And let their seedling love pierce up in mirth,
Shining a wonder down the fields forlorn.
Naught shall fulfil them now, but only corn.

"Send them no marble, but the rooting tree,
Mouthpiece of whispering spring and summer bent,
Each fibre restive with the green unborn.
Fear not to farrow skulls, but rather fear
Find the old hatreds rusty on thy share.
Honour no more the curse with monument,
Nor dream an arrogance is loyalty.
Nothing is faithful now, but shining corn.

"Bring not this earth a trite and selfish love
That thinks to edge its bitterness with hate;
Here, where the dust is indiscriminate
And equal weights of dew lie fallen above,
They keep no answer for the lips of scorn.
Here, where all mourning women knelt black-veiled,
And loss was heired unto the child unborn,
Learn the new light that in their faith prevailed —
Nothing is frontier here but standing corn.

"Take of their substance, break it up in bread,
Be their clear passion in the vineyards set,
Eat of their hunger, drain their biting thirst;
Watch then the bright-locked strength of barley shorn
And reapers merry in the place accurst.
Out of their hand be famine’s children fed,
Out of their smile, the eyes of anger wet,
The kin of earth around a banquet met —
Nothing shall host them now, but only corn."


Last updated 24 September, 2003