new zealand electronic poetry centre

Lola Ridge


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A Deserted Diggings: Maoriland
     

The golden light is waning,
            Falling through
The sombre mountain gap
On the Mother Forest rolling
            Out of view:
The sleepy shadows gather
Low on her spacious lap.

The long grey flats are silent,
            Lone and dun;
About lie ruined huts,
Like dead men’s bones a-bleaching
            In the sun;
Here runs an ancient truckway,
Hid in its grass-grown ruts.

It leads into a tunnel
            In the hill,
And glow-worms gleam aloof
Where once men’s voices echoed;
            All is still:
Like tears that follow laughter,
Drips water from the roof.

Near-by a rotten windlass,
            Half o’ergrown,
Lies ambushed in the flax;
A weka whistles shrilly
            From a lone
Log, in some faded summer
Felled by the ringing axe.

A dam is over yonder,
            Lying low
Behind its gravel banks
Piled up by human labour
            Long ago;
The gauge is leaning over
Its water-sodden planks.

Like lepers, sad, forsaken
            Of their kind,
The pine-trees’ naked trunks
Arise, – and from the stagnant
            Swamp behind,
Bereft and bare of branches,
Reach up their withered stumps.

O’ergrown with matted bushes
            Is the race,
Close by a ruined flume,
Where black pipes hissed the water
            On the “face,”
And swart and sweating sluicers
Drenched in the flying spume.

Here lies a rusty shovel:
            All about
Old boxes, rotten planks,
Just as the owners left them –
            “Duffered out!”
Oft have the blows of hammers
Rung on these rock-built banks.

Once, down this silent gully
            Laughter woke
The echoes of the gorge,
And from these ruined chimneys
            Issued smoke;
And loud the bellows panted
On yonder broken forge.

Oft round the camps at even
            Tales were told,
And songs of many lands
Sung by the fire of rata;
            Miners old
Joined in the “lang syne” chorus
And gripped each other’s hands.

Where are ye now, old comrades?
            Past alarms,
Past lust of gold or gilt!
The sinews of a nation
            In your arms,
Out of your strength and folly
A Nation ye have built!

 

 

‘A Deserted Diggings: Maoriland,’ Bulletin 5 Oct 1901: 3. Lola. ML.
See also ‘A Deserted Diggings,’ Verses 1905: 62-64.




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Last updated 30 May, 2013