I stood on the hills. A star-crowned night
Flung fainting day from the mountain height,
Where she wearily crept to die;
Sunless and grey grew her golden light,
As the blood from her crushed heart stained the sky.
Soon the red blaze from the sky was gone,
And the thin young moon smiled palely on
Grey, rolling bush, and the peaks agleam
With the fadeless snow of winters gone;
On the towering heights and winding stream.
Far away I heard a night hawk’s cry
From the mountain fortress dark and high,
Echoed back from a distant hill;
I heard the restless night breeze sigh,
As it swept o’er the forest vast and still.
Then all was hushed, not a night-bird spoke,
Not a sound the sleeping echoes woke;
A sense of terror tranced the air,
But the rustling pines the stillness broke.
Was it only the night-wind wailing there?
The young moon sank, and the air grew dense,
Still there lurked a deadly, drawn suspense,
A subtle menace in the night,
A fear in the hushed air, strained and tense,
And only the stars shed a dim, blue light.
A deep sound rolled through the night’s unrest,
I felt the heave of the mountains breast –
Was it the c rash of cloud on cloud,
And that muffled rumble in the west,
But the thunder rending its woven shroud?
No! in the clear sky many a star
Pulsed high, and the clouds were few and far;
But hark! again that hollow sound!
And a rock, loosed from the mountain sear,
Struck the stones below with a dull rebound.
I saw the towering ranges bow,
And their dusky pines wave to and fro;
Again a spasm shook the earth!
And again that sullen roll below
Of her bowels, torn by the pains of birth.
The great earth quivered, but would not yield
As she strove to keep her anguish sealed,
While shrinking Nature held her breath;
The staggering mountains round me reeled,
And swayed on the brink of a hungry death!
I felt a heave and a roll below,
With a plunge and fierce convulsive throe
The roaring mountain rent apart!
The labouring earth rocked to and fro,
Night shook with each throb of her mighty heart.
Flung high from the red volcano’s well
Hot showers of liquid lava fell,
Rocks flew up in the lurid light;
Belched from the chasm of yawning hell
The red fire leapt through the startled night!
Then a hush, and all was deadly still,
Save the lava trickling down the hill,
And the muffled growl of the earth,
And the night breeze blowing cold and chill
‘Mid the trembling trees on the forest girth.
A sullen roar, and a blinding glare,
The hot sparks flew through the stifling air,
And scattered a fiery blight:
The mountain tottered; then silence – where?
Swallowed in blackness, inscrutable night!
* * * * *
I think of that night so long ago,
When I watched the sunset’s crimson glow,
Gild the clouds in the hazy west;
And the young moon lit the tranquil snow
‘Ere she followed the sun and sank to rest.
I think of the tall peaks dark and high,
The pine-trees rocked in the south winds sigh,
How the snow on the ranges show
Like fleecy clouds on a summer sky;
Oh! where are the pine-trees – the mountain? – Gone!
To-night I gaze on an altered scene;
Where tree-clad terraces once have been
A hot-spring bubbles on the plain,
And black bats flit down a dark ravine
Where the r ugged hill-side was rent in twain.
Where tall trees wavering shadows threw,
Now, wild swans swim in the dark bayou;
Tons of lava, and stones, and dust
Lie fathoms deep where a forest grew,
And boulders coated with iron rust.
Where I heard the night hawks shrilly call,
And saw the trees on the steep hill wall
Stirred by the cool breeze darkly wave;
To-night, the quivering moon-beams fall
On a lake that winds o’er a mountain’s grave!
‘Two Nights,’ Canterbury Times 9 Mar 1893: 43. Rosalie Ridge, Westland.
See also Verses 1905: 65-67.