new zealand electronic poetry centre


Kendrick Smithyman

online works


Lady, when the first swan professed
her main concern it was dignity
she named. Three elements compassed
in one nature a boded purity
                   No precedent informed
her making.  Her peers went disarmed.

Swans principally strike across
one’s daydreaming their great wings outspread
to better sunrise, making less
of a moody wind; then, declining, tread
where osiers clash whose underworlds let free
those we thought death obstinately
had penned – Leda’s clan there may walk
colonial as cobs downwater
slide into misgiving, small talk
among brown shades. The birds get to clatter
their red bills with their mates’. Soon they design
fallacies, of a drifting line.

Water and earth with air combine
(you so instructed me) in spirit
not as the common fowl’s – disdain,
in part a talent to be dedicate
as artists may be, seeking an extreme.
Is integrity the one theme?

Air, earth, and water. What of fire?
Is this their lack? Impertinent now
though so far honestly, I dare
your displeasure: Madam, will you allow
that with the excessive swan you may count
not virtues only, but this scant
capacity in fine to flame?
Hardly, I know. I should have gone
away from you, not bold to name
how I presumed to you, woman and Swan
Maiden, who saunter handsomest among
my white ambitions schemed too long.

Selected Poems. AUP 1989, p.21.



Last updated 11 May 2001