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Robin Hyde

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THE VICTORY HYMN 1935 - 1995


V. A family romance: the multiple texts

The present publication establishes multiple printed texts of ‘The Victory Hymn’, each distinctive and none more definitive than another. Two versions here may seem to claim authority: the Caxton 1952 setting and the Griffin Press setting of 1935 printed at the Holloway Press in 1995. Gloria Rawlinson selected a copytext for the former from several typescripts available to her without indicating why this version was preferred over any other. In the case of the 1935 setting, Hyde supplied a copytext and proofed the result, but since neither copytext nor corrected proof survives, the Griffin Press setting cannot claim authorial validation for either its 1935 or 1995 state. It is therefore impossible to valorise Griffin 1935-95 over Caxton 1952, or vice versa; the poem has always had more than one text. Rather than trying to trace rival patterns of ancestry among the typescripts and holographs we should first understand ‘The Victory Hymn’ as a set of no fewer than ten autonomous productions, seven directly by Hyde’s hand, and three (*) by other agencies:

1935 Journal Holograph
1935 Journal Typed Copy *
Victory Song Holograph
Chariot Wheels Typescript
Schroder Typescript
Pink Typescript
Griffin Press Setting 1935-95 *
Caxton 1952 Copytext Typescript
Caxton 1952 Setting *
Christmas 1938 Typescript

Not one of the ten versions so far revealed exactly matches any other, even though one typescript is a copytext for the 1952 Caxton setting. While there is little chance of confining the proliferation of undated typings and holographs to notions of a valorised final version, there is a story of authorial and editorial process and specific occasion which makes possible a notion of what runs in this particular family of texts.

The holograph material associated with ‘The Victory Hymn’ seems to precede the typescripts. First there is the 1935 Journal entry of 13 June with its five lines of the poem that was to be Chariot Wheels". The undated sixteen-line fragment it is either quoting or which develops from those lines is written on bond paper 201 mm x 254 mm watermarked ‘Exquisite’, Iris Wilkinson Papers B-14 at AU. ‘The Victory Hymn’ proper is written out for what seems to be the first time at the back of the 1935 Journal.

1935 Journal Holograph. 3 bound pp., unsigned, at rear of hardback notebook 200 mm X 325 mm, watermarked Guaranteed British Made, Derek Challis Collection. A full draft entitled (in pencil) ‘For the lark’, probably the earliest version of the poem since it varies more than any other and has nine cancelled lines followed by a second start on the stanza concerned, suggesting a text still in process.

1935 Journal Typed Copy. 3 bound pp., APL. Gloria Rawlinson's typing of ‘For the lark’ in the bound typescript of the 1935 Journal at APL is substantively accurate but for two typos and several alternative turnovers.

Victory Song Holograph. 4 pp., signed, on paper 201 mm x 261 mm watermarked Original Superfine Ivory; p. 4 verso lists in pencil chapter titles 1-9 of Passport to Hell; Iris Wilkinson Papers B-14, AU. This is the only other holograph version and is entitled ‘The Victory Song’ with a cancelled subtitle: ‘(To be spoken by Chorus.)’. Their variant titles locate the 1935 Journal Holograph and the Victory Song Holograph close to the 13 June start of the project. The latter's subtitle also suggests its proximity to the play ‘Chariot Wheels’. A line has been omitted in this version near the end of the first section after ‘And the nomad soul of man’.

Chariot Wheels Typescript. 4 pp., typed signature, on paper 206 mm x 264 mm watermarked Ariel Bond; Derek Challis Collection. The poem is pp. 65-68 of one ‘Chariot Wheels’ playscript; the other does not include it. Hyde used her old machine for this and all other typings except the Christmas 1938 Typescript. The text is lightly corrected in ink (mostly additional punctuation) and pencil (some impending substitutions).

Schroder Typescript. 4 pp., typed signature, on paper 206 mm x 264 mm; pp. 1, 2, 4 watermarked Maoriland Bond, p. 3 watermarked Ariel Bond; J.H.E. Schroder Papers MS 280-08, ATL. A clean typescript. There is no mention of sending the poem in Hyde's surviving letters to Schroder and though many of her other poems in this collection were submitted for his weekly literary page in The Press (Christchurch), ‘The Victory Hymn’ was not published there. The page typed on Ariel Bond confirms the closeness of this version to the Chariot Wheels Typescript.

Pink Typescript. 4 pp., typed signature, on unwatermarked pink paper 209 mm x 267 mm; Iris Wilkinson Papers B-14, AU. Some ink corrections, mostly punctuation. This typescript is closer than any other to the Griffin Press Setting but is still distinct from it in several places. Where it is different, particularly near the close of the poem, it seems closest to the Christmas 1938 Typescript.

Griffin Press Setting 1935-95. The Holloway Press Archive, University of Auckland at Tamaki; first proof 22 July 1994. The 1935 linotype material provided alternatively worded author lines and appears to have transposed several lines of text. The transpositions may however stem from subsequent handling or shifting of the type metal in the printery at the Griffin Press. See pp. 28-39 for discussion of this version. The setting has some affinities with the Chariot Wheels Typescript, the Schroder Typescript and the Christmas 1938 Typescript but its closest links are with the Pink Typescript.

Caxton 1952 Copytext Typescript. 4 pp., typed signature, on unwatermarked white paper 200 mm x 256 mm; Iris Wilkinson Papers B-14, AU. A clean typing that shows distinct affinities with the Victory Song Holograph and some with the 1935 Journal Holograph. This relation to the holographs suggests one reason for Rawlinson's choice of copytext. There is no indication on the typescript itself that this was the text used for Houses by the Sea.

Caxton 1952 Setting. The book setting differs only by the substitution of a final comma (‘Shout, and your bubble of peace is burst,’) where the previously described typescript indicates a full point. Rawlinson placed the poem last in the section entitled ‘Poems 1935 to September 1936’, described in her Introduction (p. 20) as consisting of poems withdrawn from the first Persephone in Winter manuscript. ‘The Dusky Hills’ is also part of this section.

Christmas 1938 Typescript. 4 pp., typed signature, on paper 202 mm x 253 mm watermarked Wiggins Teape Waterton Bond 8, holograph inscription top right of p. 1; Iris Wilkinson Papers B-14, AU. Typed after January 1937 on new machine on 1938 paper, probably in England and perhaps using the Chariot Wheels Typescript (see discussion of this version pp. 33-37). As the last-typed version of the poem this shows the greatest number of unilateral variants among the typescripts, indicating that Hyde revised lightly as she retyped. The text is generally closer to the Chariot Wheels Typescript, the Pink Typescript, the Griffin Press Setting, and the Schroder Typescript than to the Caxton 1952 versions.

Resisting the monologic text

‘The Victory Hymn’ is by no means unusual among Hyde's poetry manuscripts in having multiple typed and holograph texts which are insistent in their variation of detail both substantive and accidental. This is not carelessness on Hyde's part; rather it shows in her poetry the same textual polishing that D.I.B. Smith remarks on in his comparison of the typescript and the published text of Passport to Hell. Any given page of the novel may disclose ‘between ten and thirty minor variants (spelling, punctuation, word-order, substantive verbal changes)’ as Hyde checks and trims her prose typescript.[28] Similar variations are at work in the poems, and ‘The Victory Hymn’ provides plenty of opportunity for watching Hyde try out synonyms that fit a particular metrical need (shining, shimmering, glimmering; weary, stumbling, labouring; set, sealed, graven; scattered, startled; child, son; thin, sharp; equal, level). Sometimes metrication is stretched in the substitution (the sun, quivering sun, the quivering sun; a golden spear, a spearhead, the spearhead, the spear-haft), and small parts of speech come and go among the versions as Hyde tries out their relative weights and measure. The first line offers an exemplary set of fors and buts that divides the holographs and the Caxton 1952 text from the other five versions – a pattern that is not always consistent or so neat because the texts shift about in their allegiances to one another and the shifts cannot be mapped as a progression toward some final rest. In her persistent tinkering with textual detail Hyde is an unwitting precursor of contemporary resistance to the monologic text; not that any text will do but that any number of texts might be needed to acknowledge the imbricated nature of poetic utterance. The present response (printed multiple texts) confronts an old problem in textual editing that new generation technology may soon resolve. Not every book production can afford the luxury of refusing a singular copytext, but CD-ROM technology can democratise access to the archives and give to any readership wanting it the delights (and bewilderments, and frustrations) of too many texts, too much variation. If this complexity is closer to how texts live in the hands of their authors (rather than at the hands of their editors), so much the better for textual scholarship which may begin new conversations about authors, editors and readers. So much the better, too, for the particular sense of occasion each reading brings to the delicately composite life of the poem.

©Michele Leggott

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Last updated 07 September, 2001