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No. 51 (June 1965)
– 58 –

A Maori Mother's
Lament

The cooling air breathes autumn
And from the curving bay
The spirits moan.
The milling surf beats white
Against a rugged shore.
Here the kuaka gather for their northward flight
And clear runs Taputaputa, the stream
That bears all spirits to the far land's end.
And here, my brown and silent bird,
My babe, my little questing one—
Here, piteously, as young kuaka of the fragile wing,
You fear and wait the long, the lonely flight.
Far is the journey and my tiny love
Weeps for the comfort of my distant arms.
I weep for warmth I cannot give—
My unavailing love, remote and earthbound;
And these mine arms, forsake the one I love the most.
Cruel monster of the pool!
Cruel Whakarewarewa's whirling grave …
Blinding my babe to all your boiling hate.
Drawing his brown and naked feet
Towards the mocking music of your voice.
Dark hideous demon, in whose treacherous arms
The petals of his flowering scorched and drowned;
Your evil will has seared his laughing eyes.
Drawn snakey fingers through his shining hair;
Killed and despoiled my strong and lovely one …
Hear—hear my curses and my bitter grief.
They brought my fledgling to these empty arms,
Cold with the scent of death—a mockery of love.
My babe, so early sent upon the lonely way.
My dark-eyed darling … heavy is my pain!
My spirit longs to follow swiftly on,
To catch and hold you in a dear embrace:
At least, to bid you sweet and warm farewell.
Too small your feet to tread the Reinga and return
To far Hawaiki—to the spirit home.
The sun sinks low into the distant west.
I weep exhausted as kuaka cry.
My darling stands upon the Haumu ridge—
Stands fearful and is calling me.
The echo beats upon my throbbing ears—
My brown boy weeps … the whispering of the wind
Bears all his fears to wrack my lonely heart …
So small a ghost, whose fingers trembling weave
The leafy circlet for his baby head.
Loud weeps my heart, my arms to northward reach—
Seeking my son, my little spirit one.
Dark is the night and cold with autumn's breath …
Weeping and winter in this hour have come.