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No. 54 (March 1966)
– 40 –

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The drawings illustrated on this page are from South Island rock shelters. The Kaingaroa Forest drawings which are the subject of the poem depict canoes.

On Viewing Ancient Maori Drawings in a Cave Kaingaroa Forest

Wind from Taupo
cooler than this roof of umbrella pines
cannot stir the mystery in the air
of this recess in rocks,
this mossed and marbled ledge
where hands from ancient times
wrought their symbols in gentle lines.

Warriors? Hunters? Or were they merely
sheltering from some demoniac storm
under the flutings of this fine ledge?
Who will know this secret of lines,
this entombed utterance of Man?
We can only surmise
that they were travellers
hungry, dog-tired
who sought harbour for an hour or two
using fingers to while away that time.

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Some Maori rock drawings date from very early times, but others are comparatively recent.