Poem: God’s Own Country

God's Own Country

Thomas Bracken (1843-1898)
Thomas Bracken (1843-1898) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1869 a young 25 year-old Irish man from County Monaghan by the name of Thomas Bracken moved to New Zealand where he took up residence in Dunedin. Bracken had been sent to Australia at the age of 10 after his mother died and spent much of his time around the Geelong area. It was his time in New Zealand that inspired a skill in writing and he went from pharmacist apprentice and drover come shop keeper to a winner of literary awards and poet. He went on to acquire himself a position at the Otago Guardian and a career in journalism was born. Most famously it was Thomas Bracken who penned the New Zealand National Anthem called God Defend New Zealand.

If you enjoy the poem below then please accept this special invitation to visit God’s Own Country.

 

God’s Own Country

 

Give me, give me God’s own country! there to live and there to die,
God’s own country! fairest region resting ‘neath the southern sky,
God’s own country! framed by Nature in her grandest, noblest mould;
Land of peace and land of plenty, land of wool and corn and gold!
Where the forests are the greenest and the rugged mountains rear
Noble turrets, towers, and spires, piercing through the ambient air;
Rising to the gates supernal, pointing Godwards through the blue,
When the summer’s sunny splendours tip them with a nameless hue,
And the gusts of winter gather snow and sleet and mist and cloud,
Weaving many a curious mantle, many a quaint fantastic shroud.
Oh! the mountains of New Zealand! wild and rugged though they be,
They are types of highest manhood, landmarks of a nation free.
Pleasure-ground of the Pacific! brightest region on the main!
Land of many a rushing river, verdant valley, fertile plain!

I revisit thee in fancy, all thy wonders rise once more,
Once again, enthrall’d, I listen to old Tongariro’s roar;
Tarawera roused to fury, belches forth his molten wrath,
And a host of fiery demons dance along his flaming path,
Boiling cauldrons, foaming geysers, lakes whose bosoms leap with fear;
Well and truly it is written – “wonderland is really here!”
Shift the scene! Night grows to morning, morn soon ripens into day.
Lovely islands crowd and cluster in a bright and placid bay,
Silver ripples shimmer softly on the bosom of the deep;
And the mountains see their faces, for the wind is fast asleep.
Bay of Island! bay of beauty! who would dream that such a place
Should have been a scene of slaughter, man ‘gainst man, and race ‘gainst race;

Yonder, in the little churchyard, mouldering tombstones sadly tell
Tales of valour and of honour, records of how brave men fell
In the sacred cause of duty; thanks to God, those days are o’er,
And the old race and the new race now are enemies no more.
Sweep we round by Rangitoto, with his rough and rocky crest,
Grim old guardian of the gateway leading out to ocean’s breast;
Takapuna slumbers, deeply Waitemata opens its arms,
All its loveliness unfolding, circled by a hundred charms;
Fly we on to Taranaki, and ‘neath Taranaki’s shade we stand—
Taranaki, monarch of the mountains! bold, majestic, solemn, grand;
Rising from the pleasant pastures, climbing to the clouds alone
Peerless, and without a rival, proudly sits he on his throne.

It is morning in the summer, and the monarch is arrayed
In his pure white cap and mantle, which were never known to fade.
All the blue above is speckless, only one small cloud is seen
Sleeping on the mountain’s bosom, nestling ‘twixt the gold and green;
Now it seems as if awakening, slowly it begins to creep
Upwards in a spiral column, making for the summit steep,
But it fails to reach the apex, so it curls itself away
Round about the monarch’s shoulders, like a silken scarf of grey;
And the East flings out its glories on the monarch as he stands,
Crowning him with sparkling jewels, richly set in golden bands,

On we go by happy homesteads, on to Wanganui’s flood–
Oft where Wanganui’s waters, in the old time, stained with blood;
Now along the stately river flocks and herds o’er uplands graze,
Peace has swept away for ever traces of the warlike days.
Leap we o’er the hills and valleys to Poneke’s noble tide,
On whose swelling breast the navies of the Universe might ride,
Safely ride beneath the shadows of the mighty hills that keep
Watchful and ward against the tempests, born upon the outer deep.
Soar from island unto island, for were we to tarry here,
Tracing all the North-land’s beauties, we might linger for a year.
Fancy’s wings are swift and silent, o’er the sea and o’er the Strait–
Canterbury smiles before us, Ah! we have not time to wait;
Fly we o’er green pictures shining in their frames of spring’s new gold,
Fly we past the smiling homesteads, fly we over the field and fold–

Onward o’er the pass of Arthur! Magicland is drawing near–
Halt! the Gorge of wildest grandeur opens up its wonders here;
Look below; and gaze above us! was there ever grander sight?
Here is every shade of darkness; here is every tint of light;
Listen to the torrent roaring in the deep ravine below,
See the cataracts descending from their home among the snow,
See the pine and larch and rata climbing up the mountain walls,
Hearken to the tumbling torrents answering the distant falls.
Weird Otira! grand Otira; is there any other clime
That can show us such a picture, so entrancing so sublime?
Down the Gorge and through the valley, over floods that fret and foam,
As the rush among the boulders, hast’ning to their Ocean home;

Now the matchless forests open all their brightness on the scene,
And the gladdened eye is feasting on a hundred tints of green.
We must leave the lordly forest– “Stay, oh, stay,” the wood-nymphs sing;
“Stay, oh, stay,” the fairies whisper; “Stay, oh, stay,” the bell-birds ring.
Fancy will not fold her pinions; onward, onward we must go
Where Mount Cook in icy armour guards his pyramids of snow.
Fancy can outwing the lightning, fancy can outwing the wind–
Hill and plain and glen and valley soon are left far, far behind.
We are resting on the high land over New Edina’s town,
Wrapt in perfect admiration, looking up, and looking down—
Upwards at the wooded mountains, tinted now by opening day,

Downwards at the noble city, stretching round the lovely bay.
One short flight and we are sailing over Taieri’s plains of corn,
Now we cross the lonely ranges, painted by the brush of morn;
Wanaka and Manapouri pass before our wondering sight;
Hawea, in sylvan softness, fills us with a calm delight;
Wakatipu’s deep dark waters, walled by mighty mountains, raise
All our highest aspirations, till the soul is filled with praise.
Here the poet soon might gather subject for a thousand lays,
Here the artist might discover rich employment all his days.

God’s own country! God’s own country! we must hasten o’er the sea,
Filled with sweetest recollections of thy beauty; blessing thee,
Wishing thee all future greatness, bidding thee “Advance! advance!”
Fruitful land, and land of wonder, richest region of romance!
Mitre Peak, erect, majestic, slowly vanishes from view,
And the distant waves are moaning, as we cry “Adieu! adieu!”

 – by Thomas Bracken

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Do we have Empathy with Suicide?

A while back I mentioned “The Box”, a cardboard filing box full of old writings, poetry and creative work I had worked on particularly when I was involved in youth work at our local church. During that time I had a job working as car salesman at a local Toyota car yard and from a tragic situation I wrote the poem on this page called “My Friend of Eight Months”. Attached to the car sales was a mechanical workshop, a parts division and a Shell petrol station. While everyone worked different hours and the business embodied a wide range of personalities including mine, the focal point was a social room where people would gather for drinks and a game of pool after work.

It was here that I met a young man who started work at the petrol station. He was a great guy, always encouraging and seemed to constantly have a smile on his face and a spring in his step. Sadly it was this same young man who didn’t seem to have a care in the world who didn’t turn up for work one Saturday morning. He had committed suicide the night before after his shift. I don’t know what was the tipping point. I have no idea whether his burden was one he had carried for so long that he had found a way to make it look like he had it sorted out. Maybe something hit him that night or week that he felt unprepared to deal with.

Suicide is the hardest level of empathy. I know he deserves my understanding. He had my respect as a friend and a colleague. Sadly now there is no way to empart the empathy or listening ear that might have heard a clue or connected two dots to help him avoid this fate. We wish that there had been a way to connect him to counselling that may have seen him through the mire he was in. It may have come to pass, but for him counsel was either unavailable or in a place he could connect. I’ve tried now to listen better and be a better friend to others. I know I still get busy but I grew in a small way to think that a smile doesn’t always reveal a heart. As I dealt with his death I wrote this poem a little while after his funeral.

If you have known or have walked alongside someone who has committed suicide I’d love your thoughts in the comments below the post. Many thanks for being willing to share.

My Friend of Eight Months

Thinking back is to late and worthless
Except to remember the good
His pleasure of friendship
The wide smile of greeting
His zeal to assist me
The dry sense of humour

I wonder what life was like for him
All that can be done is learn
Urgency meant rush, rush, rush
His music turned to peak
Drive and get around alot
His style was loud to impress

Wish we could turn the clock back one week
But how would we know?
His manner was jovial then
Was he different to you and I?
His personal life quite unknown
Remorse and sorrow mix bitter sweet

Written: 16/3/1991
Author: Andrew Pitchford