Robin Hyde, “Exquisite Bond”
19 texts in manuscript and typescript


In February 1937 Hyde spent three weeks at Whangaroa Harbour in Northland, living in a shack on Fish Factory Point and typing the final draft of The Godwits Fly. It was a highly productive time. She also drafted a number of poems which reflect her preoccupation with a dazzling, immanent landscape and its inhabitants. Many of the poems, including the first 30 pages of The Book of Nadath, were written on pad paper watermarked Exquisite Bond. Three poems (“Sand,” “The Last Ones” and “Descendants”) were later typed and given to her psychiatrist, Dr G M Tothill. In this section, the Exquisite drafts and fragments from Whangaroa, plus a number of other poems that lead out into the writing of 1937, demonstrate Hyde’s creative energies at a point of origin. Some of the material is discussed in the introduction to The Book of Nadath (Auckland UP, 1999).

Here by the hand of fate,
Beyond the last fall of land
Lie shapen the high-arched delicate
Ribs of the sand.
Clear as the ribs of a vessel
By one wave’s anger undone,
Over them white gulls wrestle,
Into them sears the sun.

Childless white body, that gives
Token of flowers nor of fruit,
Save the paraha vine, who lives
With thirst for a root;
Who shall make bold with the sand,
His foot on these glistening crests?
He who is held by no hand,
Who is weary of lips and breasts.

He shall lie in the lap of the sand,
Head thrown back on her knee.
With her hands seeping into his hand —
Each grain was an argosy.
Hot and strange is her cup,
Strange is her love
Not when the foam wells up
Shall he murmur or move.


AU 564 Ms of “Sand.” Exquisite Bond.
Another ts is annotated “Spirits Bay.”



Clasp me about the knees, white gods beneath Reinga!
Sullen gods and aloof, long left to your brooding,
Yea, if the word be for wrath, think now of the pakeha vessels,
The young stubborn smokes beneath old altars exuding!
Stretch out the arms of your strength, and call the young waves like chieftains
That dash their white plumes of pleasure far out to sea.
Yet this that was given in an hour shall not in a life be taken —

I have known in an hour the dream and the song I was meant to be.

Black horse, with the mane flicking his wind-clipped side,
And the parrakeets of a sunset, the pools in the mangroves red,
But at last (in the ti-tree lying,) five stars of ominous pride
Held in their crucifix by the dark hands overhead.
And the bearded lips of the hill whispered, against my mouth —


AU 598 Untitled ms. Exquisite Bond.


The black horse switched his tail; along his flanks
Wind tapered in a restless stream,
Turned, he
Loveisyouroverwhelming theme.

                    glowing Indian corn
Old Maria’s rich barbaric maize
Was a wand once, in Montezuma’s house.

The Mirror.


AU 580, p. 3 verso.
Ms fragments of “The Last Ones,” “Descendants” and
“Whangaroa Harbour.” Exquisite Bond.



The Last Ones

But the last black horse of all
Stood munching the green-bud wind,
And the last of the raupo huts
Let down its light behind.
Sullen and shadow-clipped
He tugged at the evening star,
New-mown silver swished like straw
Across the manuka.

As for the hut it said
No word but its meagre light,
Its people slept as the dead
Bedded in Maori night.
“And there is the world’s last door,
And the last world’s horse,” sang the wind,
“With little enough before,
And what you have seen behind.”


ACL 412  Ts at rear of 1934 Autobiography.
Another AU ts is annotated “Spirits Bay 1937.”




Somewhere behind her sliding wooden window
Old Kahu pads about, scrapes off the plates

That did for starvelings’ supper, turns down low
Wick of a battered lantern, contemplates
Ten children, cuddled in a threadbare rug;
(Small dreams and puppy nakedness beneath);
Watches the golden light crawl off a bug,
Then grins her endless smile of broken teeth,
Dreaming again of last month’s picture-show.

The yellow corn-cobs from her sulky garden
Shine up, barbaric wands with topaz set;
Arrogant as the armlets of a dream,
Gleam on a platter, soiled and silver-wet,
Three fish she caught with that old mended net.
But brighter, watching days without surmise,
With calm beyond the goad-man’s praise or pardon,
The immemorial blaze of chieftain eyes,
She need not call to memory, or forget.


ACL 412  Ts at rear of 1934 Autobiography.



Not broken yet, this mirror of the morning,
The heart-shaped polished nephrite of the sea.
Oh, mirror of mornigs, shield of steely twilights!
Cannot your look assuage and counsel me?

Never a green life shirring in the thickets
But knows some keyword, that its life is spent,
Death-dogged and secret, and a flash of wings,
But not perverse; not wholly malcontent.

And Pani holds aloft the beaded maize,
And tilts her jewelled basket of the moon
For all but him whose hopes ride out too far
On great white horses, in a nameless noon.

Shall none behold thee but the goddess daughters
Who look again and see themselves new-fair,
And burn across the skies, and light a morning
With the heavy candelabra of their hair?


AU 565 Ms of “Whangaroa Harbour.” Exquisite Bond.
There is an AU ts annotated “Whangaroa 1937.”



Oh! sweet poets – masters of mosaic,

Your gods stand rooted — Apollo
Never done with the lyre, white Venus, lusty Mars,
Each with fixed faces;
But Lanis knows the gods in different guise —
Lanis knows gods that take the trees for tresses,
And with wide nostrils, snuffing on the wind
The tang of lust or fear – stumbling, unused
To movement, grasping mighty thoughts for clubs,
Lanis knows gods gone hunting in the dark —

Show me a god, you show me larger male,
Immortal gusto,

And all the gods that swim up through the shallows —


AU 609 Ms fragment of “The Temple Sweeper.”



The Temple Sweeper

Sweet poets, servants free of that divine
And grotto’d utterance, hearkeners to the choice
Many-pearled wisdoms of the echoed voice
You still re-echo — what a task is thine!
Fitly to seek the god, sagely to hear
His oracle — and, with the cultured ease
Of balanced hearts enriched by centuries,
At times to make his thoughts a thought more clear.

Lords of the whole mosaic — how you fit
Gem into gem, lost contours round-expressed
As the smooth curving of a woman's breast —
Lapis by jade, vermeil by turquoise bit!
What’s strange to you?


AU 604 Ms fragment. Exquisite Bond.



If you have meant the land-locked fires burning
Out of those upward palms the cups of me,
Or the redder fires that fell, the downward-turning
Hair of pohutukawa tree;
Both fires were quick : but mine struck out by blunder —
Old flint of mind on sick heart’s yearning.
But one a fire that grows and gleams, a wild wonder.
Mine the wit : tree’s the learning.

Anyhow though you spoil a line for me,
Sarin, you loved the tree.


AU 566 Ms of “To Sarin, Who Drew a Tree and a Woman.”



Among Neighbours

Spirit, spirit, come feed from my hand:
Be not so trembling, so anxious to fly.
At least I can school you to understand
What bean climbs up to the sky from our land:
(And the hungry cat, our foeman, prowls nigh.)
Taste I your white grains brushed together
You, my wisdom out of the weather —
We could be brothers, you and I.

Understand! Understand!
When the sea is vile with the oil from a ship,
On draggled wings that beat and slip
The spent tern sinks to die.
And the way of forcing our truth to lie
Was, squeeze it tight in your hard hot hand.
(The stranger swore he would understand,
You left no space that we sing or fly.)
So of all men perilous, all men curst,
I hate my powerful neighbour the worst:
He holds me sweating, here in Hand,
And watches me with an Eye.


AU 499.2 Ts annotated “Whangaroa Harbour.”



Learn the strength of the old song
And learn that it is no more:
Learn in the dusk, singer,
Out of quiet’s door,
How love comes like a hind,
Not for thy weighty reasons,
But because of a white dew underfoot
And a grass that tells the seasons.
When she is gone away,
Cast about and call,
No spoor of pollen leads down the dark,
No fallen flower at all.

An ill place to quarrel, sweet,
Here in the reach
Of the great glass waves, shattering
Clear on the beach.
Here, where I touch your arm,
(Between our words,)
It is scarce more in substance
Than the light-boned birds;
As a small boat’s mast
It is little and thin;
All things seem frail; swept
By the hoarse combers in;


AU 599 Untitled ms, second stanza a draft for “Sisters.” Exquisite Bond.




In a dream not long sped,
I stood on the sands, in the glassy-shattering reach of the waves,
Quarrelling with my sister,
And caught her arm, as in their first furious childish quarrel
Cain caught at Abel’s sleeve.
Then I felt how thin her wrist was — thin as a young child’s wrist,
Hardly more than the bones of the snowy alighting birds,
Or the mast of a boy’s blue boat;
So slight the garment of flesh, thin the bone beneath,
Evanescent her young mortality.
But before I could see her eyes or speak her name,
The wave broke, covering all,
Brightening, enlarging the rock-pools.


AU 515 Ts.



Dreaming I knew the vigil years were gone,
Thawed like snow in moonlight, spent like spring’s white clover;
Yet I remembered not whose lips lay late upon
My eyes, nor felt the dark disturbed by my lover —
He that had been and passed, and broken seals
Of the locked sense, spilling with sweet my hour,
Was ghostly as the dusk that of a longing healed
Binds close the golden thread of pollen in the flower.


AU 597 Untitled ms. Exquisite Bond.



Writing unsteadily, without hope of a word enduring,
I think how others, the great ones, were in like case —
Old Swift crying out for Stella. Past cause or curing
For Shelley, the lonely flame of Mary Godwin’s face,

Shakespeare musing on winged brows dark and scornful,
Holy in pride of flesh as his sonnet’s pride,
And ever in Byron’s thought, alert and mournful
The unforgotten eyes of the sister bride.


AU 602 Untitled ms. Exquisite Bond.



But in the dream,
We had come through fear and famine, blood and filth,
And were after a long time re-united,
Around us the lamp shed its cold blossom spilth,
And we sat in the peasant’s hut benighted.
Happy, I rested my head against your knee,
And said, “I will bear you all the sons you wish.”
There was a platter of blue upon the hearth,
With a meal of bread and little broken fish.


AU 603 Unititled ms of “The Miracle of Abundance.” Exquisite Bond.



My tears I think are not as women’s tears
Raining down fierce and sharp from the womb of sorrow,
Till the woman cries out, and so her child Ease is born:
Nor a light play of the fountains of light grief
Some women wear their tears like strings of pearls
About their necks; some like an old worn rosary
Secretly fumbled at night, rubbed smooth with woe:
And in some the hard tears freeze to burning crystal —
Such women’s eyes will stab you all life long.
Yet in tears God knows there is peace and plentitude,
Ripe flowers spring from a dust much bruised by rain,
Yet I, who have wept before you,
Wear not my tears for an ease or an adornment.
If there be after-flowers, I gather them not.

Look upwards: see the strange mountains of what-I-know-not
Slope from the human mind, like the sharp-back profiles
Of native ancestors lost with the smoke of their tents.
if beyond that farthest peak, that rock where the sun smites glittering-sandalled,
They dwell and are placid, who can say,
Or if my tears are the rain of their heavy pastures?
Sometimes, in the night, wandering a little, disconsolately
From the clutch of what I know,
With the sweet-faced moon beside me, a blind boy guide,
I have thought to trace in my own dust, flesh-dust, slender footprints,


AU 594 Partial ms of “The Nomads.”

There is a ts annotated “Titirangi 1937,” which is the title of the poem as it appears in Houses.



And yet without me, oh God, how will you find life? And not only through the articulate, but through all, woman and beast, bird and plant, who suffer the growth and bear the pangs. Then because I am necessary — unless you want the crystal desolation of a world with nothing but sands and tides, and that indeed I could well understand — do not let me be disgraced. Man cannot be so great, since I by whiles confine him in my womb.  . . .  And Lanis knows the gods in different guise; Lanis knows gods who take great trees for staves, the boulders for their laughter, streams for cloaks; Lanis knows gods gone hunting after dark.

            That's part of a poem I wrote once, but didn’t finish.

This grass was not too slight for you
To carve its jade flutes slim and true;
And every lucent leaf that stirs
Silently from thy ministers
(Sunlight and dew and soft-haired rain)
Draws beauty through each shining vein.
Ah, let such life unceasingly
Ripen to steadfast growth in me;
And let thy tall and standing grain
Be bountiful in me again.


A Home 38-39. Poem unidentified.



More than established now: stilled and enabled,
Passing beneath the naked osier tree,
To know the fine red whips, the one bird halted;
Look on them, like last look; and let them be.

This was the peace: past understanding, said they,
But not past flowing through the large hands human.
As the tide quickens; as the entering man
Comes to break bread and firelight with the woman.

Old lanterns flamed it, high from smoky throats,
The river spread it, spittle through the arches
Where blind men clung. But clear today it floats
On the road between the seaward-looking larches.

The guest is gone: then now the buds of gorse,
Rough honeyed rafts, drift up the senses’ river,
Seen but set free, partaken and with-held,
And in this dream to last this day, Forever.

Shield them their secrets: when the earth is stripped
She takes her god for mirror, he his land.
Come not against the clear trees, covetous-lipped:
On a hill’s curve never tighten, hand.

So merry and so still the two sails lean
Against the shadow of an island’s side.
One out of me throws off his clouts unclean,
Runs, and grows far in tide.


AU 576 Ms of “The Seaward Road.”




Be very quiet, young earth; be on your guard,
Lest a sudden colour or cry break through her ease.
Remember what spells he taught her underground —
The rocky petals, music of little sound,
And the loose-haired rivers shaken about her knees.
Softly with delicate hues and a faint scent woo her,
Hang on her throat white bells of your flowers first-found.
Later the burning flagons, the rose and anemones —
But remember, eyes darker than dream, lips colder, pursue her.

Send her asquires, the flowers with the harsh green tlps,
Spiked arums, surcoated boys with their banners furled;
Hailstorm of snowdrops; the clematis’ quiet lips . . . . .
(Green was the flickering light of the underworld,
Green his last caverns. that watched her swaying. half-falllng)
Gently begin the talk of your delicate lutes,
Of birds new-wakened, a sharpening cry in her brain.
Let her glance down at her palms; behold again
The small blanched kiss of a sunbeam; and calling, calling,
One bird, an oboe behind the thronging flutes,
Gather her scattered beads on his fine-drawn chain.

Little by little, let her guess lamb from cloud,
(Both being tender;) let the great shapes of trees
Spell out in patient letters her news of spring.
Let the thin mayflies court her, before the bees
Dapple the foxgloves with burring song and loud.
Let her remember slowly; the faint smile cling
To her lips, the remembered odours quiver and pass.
Not till his footprint melts from the frosty grass
Bring her the flagons, the rose and anemones.


LJ Coll  Ts.


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