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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI. 1876–79.

Appendix: New Zealand

New Zealand Scenery

By Alfred Domett (1811–1887)

(From Ranolf and Amohia)

IT was a wondrous realm beguiled

Our youth amid its charms to roam;

O’er scenes more fair, serenely wild,

Not often summer’s glory smiled;

When flecks of cloud, transparent, bright—

No alabaster half so white—

Hung lightly in a luminous dome

Of sapphire—seemed to float and sleep

Far in the front of its blue steep;

And almost awful, none the less

For its liquescent loveliness,

Behind them sunk—just o’er the hill—

The deep abyss, profound and still,

The so immediate Infinite,

That yet emerged, the same, it seemed

In hue divine and melting balm,

In many a lake whose crystal calm

Uncrisped, unwrinkled, scarcely gleamed;

Where sky above and lake below

Would like one sphere of azure show,

Save for the circling belt alone,

The softly painted purple zone

Of mountains, bathed where nearer seen

In sunny tints of sober green,

With velvet dark of woods between,

All glossy glooms and shifting sheen;

While here and there some peak of snow

Would o’er their tenderer violet lean.

And yet within this region, fair

With wealth of waving woods,—these glades

And glens and lustre-smitten shades,

Where trees of tropic beauty rare

With graceful spread and ample swell

Uprose,—and that strange asphodel

On tufts of stiff green bayonet-blades,

Great bunches of white bloom upbore,

Like blocks of sea-washed madrepore,

That steeped the noon in fragrance wide,

Till, by the exceeding sweet opprest,

The stately tree-fern leaned aside

For languor, with its starry crown

Of radiating fretted fans,

And proudly springing beauteous crest

Of shoots all brown with glistening down,

Curved like the lyre-bird’s tail half spread,

Or necks opposed of wrangling swans,

Red bill to bill, black breast to breast,—

Ay! in this realm of seeming rest,

What sights you met and sounds of dread!

Calcareous caldrons, deep and large

With geysers hissing to their marge;

Sulphureous fumes that spout and blow;

Columns and cones of boiling snow;

And sable lazy-bubbling pools

Of sputtering mud that never cools;

With jets of steam through narrow vents

Uproaring, maddening to the sky,

Like cannon-mouths that shoot on high,

In unremitting loud discharge,

Their inexhaustible contents;

While oft beneath the trembling ground

Rumbles a drear persistent sound

Like ponderous engines infinite, working

At some tremendous task below!

Such are the signs and symptoms—lurking

Or launching forth in dread display—

Of hidden fires, internal strife,

Amid that leafy, lush array

Of rank luxuriant verdurous life:

Glad haunts above where blissful love

Might revel, rove, enraptured dwell;

But through them pierce such tokens fierce

Of rage beneath and frenzies fell;

As if, to quench and stifle it,

Green Paradise were flung o’er Hell,—

Flung fresh with all her bowers close-knit,

Her dewy vales and dimpled streams;

Yet could not so its fury quell

But that the old red realm accurst

Would still recalcitrate, rebel,

Still struggle upward and outburst

In scalding fumes, sulphureous steams.

It struck you as you paused to trace

The sunny scenery’s strange extremes,

As if in some divinest face,

All heavenly smiles, divinest grace,

Your eye at times discerned, despite

Sweet looks with innocence elate,

Some wan, wild spasm of blank affright,

Or demon scowl of pent-up hate;

Or some convulsive writhe confest,

For all that bloom of beauty bright,

An anguish not to be represt.

You look,—a moment bask in, bless,

Its laughing light of happiness;

But look again,—what startling throes

And fiery pangs of fierce distress

The lovely lineaments disclose,—

How o’er the fascinating features flit

The genuine passions of the nether pit!