Great New Zealand Argument by Various Artists

New Zealand: A Maori Lament

by JACK TUAWHAIKI III (aka Bob Gormack), 1948

Ignorance can have its purpose. When I was reading through issue one of Bookie, a 1948 "miscellany" from Christchurch's Nag's Head Press for items that might make a Great New Zealand Argument, I was particularly taken with a polemic poem - New Zealand: A Maori Lament - by a Jack Tuawhaiki III.

From the context, I took the author to perhaps be a descend of the well-known Otago Ngai Tahu chief Tuhawaiki, or "Bloody Jack". Keen to do the right thing, I called the whakapapa office at Ngai Tahu to see if they could turn up anything more. (In retrospect, what was I thinking?)The chap there agreed that the poem sounded like good stuff.

It was only after that that I contacted Bob Gormack, the founder of Nag's Head, who still lives in Christchurch - and discovered that, in fact, he was the author of the poem, as he was of all the other merry diversions in the book. Did I still like the poem? Even more, in a way.

So Bob has a bottle of wine for his trouble He explains:

"We had a printing press in town called The Raven Press, and we were in opposition to the Caxton Press, in a way. They had a sort of monopoly on cultural attitudes. And it was a bit of a satirical answer to some the Caxton productions. They had a series of miscellanies called Book.

"I wrote it pretty quickly, really. We'd reached the stage with Raven Press where my partner wanted out of it, and we in the process more or less of selling out - so I thought I'd better do something while we had the chance. I wanted to do some writing - I had ambitions in that line. So I made sure I'd done something on the Raven Press before we lost control of it. It went to three rehab soldiers, who came back from the ware and took it over."

Bob couldn't say exactly from whence the poem below had sprung. But here it is, with all the original notes.

New Zealand: A Maori Lament
By Jack Tuawhaiki III (aka Bob Gormack)


O New Zealand!
O land of the long white cloud!
O home of my Polynesian ancestors!
O Lost land of the Pacific!
Let me write of your present-day sorrows;
Let me write them in savage syllables, in words of wormwood, with a pen dipped in vinegar;
Let me act as acid on marble, as leaven in baker's dough, as a raisin inserted in a bottle of beer;
Let me tell the troubles of your sick heart;
Give me strength to utter true words,
To brave the wrath of my pakeha brothers with strong words,
To force a true cultural consciousness upon my pakeha brothers with deep, penetrating, vital, Polynesian words.
O New Zealand!

O New Zealand!
Why do the pakeha poets reject you?
Why do they complain of your cultural claustrophobia, your insular isolation, your geographical gimcracks?
Why do they reject your tuis and bellbirds and red rata flowers?
Why do they blame it all on you?
Why do they say these hard things about you?

That your streams deepen so slowly,
That your rivers run so remorselessly,
That erosion takes place,
That your hills wait so endlessly,
That your mountains rise so rapidly,
That your beaches flatten so horizontally,
That your volcanoes belch so unsympathetically,
That your lakes lie so incredibly deep,
That the seas so insuperably encircle you,
That your bush darkens so despairingly,
That your bellbirds and tuis sing so somberly in your dark despairing bush,
That your red rata flowers are no credit to your dark pre-pakeha bush.

Why do they say these things?
Why do they blame it all on you?
Don't they realise that there are streams, rivers, hills, mountains, beaches, volcanoes, lakes, bush, flowers and singing birds in other parts of the world?
Why do they blame it all on you?
What is the matter with them?
O New Zealand!

O New Zealand!
O land of my fathers!
O miracle of Maui!
What about the other pakehas, the silent ones, the ordinary ones, the mere, middle-class, mercantile, motor-car-owning, make-a-living pakehas?
(It is always so hard to write of the other pakehas.)
Why do they fulminate so furiously at football matches?
Why are they so gone on gambling?
Why are they so hopeless and hot-headed about horse-racing?
Why are they so miserably mortified by mortgages, magpies and mercantile firms?
Why is the R.S.A.?
Why is there no one comfortable and complacent in the whole length of the land?
Why don't they give you some of the credit for it?
Why don't they say some nice things about you for a change? -
That you are God's own country,
That you provide the highest standard of living in the world,
That your peoples are the most generous and hospitable in all the world,
That freedom exists within your confines, as never freedom has existed before,
That your scenery is the most scenic in the Southern Hemisphere,
That you don't do so badly, geographically speaking,
That you don't do so badly, politically speaking,
That you don't do so badly, climatically speaking,
That your fighting men are the most magnificent among many nations,
That your footballers have phenomenal fame.
Why don't they say some of these nice things about you?
Why don't they give you some of the credit for it all?
Why don't they?
What is the matter with them?
O New Zealand!

O New Zealand!
O home of my Polynesian ancestors!
O Romahapa, Rangi-ruru, Taranaki, Rerewaka, Urenui!
What a country it is to live in!
What a collection of petty, pesky pakehas have come to inhabit here!
O let me fade and fall away into forgetfulness!
Tutaekuri ...
Let me merge into antiquity like a moa into the mountains!
Tutaekuri, tutaekuri ...
Let me melt into the myth of the miracle of Maui!
Tutaekuri, tutaekuri, tutaekuri ...
Let me return to my Polynesian ancestors as quickly as I can ...

Author's Note: Ake! Ake! Kia kaha!

Translator's Note: At a time when so little modern Maori is being written or spoken in New Zealand, it is important that every effort should be made to foster and encourage the few among our native population who have discovered the need for vocal self-expression. In this connection the Editors of "Bookie" deserve to be congratulated for giving me this opportunity to bring the work of a little known Maori poet to the notice of a wider pakeha public. I must also state that the first suggestion of this translation came from a modest student of Polynesian languages on the staff of the Nag's Head Press. Every reader of the above poem will agree that the effort has been worth while. There can be little doubt that the works of Jack Tuhawhaiki III deserve to be better known to the educated white people of the Dominion. For my own part, however, I can take very little credit for the performance. It is a commonplace that all poetry loses greatly in the course of translation, but most particularly is this so of modern Maori poetry. Jack Tuahawhaiki III's poem is so full of the brooding mystery that Gaugin sensed in the Polynesian, his language so vivid and colourful, his imagery so vital and topical, his rhythms so subtle and alluring, that I have found it next to impossible to reproduce in cold English the true beauty and force of the original. I have almost despaired of catching the delicate nuances of feeling that are expressed so easily and naturally in the Maori tongue; but if I have managed to convey anything at all of this haunting Polynesian mystery I shall be well satisfied. I should point out that several words and phrases towards the end of the poem, old tribal names

and traditional cries of lamentation, have proved untranslatable. These, I have had to leave as I found them.

Editor's Note: Mr. Wakefield has too much of the modesty of the true scholar. We feel sure that his able and instructive translation requires not subsequent apology from his pen. Indeed, on a first reading of his English version, not only do we experience a certain measure of the brooding mystery that Gaugin sensed in the Polynesian, but we also share more than a slight suggestion of the haunting strangeness that Jack Tuhawhaiki III, the Polynesian, doubtless senses in his pakeha countrymen.

Typographical Advisor's Note: Taking into consideration the length of this poem it would neither be advisable nor economical to have it hand-set. The ideal face for a machine-setting of the work would be Linotype Baskerville - 11-point on a 12-point base. The correct tone of the pages could them be maintained by setting the title in some sympathetic 18-point type and the notes in some unobtrusive 8-point with italic captions.

Linotype Operator's Note: Set like a jelly! Baskerville is best!

Proof-reader's Note: I have nothing but admiration for these quiet, unassuming, unpretentious linotype operators (the busy backstage-men of the typographical world), who can unravel the most difficult passages of hand-written copy and yet makle sich a low percentagge of errors. This Baskerville type is eminently readable.

Compositor's Note: Occasional lines on these pages have been speced with 24-em (pica) 2-point leads. In some cases two 1-point leads were used in place of one 2-point lead.

Printer's Notes: These pages were hand-fed on to an old, German, power-driven, platen press. Very little make-ready was used. The actual printing was performed in the usual manner with hand-fed presses, .i.e., feeding with the right hand and flying with the left hand, at a rate of approximately 900 impressions per hour. As I worked on this job I could not help thinking, with some pride, of the humble contribution I was making to New Zealand literature. Such things are worth-while! I am representative of the working class and I can say so without, I hope, any suggestion of sentimentality. There can be no comparison between doing work of this kind and ordinary, commercial printing-jobs. Work of this nature makes one feel an individual, a craftsman. One becomes conscious of one's soul.