The first verse of this poem was on the same page as The Road Not Taken by Frost, in a book someone bought to our poetry group and I was sufficiently intrigued - partial poems always awake great curiosity in me - to find the rest; it's obviously set in New Zealand, but I find the last 4 lines very obscure and wonder what others make of them.
THE BAY by James K Baxter
On the road to the bay was a lake of rushes
Where we bathed at times and changed in the bamboos.
Now it is rather to stand and say:
How many roads we take that lead to Nowhere,
The alley overgrown, no meaning now but loss:
Not that veritable garden where everything comes easy.
And by the bay itself were cliffs with carved names
And a hut on the shore beside the Maori ovens.
We raced boats from the banks of the pumice creek
Or swam in those autumnal shallows
Growing cold in amber water, riding the logs
Upstream, and waiting for the taniwha.
So now I remember the bay and the little spiders
On driftwood, so poisonous and quick.
The carved cliffs and the great outcrying surf
With currents round the rocks and the birds rising
A thousand times an hour is torn across
And burned for the sake of going on living.
But I remember the bay that never was
And stand like stone and cannot turn away.
In Mâori mythology, Taniwha (IPA: /ˈtaniɸa/) are beings that live in deep pools in rivers, dark caves, or in the sea, especially in places with dangerous currents or deceptive breakers.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/31/2007 12:27PM by marian222.
Marian, I suspect the starkness of the ending may be linked to his alcoholism, or his preoccupation with death, or both. Have you any idea when it was written and/or from which of his published works it is taken?
An excellent website to use as a springboard for study of his work is [www.bookcouncil.org.nz] />
Thanks, Stephen - that was the first poem of his that I've come across and, apart from the clues in the poem to some New Zealand connection I knew nothing about him. Alcoholism would explain some of the enigma of the last 4 lines, but the 'bay that never was' baffles me.
The link you supplied gives an interesting biography of a complicated man - I shall look out for more of his work.
Thanks again for taking the trouble to answer.
My teacher gave me this poem to analyze and I have some trouble of understanding it as this is my first attempt to analyze a poem. If you have the time, could you explain a little story behind this poem?
This should get you started, but you also need to comment on other things lile rhyme (or lack of it) scansion etc, and tie in anything you know about the author - see the link Mr F gave me.
It's a reminiscence of childhood, as a better time than now. Quite what has happened to him in between, we don't know, as the last 4 lines are rather obscure. I think the lines 'A thousand times an hour is torn across and burned for the sake of going on living' may be a reference for resentment about time 'wasted' at work, rather than spent musing and playing, as a child would . the last line might be about depression because of knowing he can't go back to those innocent times. Thomas Hood wrote a poem called Past and Present, which has a very similar themeast and Present
Thomas Hood (1798–1845)
I REMEMBER, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon 5
Nor brought too long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away.
I remember, I remember
The roses, red and white, 10
The violets, and the lily-cups—
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,— 15
The tree is living yet!
I remember, I remember
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing; 20
My spirit flew in feathers then
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow.
I remember, I remember 25
The fir-trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now ’tis little joy 30
To know I’m farther off from Heaven
Than when I was a boy.
Here's a coincidence. I have just started work (for a University module) on The Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse 1945-1980, chosen by D J Enright: and it includes nine poems by Baxter: Mandrakes For Supper; A Family Photograph 1939; To a Print of Queen Victoria; Evidence at the Witch Trials; The Inflammable Woman; News from a Pacified Area; A Dentists's Window; The Apple Tree; The Buried Stream.
I warn you, though: difficult stuff!
Gosh - he covered quite a range, from those titles. The Bay is quite mundane and ordinary as a title - goes with the last 2 on your list, but some of the others are fascinating. Now I'll have to get the book from the library - they are giving us free reservations at present, so that's handy - just to satisfy my curiosity.
Thanks Stephen for the information - it'll lead me along another new poetry trail, and they always prove enjoyable.
Stephen I got the Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse from the library - they had to order it. Can't say I understand or particularly like the rest of Baxter's poems, but there's some cracking stuff by other poets. Thanks for mentioning it. Some of the A D Hope is very interesting (see topic Prometeus Unbound)and Earle Birney is intriguing.