This page was last updated on: November 8, 2010
'It's all a pose, this mocking way of yours,
You would-be cynic with the tender eyes;
You jeer and scorn, while deep within I know,
A depthless pool of understanding lies.
It's like a suit of armour round you girt
To guard your heart alike from foe and friend,
Afraid lest friendship's greeting prove a thrust
Of still more disillusion in the end.
You say that none shall reach your heart again,
That you have ever closed your friendship's door,
Yet in unguarded hours you swing it wide,
And still you love, still trust, and still adore!'
'Grief swept my heart...God's lovely world
Seemed steeped in gloom...each raindrop pearled
On leaf and bloom seemed wept for me,
Gone moonlight's charm, Spring's witchery;
And when the stars forebear to shine
Night's sombre mood seemed part of mine,
What arrogance to thus believe
That all the world with me must grieve!
'But oh! it seemed so right and fair
When joy succeeded dire despair,
That I should find in every tree
An echo of my ecstasy!
Sure...every bird burst forth in praise
For dreamless nights and carefree days,
And in Earth's budding forth I found
My happiness with Springtime crowned!'
From 'A Lamp for Jonathan'
TRIBUTE TO SHAKESPEARE
'I have loved Shakespeare almost all my days
Since first a well-loved teacher brought to me
The sheer enchantment of his singing ways
With word and wit and mirth and tragedy;
Have stood beside him as his jocund day
Stood tiptoe on his mountains when the light
Of night's poor candles paled beneath the ray
Of rising sun; have tasted the delight
Of moonlight sleeping sweetly on the bank;
Known the sweet scent distilled from Shakespeare's
Heard clash of ancient warfare, rank on rank;
Felt Shakespeare's gentle peace at long day's close.
I had loved England long before the time
I first beheld her in her silvered sea,
As in this southern world, this far-flung clime,
I at my schoolroom desk read avidly
Of that far country, demi-paradise,
That other Eden and I knew that I
Would someday shape my words to pay the price
To cross the seas to see his English sky.
When that day came, my spirit knelt in awe
To meet at last fulfilment of a dream,
I trod where he had trod so long before
And, like Shakespeare, mused by Avon's stream.
I offer thanks for every matchless word
Composed by reeking rushlight as he sought
To pin on page the brook, the rose, the bird,
For those to come, in written rapture caught.
This then is what puts all our doubts at rest,
He is not dead, he cannot ever be
The while his deathless lines show forth the best
Of life and love, True Immortality.'
'I loved the way you said my name those many years
Through all the dreams not meant to be, it said, "I
love you so."
So small a thing, so sweet a thing
To make a heart with rapture sing...
I loved the way you said my name those many years
Through all the laughter, gladness, tears,
Of those succeeding, robber years,
It still remains my heart's delight,
My sun by day, my moon by night;
The comfort of my sleepless hours,
The scent of dead, remembered flowers...
Oh, yes, a foolish little thing
To make a heart, recalling, sing...
And yet I know, I know,
No one has ever said my name as you did, long ago!'
From 'The Gold Of Noon'
'Refreshment falls upon the thirsty earth;
The lilies lift their frail, parched cups again;
I do not know a sweeter sound than this,
Drought broken with the kiss of summer rain.
So, when our boys come home to us once more
From deserts scorched and fouled with gunfire hate,
May Maoriland's cool shores be laced with mist,
And every stream burst forth in joyous spate.
And though some speak of Heaven as endless day,
I will rejoice if I but know again
The holiness of midnight's solemn hour,
The sound of poplar leaves beneath the rain.'
Written for the returning soldiers of World War Two
'The King is dead...Long live the Queen.'
Swift sorrow to a nation's heart,
For one who in our troublous times
So kingly played his kingly part.
To duty born, to duty bred,
Selfless he lived and selfless died,
Nor yet allowed the fear of death
To cast its shadow by his side.
In war he sought no safe retreat,
But faced the terror of the skies
That nightly rained a fiery dew
Of sudden death in fearsome guise.
Content to serve, though born to rule,
Loved father, husband, son and friend,
To those who miss him most of all,
A nation's sympathy we send.
Farewell, dear monarch. Through our grief
We render thanks for what has been,
Pledging our loyalty anew....
The King is dead...Long live the Queen.'
Written on the death of King George the Sixth
'Oh, I would gird a chain of song about these golden days
To bring a breath of creek and fern to stifling city ways;
To sing and to remember where the traffic never stills,
The wideness of the open sea, the quiet of the hills;
And may there be someone to read, who loved them long ago,
Who now, by age and circumstance, dwells where no free winds blow
To whisper of the ripening corn, of sun-scorched belts of wheat,
To set the spirit winging far beyond each narrow street;
Oh, may they, in remembering the ways that childhood trod,
Find for a little while again, the dewey fields of God.'
'An owl hoots down the silence of the night,
The poplars stir and sigh in leafy dreams,
Down where the brook threads through the orchard grass
The moon reflects a thousand silver gleams.
Done all the turmoil of this weary day,
Hushed every jarring sound...the peace of night
Has mercifully curtained in the sky
For eyes that could no longer bear the light.
I linger here, calmed by the scented dark,
From my sore heart a due of praise to pay
To One Who in His love created night
To add its benediction to the day.'
'Tell me, is there gold of harvest where you spend these dreaming days...
Only tell me there are mountains and a far, far stretch of plain,
And that birds still sing as sweetly in the quiet after rain.'
A POEM FOR BILL
'Your papers lie in order on your desk,
No pipe-ash mars my neat and tidy hearth,
No slippers set to warming by the fire,
No homeward turning footsteps on my path.
I know that you are half a world away,
That far above you alien stars must shine,
Yet you are with me in this well-loved room
And I can feel your hand-clasp warm in mine.
So, here tonight, not lonely, though alone,
Out of my happiness, dear Lord, I pray
For all who go with loved ones hand-in-hand
Yet feel in spirit half a world away.'
1953 Written while husband Bill was away in Britain
'I've loved so well this kindly earth of ours
- Its pearly dawns, it's opalescent sea,
Its hills upflung against wild, storm-tossed skies,
Its trees, its streams - I cannot think there'll be
A time to come when these shall be no more...
The bird-song in the stillness after rain,
The apple-blossom on the orchard boughs,
The waving corn upon the nor'west plain.
No! He who gemmed the velvet night with stars,
Who hung the moon's pale lantern in the sky,
Who set a thousand blooms about our feet,
To stir our hearts with beauty, passing by;
- He would not lovingly create it all,
Then in a moment utterly destroy
And cast it to the void as might a child
In sudden petulance an outworn toy.
...I read His word, and suddenly I find
My own belief come gladly to re-birth,
In matchless words, as one a vision saw;
'Behold a Heaven made new...and a new Earth!'
So now I know that we shall walk again
These meadows and these hills, these woods,
these shores -
Earth freed from sin, with Heaven at last come down
To heal with Love Divine her ancient wars!'
Used by the kind permission of the Christchurch Star
'Keep me awake to beauty, this I pray;
Lord, if I grow too old to breast the hill,
If far horizons tempt my feet no more,
May I delight in sweet, small mercies still?
The hushed, pale splendour of new-fallen snow,
The first frail primrose underneath the tree,
The thrush that sings his sweetest song of all
At eventide...may these bring joy to me?
And should my little world be compassed then
Within the four walls of some tiny room,
May I give thanks for books to light my mind,
For all the flowers that still in memory bloom;
And as the glowing coals upon the fire,
Warm one whose earthly song is nearly sung,
Lord, may I see beyond their leaping flame,
Primeval forests when the world was young?'
' THESE SMALL BLACK SHOES
'O Son, I thought that I should never part with these small shoes,
these small black shoes of yours,
They took your first unsteady steps towards a new and magic world of
So when today I packed a score of things for children in far-off and
I kept them as a precious souvenir of dimpled toes...I saw your
Reach down to pull them off...I saw you tread with muddied feet
upon my polished floor,
And offered up a prayer of thankfulness for lovely years undimmed
by threat of war.
And then...I saw with pity little feet that barefoot go on Europe's
Saw cruel want and hunger poisoning the priceless heritage of
Your tiny shoes have gone across the sea, a silent plea for war
and strife to cease
Oh, may they take some child's first steps towards a new and magic
world of love and peace!'
'A gypsy heart was yours and all your dreams
Were formed of vagrant wand'rings far and wide;
But mine were all of home and commonplace,
A warmth of love, a glowing fireside.
For children's laughter echoed in my ears,
And baby fingers twined around my heart,
But on the wings of wind to you were borne
The pipes of Pan that urged you to depart
To roam along the byways where the smoke
Of lonely campfires stirred among the trees;
To hear wild birds sing at the break of day,
Upon your lips strange gypsy melodies.
But for you now the pipes no longer play
And, Romany, you care not if they do,
For you have found content and happiness
Where little children's voices call to you.
And I have travelled down the winding road,
'A gypsy,' people say and pass me by;
They know not that my dreams are commonplace...
A fireside, a crooning lullaby.'
(Essie Summers' first published poem, written at eighteen.)
'I have by now served long apprenticeship,
In city ways, in commerce, and my feet...
My slow, reluctant feet have known no joy -
I cannot run with eagerness to meet
Each bright new day; once more it will be spent
Within high walls, shut in from sun and dew;
Nor hear the birdsong in the rock-strewn pass
Where all the winds of heaven come whistling through.
These self-same winds should lift my unbound hair
Back from my temples in wild ecstasy,
And fragrances from mossy forest floors
Drift up to stir the gypsy heart of me,
Instead of bottled perfumes, soaps and creams,
A hundred aids to beauty, priced too high...
The things I barter when I long to splash
In mountain streams beneath a fair, free sky.
God, in your mercy, grant to me some day
That freedom that the mountain parrot knows,
And let me live at least one year among
The forest trees, the dear, high-country snows.'
From 'High-Country Governess'
'Goodbye to my little white house on the hill...
Oh, will it remember me wistfully still?
Will it look sad, if, tear-blinded, I go?
Little white house I have cosseted so.
The tiny curved windows that mirror for me
The stars in their orbits above the dark sea;
The steps that are kind to my home-coming feet;
Each shadow,each corner, familiar and sweet;
The rain on the rooftop, the wind in the eaves;
The whisper of snowflakes; the rustle of leaves;
The rowan-tree branches in black filagree
Entangling the moon in their meshes for me...
But where my love goes, I must follow, I know,
With laughter, not grieving, and quickly, not slow...
But little white house, little house on the hill,
Will you remember me faithfully still?
Will you look sad, as, reluctant, I go...
Oh, little white house, I am loving you so!'
'There still are hours of happiness I know,
When woods and seas and blossoms give delight:
When birdsong lends enchantment to the day,
And stars add radience to the moonlit night.
'I take them all and love them all, but still
I know they lack the matchless ecstasy
That once I knew when you were by my side,
So dear, so kindred, so much part of me.
'God...take my slighted love and hide it deep
In the unfathomed caverns of Your sea
Where no tides stir...so I forget to pray
That someday, somewhere, she'll come back to me.
'I only want to wrest this longing out,
To stop this ceaseless torment of my soul,
So I may find time heals as others say
And in the healing find myself made whole.'
From 'A Lamp For Jonathan'
'You're just a precious little dream, daughter-or-son-to-be,
And yet you fill my every hour with new-found ecstasy;
I find a joy in little things I never knew before...
The opening bud - the bursting leaf, and all of Springtime lore; A spider spinning gossamer suggests a filmy shawl,
And when I found a downy nest along our garden wall
I knew that sometime I must line a wicker bassinet
With dainty folds of primrose silk and frills of lace and net:
And when upon the hills I see the darling lambs at play...
Though dreams are sweet - it seems to me April's too far away!'
Writing as Helen Thompson Blackadder
Written for WIlliamTemple Flett (to-be)
'I'd planned to buy some carpeting to brighten up the hall,
A certain kind of standard rose to grace our garden wall;
Striped curtains for the entrance porch, a reading lamp to shed
A rosy glow upon the books beside the spare-room bed;
But now I save for other things, soft towels and wooly shoes,
Frail cobweb lace and safety-pins, and with delight I choose
New curtains in a printed chintz, all gay with ducks and bears,
To drape the sunny windows of the nursery upstairs;
And though the standard rose must wait, the Summertime will bring
The sweetest rosebud of them all to fragrant blossoming.'
writing as Helen Thompson Blackadder
Written for Elizabeth Lucia Flett
NO ORCHIDS BY REQUEST
'Bring me not orchids...pale, delicate, orchids,
Rooted in swamp and begotten in slime...
Bring me the blossoms of cottage and meadow
That whisper of sunlight and sweet summertime.
Gather me daisies, the common, white daisies,
The poppies that dance in a wild ecstasy,
The briars that riot in thicket and hedgerow,
The bluebells, the buttercups, golden and free.
Bring me not orchids, exquisite, frail orchids,
Sheathed in stiff Cellophane, costly and cold,
Bring me the flowers of everyday living,
Fragrant and lasting, to have and to hold...
The pimpernel deep in the wind-shaken grasses,
The nameless wild flowers of hillside and lea...
Bring me not orchids, the still, scentless orchids
If you'd lay siege to the wild heart of me.'
From 'No Orchids By Request'
SPRING IN CHIDDINGFOLD
'Came ever spring as sweetly to the earth
In all the gladness of it's gold and white?
Broke dawns as swiftly? Sunsets lingered so?
As in this Maytime, here in Chiddingfold?'
Written upon first seeing bluebells in the Surrey woods
'Yes, there they sat, complacent, fat,
Small souls unstirred while one frail bird
Set Heaven a-ring.
I dimly felt Earth should be knelt,
Hushed...awed...to hear, with thankful ear...
For some critics who ruined Essie's enjoyment of a performance
'This lovliness that stirs my bounding heart
To songs of praise has always blossomed here;
When Earth was young, unscarred by war and hate,
These self-same streams went singing, crystal-clear'
These mountains caught and held within their folds
Cloud shadows, dappled grey and indigo
Someone, held spellbound on this emerald hill,
The same delight in God's sweet world would know.
So, when this pasture knows my feet no more,
When all my earthly gypsyings are done,
There will be other eyes to watch with awe
The timeless magic of the setting sun.
I would bequeath to all who follow on
My rare delight in leaf and bloom and tree,
For in their worship of the world I loved
My soull shall find true immortality.'
Published in The Christchurch Star-Sun, November 3rd, 1951
This poem was read at Essie's funeral service.
'There will be tides swift-surging to this shore,
There will be wattle bright against this hill,
When I am gone from sight and sound of these,
And all the voices I have loved are still;
These Canterbury Plains will lie beneath
The watchful circle of the Cashmere Hills,
And sunsets flame and fade above the Alps
Where now the west'ring sun his magic spills;
Then, other feet will travel on these roads,
These witching ways that I have loved so long,
That wind about the over-harbour hills
And stir my gypsy heart to eager song
And just as I dream now of other days,
Of ships safe-harboured after months a-sail,
Of women, cloaked and bonneted, who climbed
The Bridle-Path, their raw, new world to hail;
So now I ask that you who then will know
Those nor-west skies, this opalescent sea,
Will smile across a century of time
And reading this, greet, and remember me!'
Christchurch Star, 1949