No Ordinary Sun

During the Summer break I was lucky to have time to wander Wellington’s Botanic Gardens, and in particular the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, which is in full bloom. This is ringed by small, intimate alcoves, one of which is called the Peace Garden. The Garden is home to the Peace Flame, which “comes from fire created by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. The flame was presented by the people of Japan to New Zealand in recognition of our efforts to halt the spread of atomic weapons.”

The Peace Garden is also home to a piece of Hone Tuwhare’s poety, engraved on a stone that sits in a pond below a willow tree.  It reads:

Tree let your naked arms fall
nor extend vain entreaties to the radiant ball.
This is no gallant monsoon’s flash,
no dashing trade wind’s blast.
The fading green of your magic
emanations shall not make pure again
these polluted skies . . . for this
is no ordinary sun.

I didn’t know when I first read this the significance behind the Peace Garden. But how appropriate it seems now. It is from a longer poem by Tuwhare, No Ordinary Sun.

Tree let your arms fall:
raise them not sharply in supplication
to the bright enhaloed cloud.
Let your arms lack toughness and
resilience for this is no mere axe
to blunt nor fire to smother.

Your sap shall not rise again
to the moon’s pull.
No more incline a deferential head
to the wind’s talk, or stir
to the tickle of coursing rain.

Your former shagginess shall not be
wreathed with the delightful flight
of birds nor shield
nor cool the ardour of unheeding
lovers from the monstrous sun.

Tree let your naked arms fall
nor extend vain entreaties to the radiant ball.
This is no gallant monsoon’s flash,
no dashing trade wind’s blast.
The fading green of your magic
emanations shall not make pure again
these polluted skies . . . for this
is no ordinary sun.

O tree
in the shadowless mountains
the white plains an
the drab sea floor
your end at last is written.

For once I don’t feel much like analysing a piece of the writing. I actually just want to enjoy the simple, beautiful images it creates. How it speaks of the gentle, talented man who wrote it. How it invokes so much history and so much heartache. How singularly powerful it it. Here is writing as it should be. Here is true beauty.

Hone, your end at least was written. But we shall not forget.

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