Keith Sinclair, "The Settler"


In a note specially written for this volume the poet explains: "The Maori wars - which the Maori called "white man's anger" - were fought for the possession of New Zealand. Many of the Maori, alarmed by the rising tide of settlers, declined the invitation to throw in their lot with the Europeans and tried to create a Maori nation out of the tribes. In 1858 they elected a Maori King and opposed the sale of further land to the Europeans. In Taranaki, the settlers coveted the Waitara river-mouth, but the chief, Wiremu Kingi, would not sell. A minor chief, Te Teira, who had quarrelled with Kingi over a woman, sought revenge by offering to sell the land round his pa, Te Huriapa. By Maori custom, that land belonged to the whole tribe, but the Governor insisted on buying it from a few individuals. Not long after an instalment of the purchase money had been paid to Te Teira, the fighting began."

The Settler

We need a harbour where the breakers melt,
We need a doorway that our ships may leap
From the sides of the possessive land
Against the resistant bars of the great waves,

And fields without one black barbaric tree;
Meadows, and a harbour to the abjured past,
To build a people nearer to our needs
In the unbaked clay, the unconsecrated waste.

0 nightful men, we come and are bearing gifts
For the fallen tribes, a nationality
More gracious than your counterfeited kings,
Or the fivefold unity of your long canoes.

The Chief

Leave us alone, for when you come
Among us we are nothing,
We have no voice any more.

The Settler

The missionary has come to town
To let the farmers in their wooden fort
Perceive that he is one with them,
The settlers who practise with revolvers.
The Governor feels that he is pledged,
And the land must be bought,
The instalment must be paid.

  The Instalment that time permits
Against isolation, on the unity
Snatched from the separate deaths
That the plains involve,
And the bush: where we are all alien,
All who are of man's alliance.

We are no advocates for giving the Maoris
A higher price for land than they demand.

The real reward is our example,
And the keys to that other kingdom.

The Maoris are ripe for the fruit of Christ,
But Wiremu Kingi's a scoundrel, the minister said.

The Chief

Although you have floated the land
I will not let it go to sea,
Lest the sea-birds take flight
Since we have no resting place.

The Settler

The land must be opened with sufficient speed,
Sold at a sufficient price,
And the tribes given sufficient faith for salvation

  Where nothing is sufficient



Little oasis in a green desert,
Why do all your people hide?
Is it from the seas of mud and fields?
Little street along the involuted river,
No more fearful than was the pa Te Hurirapa
In the bush clearing, where the river
Opened its mouth, and no more lonely.

The brethren of your exile
Shelter in the deep harbours,
Are derelict in the valleys,
Like those earlier encampments,
The fellows of the pa Te Hurirapa,

Your fellowship is a new fellowship,
And old like a hundred years;
But only the land looks new,
Polished and carved with your name.
Your confederation of hermits in the'hills
And on the deep harbours is not new.
Yours is the same isolation the first tribes knew.


Is there a kowhai in the blood,
When all the trees are in the park, and dead?
Is there a planet in the heart
When no small love can filter to the moon?

There is a planet in the heart,
But the planets we believe in are unreal;
The real stars are the solid circling stones,
Whose motion is the register of death.

There is a kowhai in the blood,
Which knows no autumn where it thrives,
An image in the garden we design,
And live with our reality inside.


No people can possess a land,
Where every single sod and stone is strange,
An alien to the blood, who waits to oust
The bone-cells, in the crucible of earth.

We are all crucified in the earth,
The earth our cross, exotic to our hands,
We are all nailed by time's jest,
Who belong to the clayless climate of the mind.

Ache in our back, 0 cliff before our mind,
We cannot belong to you, nor share the peace
That lies upon you like an incubus,
For our loyalties are fathered in the mind.


















Keith Sinclair, “Waitara”, in The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, ed. by Allen Curnow (Auckland: Penguin, 1960), pp 255-258.