Saturday, 2 June 2007

The Road Builders, Denis Glover, 1912-1980

Further to my words on Doddery, I was browsing his archives, trying to recall just how long ago I first noticed him, I'm still not sure, but it was in the early days of his blog, and long before I signed up...
I found one of the first posts he made, a poem.
February 11th 2005.
Doddery grew up in an atypical New Zealand home, filled with musicians and artists, it would seem that these people started the spark that stayed with him, that love of learning, of enquiry, of inquisitiveness, of respect for the lives of others and their stories.
One of the regular characters of his childhood was poet Denis Glover, a lifetime writer, wartime navy officer, raconteur.

Doddery said: "
My Parents were musicians of the long haired variety. The House was always full of amazing people. New Zealand was a very grey place in the '50's. Divorce Court proceedings in the tabloid weekly "Truth" were gossiped over, though no one admitted to reading it. Girls suddenly disappeared " to stay with relatives upcountry" after "I I told you so..." dalliances with louts who rode motorbikes. Curtains were peered through, partyline telephones listened in on, Communists were everywhere, the yellow horde might pour up the beaches any day. But in our house there were legendary parties, discussions, arguments, and life was tempestuous. There were composers, poets, artists, and eccentrics. Many of them were refugees from Europe. Pianists, fiddle players, opera singers, and they were exotic. One of my favourites as a kid, was a kiwi poet, Denis Glover. I remember him insisting on carting our pet lamb around under his arm and getting it pissed on whisky and milk, and proclaiming that this was the lamb of God and trying to sing the Agnus Dei. I remember the frantic efforts to hide the booze when Denis came up the drive. He could drink a town dry when he was "in his cups". His nose went red and his hair was slicked over, he fascinated me. He was, and is, my favourite poet. The other day we were digging post holes for new road signs on Mt Messenger and hit a layer of red baked papa clay. The oldtimers used as it as road metal. The nearest shingle rivers were miles away. They fell trees and fired clay in huge layered bonfires. I thought of Denis."
The Road Builders

Rolling along far roads on holiday wheels
now wonder at their construction, the infinite skill
that balanced the road to the gradient of the hill,
the precision, the planning, the labour it all reveals.

An unremembered legion of labourers did this,
scarring the stubborn clay, fighting the tangled bush,
blasting the adamant, stemming the unbridled rush
of torrent in flood, bridging each dark abyss.

Their tools were pitiful beside the obdurate strength
of the land:
crosswire of the theodolite, pick-point, curved
small tremor of a touched-off charge; but above all
the skill and strength, admirable in patience,
of the hand.

These men we should honour above the managers of
They pitted their flesh and their cunning against
unimagined by those who turn wordily the first sods.
And on the payroll their labour stands unadorned by

Who they are,or where, we do not know.
Anonymous they die
or drift away; some start the job again; some
in a country pub
recount old deeds amid that unheeding hubbub,
telling of pitiless hills, wet mountain roads where
rusting barrows lie.

This too might be a fair requiem.

1 comment:

  1. Mate

    I picked up on the same words
    Blogged them (and a bit more) here

    The more one delves, the more one finds out.

    I'd love to do a proper "Daily Telegraph" obit on him.


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