PANZA celebrates this year’s Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day, 25 August 2017, with a classic New Zealand poem by T E L (Thomas Edward Lloyd) Roberts b. Sefton 1873; d. 1952.
Roberts was one of leading poets of the Star group of Christchurch newspaper poets selected and arranged by PANZA Archivist Mark Pirie as a special issue of broadsheet, No. 12, November 2013.
T E L Roberts contributed poems to the Ellesmere Guardian in Canterbury prior to the Star and published the collection Rimu and Rata (1920) and two collections of memoirs about his time in Seddon and Motunau. He was a farmer and a well-known rural figure: Waipara County Council 1914-17; Executive Member of the Farmers’ Union; President of the Waikari Valley Sheepowners’ Assn.; and Secretary of the Meat Producers’ Union; he visited Britain and France in 1905.
Roberts wrote the memoir Motunau, or The Hills of Home, in 1946, same title as his poem below. His prose was reprinted in 1998 and is now considered a definitive history of Hurunui.
The evocative poem by Roberts certainly captures, in the tradition of landscape painters and Romantic poets, the beauty and locality of the place he lived in and roamed.
Like many early poets of the 1920s period, we are perhaps yet to fully come to terms with their contribution to New Zealand poetry.

T E L Roberts

THE HILLS OF HOME

A blush of rose is on our hills,
The sun is at the set,
The portals of the west are swung,
And many clouds have met
To fare him well and see him through
That shining gateway rolled,
That gateway with its closing bars
Of amethyst and gold.

How often have I watched him there,
In boyhood long ago,
A furnace on the mountain tips,
A fire among the snow.
It was but yester, so it seems,
And many mem’ries come,
As here I stand, grey headed now,
Among the hills of home.

The mako lifted forth her song,
That floated far away,
A vesper for the feathered world,
A requiem for the day.
But never comes her music now,
From all the dales around;
Her note is gone, that strange, wild note,
And once familiar sound.

She passed, and we who loved her then
Would it had not been so,
And long to hear her twilight call
Our children do not know;
But gone’s the home and, too, the flowers,
And our first loves with these;
Beneath the hills by Skylight Stream
Alone remain the trees.

We planted in our childhood there,
Neglected now and old.
Like battered frame with picture gone—
A story that is told.
We romped around their youthful forms,
We danced within their ring,
And there we felt the joyous thrill
When love is at the spring.

Still softly flows the stream as then,
The rocks we scaled are there,
Our bathing holes and fishing pools
Are still as then they were;
We paddled here with burnt brown feet,
And here we learned to swim,
And there on rude korari raft
That stretch we dared to skim.

How near to Nature’s heart were we
Who were the first to roam
As children quite unfettered, free,
Among these hills of home.
The spell of childhood grips me now,
The span of years is crost,
The scents of sweet wild flowers come down,
And all the man is lost.

Scargill

(The Star, Christchurch, N.Z, 24 April 1926)

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