For James Ralph Darling

In that keen morning it was good to wake.
The sun that roused the swans on the lagoon
And caught the clock-tower in his kindling beam
Made every day a lordlier circuit. Wide
The sky of our expanding universe.
The air had tingle. In that heady spring
Music and drama, art and poetry
Flowered from the ground, with handicrafts and skills
Buried till then. A pulse and pain of growth
Set the blood coursing, and the earth was young.

Yet was the new engrafted on the old
With a wise husbandry: the rule of law,
The athlete’s and the soldier ’s discipline
Not scorned in that renaissance of the mind,
But guarded in a general scheme of good,
The intended growth of body, mind and soul
For all the freemen of our commonwealth.
‘Lovers of wisdom, but with manliness’ –
The Periclean trumpet-call you blew
Stirred us who knew your coming, stirs us yet
With gratitude and pride that we were there.

But more than grace of Hellas, Italy,
The Roman virtue, or the rich ripe store
Of Shakespeare’s England and humanity
There was a treasure hidden in a field
Worth all the world, there was another road
You knew and told of, questing still yourself,
– Adventurous, stony, but the way to life
For men and nations in a dying world.
‘Christ is our Wisdom.’ Blazoned out by Paul,
Chosen by those, the builders of our house,
Bold master-builders, wiser than they knew,
To be the crown and cornerstone; that all
Our pride should melt like snow in sun at noonday,
That all who glory, glory in the Lord,
God’s foolishness, that makes our wisdom nothing,
Lest in his presence any flesh should boast.

Now, while the earth waits trembling for such morning
Or such a darkness as we have not known,
We would take up with you the task eternal
To walk that road and see that morning break.
Nothing is lost in all the universe.
The pearl of price lies ever in the hand
That grasps no earthly jewel in its stead,
And the great wheel of stars that we have seen
In frosty blaze above Corio Bay
Gaze, powerless in their longing, to behold
That marvellous dawn light every land and people,
And brave men choosing for a world reborn.


  • Relativity

    “Boy killed on Bicycle”; smallest print, four lines
    Islanded in a tossing sea of type,

  • Surmise

    My little son, whose face I never saw,
    Who could not wait to bless your father ’s eyes

  • Coming into the Clyde

    Part of me for ever is the January morning
    Coming into the Clyde in the frosty moonlight

  • For Yarmuk, Elder of the Ulupna Tribe

    A worn-out body laid in quiet earth,
    Attendant trees, a wattle’s throb of gold,

  • For James Ralph Darling

    In that keen morning it was good to wake.
    The sun that roused the swans on the lagoon

  • Boris Pasternak

    This death of a man, this sudden stop of life,
    Such total end, or such a faring forth
    Into what regions?

  • Post-mortem

    When a man dies
    We find that suddenly there’s time to praise him.

  • A Message to my Grandson

    You chose a marvellous morning to be born,
    The orange edge of dawn, the stars paling,

  • Bamboo: A Portrait

    The bamboo cut to suit you from our garden
    Has become your favourite stick – dried and varnished

  • Fragment of a Chinese Classic

    Catching the distinctive T’ang of old China
    She chooses for herself the character of Punctual Autumn

  • The Honey Man

    Like liquid silk in golden eddies
    the honey laps into my tin.

  • For my brother: Ave atque Vale

    Brother fare well, journeying to that Kingdom
    Of faithful servants, and of work fulfilled

  • Farewell to Skye

    Little death of a little dog
    In a death-wish world of news by body-count

  • Ballad of Old Sox

    They’re burning Old Sox’s shack
    Just two weeks since he died.

  • A Lambeth Garland

    A garden gracious, serene and spacious at Lambeth –
    This is the dream, the vision that shall be its crown

  • Banquet

    ..You they found fallen, holding a garden hose,
    Where, year on year, you watered, weeded, nurtured things to grow.

  • Anna-versary

    Anna is one
    What fun, what fun

  • Taking Leave

    Ninety years youthful, questing through generations,
    historian of two hemispheres, quickener of other minds,

  • Fred Hollows

    Raged, raged against the death of others’ light,
    Toiled, fought, till sick and blind received their sight.

  • Yudina

    I praise a heroine of the Soviet Union,
    pianist Yudina, through Moscow’s gloom
    spelling a Mozart magical concerto.

  • Letter to Judith Wright

    ..apartness conquered by the power of love.
    Carry us with you as you journey on.

  • For Nkosi Johnson

    His question ranged the echoing galaxies
    of empty cold unanswering space, returning
    home to our earth.