Story: Poetry

Alfred Domett, 1870

Alfred Domett, 1870

Alfred Domett is seen on the far right acting outdoors in Oliver Goldsmith's play She stoops to conquer in 1870. Domett had published his first book of poetry in his early 30s, and spent much of his life heavily involved in colonial politics, including a short term as premier. However, he did find time to complete his lengthy poem, 'Ranolf and Amohia', in 1872. Although praised at the time by British poets such as Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson, the poem strikes a modern ear as wordy and straining for effect. Here is a short extract:

And once, hard by a gloomy forest-side ...
How Amo clapped her hands in sheer delight
At Ranolf’s puzzled wonder when he spied
What seemed so surely – for ‘twas clear in sight –
Some furry three-legged thing – no tail – no head –
Fixed to the ground – a tripod! – how amazed
Was he to find when serpent-like it raised
Long neck and bill, and swiftly running fled,
‘Twas nothing but that wing-less, tail-less bird
Boring for worms – less feathered too than furred –
The kiwi – strange brown-speckled would-be beast,
Which the pair hunted half the day at least ...
(Allen Curnow, ed., The Penguin book of New Zealand verse. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1960, pp. 89–90.)
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Alexander Turnbull Library, Stuart Perry Collection
Reference: PAColl-4609

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How to cite this page:

John Newton, 'Poetry - Colonial poetry', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/43055/alfred-domett-1870 (accessed 23 February 2020)

Story by John Newton, published 22 Oct 2014