Posted by: John Looker | 15 October, 2009


Here’s a poem about New Zealand, or at any rate about the impact of Europe on that country, written during my first visit there. (Alice might notice that I’ve borrowed a couple of lines from one I wrote for her when she set off on her travels a few years ago, but otherwise it is all new).

‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’ : Aotearoa, the Maori name for New Zealand.

All the best travel guides have illustrations, so mine does too.

 At Lake Hawea, South Island, New Zealand


Climbing aloft barefoot, the sailors clung
To ropes; they inched along the spars that swung
In complicated orbits as the ship
Leapt, twisted and plunged and the winds let rip.
This was Cook’s Company, bound for the East,
Adventure fermenting in their veins like yeast.

Of the great Southern Continent, long presumed to exist,
of course not a trace was found.
But there were islands and volcanoes, fern trees and flightless birds;
there were canoes, skilfully crewed, mastering the glittering surf;
and here, where the southern cross now flies,
was the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Years later other ships would follow. Loaded.
Packed as tight as pods and primed to explode
Ashore with emigrants, their sheep and cows,
Seed and grain, dreams, plans, their guns, axes and ploughs.

And now, in this mongrel land, there are ewes and lambs grazing
whose shadows revolve anticlockwise,
and gardeners, mastering their plots of soil,
mow their lawns under the cabbage trees.

© John Stevens 2009

 At Lake Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand


  1. I like the flow of this poem and even feel as though I’m right there with the sailors and visitors to greener pastures. In particular I like the rhyming sequence (and deviation from it) – I don’t do a lot of this and notice that most people who do force the issue, making the poem appear contrived and choppy. Good ‘un.


    • I never acknowledged your kind comment on this, Chucky. I don’t know what went wrong now, but my extremely belated thanks.


  2. Hi John, a lovely poem about a lovely country. You make it’s history come to life.


    • Thanks Ina – I was quite fond of this one so I’m pleased you like it!


  3. John – I’ve only now spent time reflecting on this collection of New Zealand poems.I find them very evocative and they strike where the heart is at. Brilliant!


    • That’s good of you Bruce. You will notice that this poem was written ten years ago, before I adopted the pen name John Looker, and yet I still feel it says something I want to say – and we have made six long visits to Aotearoa since then. Second home!

      Liked by 1 person

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