South: A close reading

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Analysis by Rose Stobie

Rose loves past poets of Aotearoa New Zealand. She has a wee business underpinned by this love and a fondness for timeless clothing design, The Poet’s Wardrobe. Heretaunga Hastings born, Rose lived in Berhampore for seven years, shopping locally in Newtown and waking up to lions roaring and monkeys howling. She’s now based in Whakatuu Nelson where she wears her sunnies more, but misses Fix and Fogg peanut butter toast.


By Robin Hyde

God send my ship of dreams to-night
Far voyaging,
Seeking for sunsets that have waited long
For any eye to see
Their awful radiance of revelation:
The golden wings of the creative spirit
Still brooding over ice and lifeless ocean,
The seed and flower still locked within the brain
That dreams of setting grass, and fluttering
Small breasts of birds, and naked limbs of children,
In wastes transformed. Then let my lost ship find
The giant and fantastic passages,
Ice-caverns mocking, green and insolent,
The hoary blizzards mounted on their walls –
Citadels that shall take so long to storm,
So long for sun and milk-white wind to ride
Triumphant, roses springing ‘neath their feet….
My ears shall hear a little of the surge
Of aeons still to break; my eyes shall see
A little of this star’s long destiny.


Robin Hyde grew up in Wellington of the early 1900s in the burbs of Newtown, Berhampore and Melrose. She attended Wellington Girls College. Robin was a journo and poet and novelist. Her autobiographical novel The Godwits Fly (recommend) was published in 1938.

Big picture

Be warned, some of this is difficult. Robin struggled with mental and physical health issues. She was a regular person experiencing real life difficulties with little support.  Falling pregnant and losing her child then having a second child fostered was impactful. There were periods of time in institutions. All the while Robin pursued her writing: journalism, novels, and poetry.  She went to war-torn China and Hong Kong in the late 1930s and documented her travel in Dragon Rampant which she finished in London. Sadly, a few months into her stay she took her own life.

Word up

South was written in 1928 when Robin was 22 and is from her collection The Desolate Star.  

Why I love it

The imagery, the timelessness, the depth. Beautiful!

In South Robin is lifting a veil on a world within worlds. The poem is a metaphor/picture of difficult life experiences (“brooding over”, “seed and flower still locked within the brain”, “my lost ship”) that the writer hopes with time will be transmuted: wastes transformed, finding giant and fantastic passages, storming citadels, riding milk-white wind, and roses springing beneath feet. 

Local look

Did the coolness of the climes in Wellington inspire the cool images in South? Green ice caverns and “hoary blizzards” do sound similar to a crispy day in the capital. Robin draws on nature throughout the poem creating an impressive location that is both awesome and without the restraints of time. Some critics have dismissed the poets of Robin’s time and earlier as fussy and sentimental. But I find the up-close and personal in your face reference to Nature totally of this place.

Bust it out

When I want to dive deep. When I want perspective and to push back against daily minutiae.

Favourite lines

“My ears shall hear a little of the surge
Of aeons still to break; my eyes shall see
A little of this star’s long destiny.”


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