Sunday, 17 June 2007

Charlie Douglas is a legend in New Zealand. His explorations in the second part of the 19th Century are second to none in the Exploration of the West Coast of the South Island. A poem I just finished. It needs brushing up a little and your feedback would be appreciated.
Bob

Charlie Douglas

So what was the inner spring that made you tick
In valleys where snow, ice, water and mica mix
Incessant rain and slippery logs
Mosquitoes, sand flies bush and bogs

And ah, paradise lurking in those hot pools
Stripped your rags far way from’ those fools’
As you soaked your matted beard and ropey hair
And a moment of thanksgiving, a silent prayer

Strong, sinewy and stringy as Weka meat
After years of amazing geographical feats
You lay awake, dreaming year after year
Many thought you were a man without a care
But you were putting the world together
While stranded for weeks in nor’westerly weather

Puffing, sucking the old brown briar
In your batwing tent you kindle a fire
No mortgage family possessions houses or barns
You're a freewheeling man with only socks to darn
A river to cross and a range to measure
Keeping a watchful eye on the wild weather
Weeks of rain and sodden clothes
Notebooks full of maps, observations and prose

Your thrills came from discovery and not wiley tarts,
Betsy Jane at your side, obedient and fast
Never answered back when you got it wrong,
The tuis, bellbirds and robins kept you in song

Your footprints were the first in many places,
Mountain top, gorges river and glaciers
The whiskey jar at the Forks Okarito and Scotts,
Discussing the world with fellow Scots
The jar was your best mate on the binge
You were one on those living over the fringe


Banking almost got you, wife kids and all
But marriage to you was like a pall
Your dreams wafted like smoke from your pipe
Slabs of rata your company during the night
The cursed danps got into every joint
Did you ever ask ‘whats the bloody point

Was it you Charlie or the others who were the fools?
Your maps, sketches and diaries over which generations drool
No Charlie it was the good deal you got
Harper, and others, you never tolerated that lot
Alpine Club braggarts you named them true
Canterbury amateurs who stole feats from you

It was Roberts McFarlane, Bannister and Teichy
They were soul mates of a similar physie
Staunch and modest friends who knew your strengths
Overlooked your weaknesses and came to your defence

The final years in Hokitika with Mrs Ward
Wife of your mate in mountains who died at a ford
After the stroke you were seen camping at Kaniere
With batwing tent, maps, dairies but without a penny
Possessions and money had no meaning or dues
It was the uncharted land that was treasure to you.

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