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Allen Curnow, who died in 2001, is one of the most celebrated New Zealand poets.This poem was written while he was still resident in Christchurch. However, it is included in his collection Early Days Yet which was published in 1997. These poems, both old and recent, had a thematic connection. They appear in reverse chronological order and are introduced by a quotation from Samuel Butler’s
Erewhon: ‘The Erewhonians say that we are drawn through life backwards; or again that we go onwards into the future as into a dark corridor.’ Allen Curnow once saidthat some of his poetry tried to explore ‘the private and the unanswerable’. This poem might answer this description.The first four stanzas might be regarded initially as containing random, almost subliminal, memories and individual significances need not be analysed at this stage, in too much detail. Line 4: Lupins are a common sight on the South Island of New Zealand where they have become wild. Line 5: sole-charge teachers are found in about 8% of primary schools in New
Zealand. These are usually rural schools in isolated villages which consist of only one class and one teacher.
The last line ‘I am … the Beginning and the End’ is derived from the Bible:Revelation 22, v.13. There are also echoes of ‘East Coker’ (Eliot’s Four Quartets)with its closing lines ‘In my end is my beginning’. The poem is in rhyming triplets, unusual in that all three lines of each stanza rhyme.
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