Padraic Colum

(8 December 1881 – 11 January 1972 / County Longford)

Hawaiian - Poem by Padraic Colum

SANDALWOOD, you say, and in your thoughts it chimes
With Tyre and Solomon; to me it rhymes
With places bare upon Pacific mountains,
With spaces empty in the minds of men.

Sandalwood!
The Kings of Hawaii call out their men,
The men go up the mountains in files;
Hands that knew only the stone axe now wield the iron axe:
The sandalwood trees go down.

More sandalwood is called for:
The men who hunt the whale will buy sandalwood;
The Kings would change canoes for ships.
Men come down from the mountains carrying sandalwood on their backs;
More and more men are levied;
They go up the mountains in files; they leave their taropatches so that famine comes down on the land.

But this sandalwood grows upon other trees, a parasite;
It needs a growing thing to grow upon;
Its seed and its soil are not enough for it!

Too greedy are the Kings;
Too eager are the men who hunt the whale to sail to
Canton with fragrant wood to make shrines for the
Buddhas;
Too sharp is the iron axe!

Nothing will ever bring together again
The spores and the alien sap that nourished them,
The trees and the trees they would plant themselves
upon:
Like the myths of peoples,
Like the faiths of peoples,
Like the speech of peoples,
Like the ancient creation chants,
The sandalwood is gone!

A fragrance in shrines
But the trees will never live again!


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010



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