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40 Jahre Goethe-Institut Neuseeland
Glenn Colquhoun

Dieffenbach © Glenn Colquhoun

This poem is part of a sequence I wrote to celebrate NZ being the country of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2012. They were about the German Naturalist, Ernst Dieffenbach, who visited NZ for 2 years in 1839.  He wrote about many adventures in NZ and had the Chatham Island rail, which later became extinct, named after him. An example of the rail is kept in the London Museum of Natural History.
 
I wanted to write the sequence drawing on the Māori oral tradition of sung or intoned poetry.
This piece was composed to the tune of 'Ich hab die nacht getraumet’ an old folk-tune Dieffenbach is likely to have recognised.
 
Following his Early Death 
from Typhus, Ernst Dieffenbach 
Considers the Extinction of 
a Small Bird Carrying 
His Name in the London 
Museum of Natural History.
 
 
My friend, sometimes it frightens,
I hear the darkness call.
Songs and dreams and fragments,
I fear that this is all.
 
Your feathers, brown and yellow,
My cloak and shirt of wool,
The daytime and the nighttime,
Across each coat must pull.
 
Can you hear the owl laugh?
The robin in her tree?
I listen for the huia.
Perhaps she’ll sing for me.
 
My friend, sometimes it frightens,
I fear the darkness too.
Songs and dreams and fragments
Are all I have for you.
 
Songs and dreams and fragments
This one I’ll sing for you. 
 
Performed by Kali Kopae.
Copyright: Glenn Colquhoun

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