Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pioneer Woman with Ferrets


Preserved in film,
As under glass,
Her waist nipped in,
Skirt and sleeves
To ankle, wrist,
In the wind,
Hat to protect
Her Victorian complexion,
Large in the tussock
She looms,
Startling as a moa
Her children
Fasten wire-netting
Round close-set warrens,
And savage grasses
That bristle in a beard
From the rabbit-bitten hills.
She is monumental
In the treeless landscape,
Nonchalantly she swings
In her left hand
A rabbit,
Bloodynose down,
In her right hand a club.

Ruth Dallas

My blog on Frank Moreton illustrated the danger of type-casting our Pakeha forbears. Dallas’s poem describing an old photograph similarly enlarges our perspective of the period. Those pioneering women were no bleeding heart, shrinking violet creatures, fainting at the first hint of danger. They were tough, able to kill a rabbit without compunction despite all their frillery. The photo as a historical record can give the lie to romantic mythology.

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