It is believed that Sturm wrote this poem between 1946 and 1948, in her 20s. It was likely published in a student newspaper and has just been rediscovered in a box of her old clippings.
Read more about the poem and how it was found here.
With dust of labour on a summer’s day
They slouched with careless stride of people come
From nowhere, going nowhere, smiling, tired,
And cursing with a laugh the Pākehā
Veneer. For them life is a childish farce
To paint in white the brown which stains their lives.
Their ancient world is gone, and in the pā
The death of past traditions of a once
Proud race is mourned by age with mumbling gums
In soft tones of despised melodious tongue.
You seek your future in the white man’s joy;
You sing your songs to ape his foolish tune;
You change your rhythm to the jazz band’s beat;
And slave and sweat for coin so easily spent;
You play a losing game with loaded dice
And know no rules to help you win a chance;
While Pākehā stands quietly waiting with
A smile, to move you at his will across
The draughtboard of his policy and faith.
A child went past; neglected, poorly clothed
In imitation of the white man’s dress.
Hard feet on hard road running in the heat
To spend the white man’s money in the white
Man’s store. And what is there for you, oh child
Of Māori pride? Will you be swallowed in
The rising tide, and mingle blood till all
Your heritage is gone?
This shall not be.
For brown must learn from white, the rules to make
Him equal partner in the game they play;
And white must cease to trample underfoot
These dark leaves of the Polynesian tree.
When this is done, and each the other’s worth
Has found, from union will spring a new
Race keen, with courage strong to face the world
And find at last its place and aim in life.
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.