Tuesday, June 02, 2020

The ruin


We spent the long weekend with my brother-in-law, who has resettled in the Kaipara. We watched his old American neighbourhood burn on TV, then walked into the hills to look for kaka. A black fungus covered the trunks and branches of manuka and kanuka, so that they resembled victims of forest fires.
On the way home we stopped at Warkworth's cement factory. New Zealand's factories are its ruined abbeys. They commemorate our Sutchian era of economic nationalism, an era of indigenous car plants and tariffed electronic, an era ended by neo-liberal politicians as ruthless as Henry VIII. Like the mutilated monasteries of England and Wales, Warkworth's factory is beautiful because it represents defeat.

The apocalypse does not belong to science fiction. It is an ancient genre, present in the foundations of English literature. A medieval Briton wrote 'The Ruin', in which he described the wrecked Roman city of Bath as the work of giants who had suffered pyrde (fate). 'The Ruin' survives in a fire-damaged manuscript. I enter the poem at Warkworth's cement works.             

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