This short straight sword
I got in Rome
when Gaul's new lord
came tramping home:

It did that grim
old rake to a T -
if it did him,
well, it does me.

Leave the thing of pearls
with silken tassels
to priests and girls
and currish vassals:

Here's no fine cluster
on the hilt, this drab
blade lacks lustre -
but it can stab.

Ron Mason

Poetry Home Page
  This poem embodies his bare style well. Many of the poems in his first volume of poems, the Beggar, were heavily revised for later republication, with punctuation cut to a minimum, lines cleared of anything not bearing its full poetic weight. This poem captures the spirit of the revisions well.  

Ad Dorotheam

Lest you be a dead man's slave
placw a branch upon the grave;

Nor allow your term of grief
To pass the fall of its last leaf.

Ron Mason


This is my favourite. Addressed to his wife, Dorothea, it was found among his papers after his death, and quoted in an article about him that I have long since lost.

I knew Ron in the last years of his life. I spent a year studying his work as part of an Honours course in English. We agreed to differ in a number of respects. I felt that the deep sense of community present in his earlier poems had been politicised into leftist propaganda in much of his later work, especially the verse dramas published in the People's Voice.

Allen Curnow, a highly respected poet and critic, edited Ron's Collected Poems, and asked Ron if he would agree to revise the remaining "Beggar" poems so that the style of that volume would be consistent in the Collected Poems. Ron agreed, but his heart was not in the task, and he delayed and delayed, until finally, a sorely-tried Curnow after a careful study of the revisions, prepared a "revision" of his own of one of the outstanding poems and asked Ron for permission to carry on. (In 1963, I had puzzled over some pencil notes that might well have been Curnow's in an Auckland University Library edition of The Beggar.) Ron gave his permission, but maintained years later that Curnow had no understanding of the Scottish elements in his poetry. I can sympathise - as far as I was concerned, I found them to be elusive also.