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Cold Hub Press ~ Ruth France

Publication date: 06 April 2020

No Traveller Returns

the selected poems of

Ruth France

edited with an introduction by Robert McLean

ISBN: 978-0-473-51415-0

Softcover, 104 pp, 210 x 148mm

No Traveller Returns


There is a need to come back,

Though not as one who set out, earlier;

Even the paths will have altered;

Will have become more worn, or, as may be,

Are grown weed-covered. What was then

Is not now; all things move, back or forward.


No traveller returns to find

The scene of previous love is as tender

Or as constant as he might have imagined.

The leaves are faded now, and sunlight

Enters the house with an effort.

The sense of time beginning, of spring’s clear air, is lost.


The tide reveals each day an alien world

Of underwater rivers, hills and mountains,

Miniature maybe, yet a cosmos for all that

Which lives out its own cycle. Amphibian creatures

Inhabit cliffs and caves heedless of change

Which lifts with every tide; when the water ebbs


The Lilliputian landscape is still there.

Yet time moves quickly here; too soon

The sandbanks shift, are eaten in quick bites,

Or slide away (though rock is slow to crumble)

And toy-like shapes of bays and headlands

Alter with the certainty of our own fate


Which, changeless, changes. Then the traveller cries

This was not so! How the years have spent

The path, the house, and the sunlight!

He does not recognise his own face in the mirror

Hanging behind the door. He turns towards the beach,

Feels separate as his footprints in the sand.

Ruth France (1913–68) published two novels: The Race (1958), which won the New Zealand Literary Fund’s Award for Achievement, and Ice Cold River (1961); and two volumes of poetry: Unwilling Pilgrim (1955) and The Halting Place (1961), under the pseudonym Paul Henderson. Poems from a third collection, which remained in manuscript at the time of her death, are published here for the first time. M. H. Holcroft captured the gist of France’s poetry when he wrote that she found ‘her own words for the ancient parables of life and death, and the spinning world’.


‘Her best work, when it tricks on the strange right word and quickens text into living thought . . . is transporting—it opens a threshold and allows us to look upon an altogether elsewhere garden of the mind’. ––from the introduction by Robert McLean


‘Plainly a real poet is among us.’

––James K. Baxter (1956)