Oliver, W.H.

New Zealand, (1925-2015)

The Swineherd

  1. They are all love stories. Some are subversive,
  2. notably the one of the prince who pretended
  3. to be a swineherd, and of the covetous girl
  4. with a passion for music, toys and cunning
  5. instruments. He named and exacted his price
  6. and rejected her utterly. But, the consequences!
  7. Later, still bored, he went away on a crusade.
  8. The lady followed disguised as a young esquire.
  9. They took the wrong turning for the Holy Land
  10. and came to a stop somewhere in Asia Minor,
  11. guests of a community of heretics
  12. whose pastor, white beard yellow about the mouth,
  13. quickly unstitched all the articles of belief
  14. they had ever entertained, especially those
  15. touching upon the possession of property,
  16. dignities, distinctions, orders of precedence,
  17. decorum and protocol, showing them to be both
  18. untrue and of a mischievous tendency.
  19. The mechanical bird flew off to the oleanders
  20. and refused to sing any more. The prince
  21. wound himself up like a toy and delivered
  22. quite excellent music. She listened entranced
  23. until she could no longer hold it all in her heart
  24. and switched him off in mid-cadence.
  25. Behind his great beard the pastor of the heretics
  26. smiled to himself, a yellow wintry smile,
  27. rehearsing another sermon on the celibate state.
  28. She reckoned he would, in his turn, sing sweetly enough.

 W. H. Oliver. Out of Season: Poems. Wellington: Oxford University Press (1980).

About the Poet:

William Hosking Oliver, New Zealand, (1925-2015), commonly known as W.H. Oliver but also known as Bill Oliver, was an eminent New Zealand historian and a poet.

Oliver completed a PhD at the University of Oxford in 1953. They returned to New Zealand and he lectured at University of Canterbury and Victoria, before becoming a professor of history at Massey University, and later served as Dean of Humanities.

From 1983, Oliver led the development of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB). He also wrote extensively on New Zealand history and published several volumes of poetry. [DES-03/18]

Additional information:

  • The Encyclopedia of New Zealand offers many pathways to understanding New Zealand. It is a comprehensive guide to the country’s peoples, natural environment, history, culture, economy, institutions and society.
  • The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography forms part of Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography is the foremost reference work on the lives of people who shaped this country’s history and culture from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries.

A random image of a pig, hog, boar or swine from the collection at Porkopolis.