‘Language adheres to the soil, when the lips which spoke it are resolved into dust,’ wrote William Colenso in 1868, and again in 1883. ‘Mountains repeat, and rivers murmur, the voices of nations denationalized or extirpated in their own land.’ The 19th century New Zealand missionary, printer, explorer, and naturalist was conscious of massive, irrevocable changes to the botanical and human ecologies of New Zealand occurring as he wrote; it’s apparent that he was also conscious of the role of language in defining these systems and the encounter between them. The botanical work he undertook throughout his missionary career and after his expulsion from it was the work of finding words to describe and place the flora of one world within the taxonomy of another. This intense labour registered and contributed to momentous change, as both indigenous and imported languages, and the cultures and ecologies they defined, encountered the influx of entirely new systems, materials and desires.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Cordite Poetry Review|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Aug 2015|