No Ordinary Sun
Hone Tuwhare has an amazing collection of poems to his credit and the best known of them is ‘No Ordinary Sun’. This poem shot him to the international scene. It was first published in Northland in 1959 and became the titular poem of his first volume of poetry published in 1964. This poem is an outpour at the plight of mankind after the Hiroshima bombing, the havoc it had unleashed.
About the Poet
Hone Tuwhare (21 October 1922 – 16 January 2008) was a popular Maori New Zealand poet. He was born in Kaikohe, Northland into the Ngapuhi tribe. His mother died when he was quite young and then the family shifted to Auckland. Here he attended primary school. He apprenticed as a boilermaker and joined the New Zealand Railways. Tuwhare spoke only Maori until the age of 9 and his initiation into writing must have been his father as his father was an orator and story teller. Tuhware learnt English and his poems were in English. He took a lot from the Maori culture and the Old Testament. He was a poet and a social activist.
In the poem ‘No Ordinary Sun’ Tuwhare is addressing the tree, not to raise its arms to the bright cloud and to let it arms fall. Its arms must ‘lack toughness and resilience’ for this bright cloud that is seen is not a mere axe or a small fire that can be smothered. Now that the bright cloud or sun is burning bright, the sap in the trees will not work with the moon’s pull. The tree cannot sway to the wind or stir to the rain. The tree full of leaves was once a home to birds and the shade of the tree was sought after by lovers, to protect them from the ‘monstrous sun’. Now it was no longer so; it was totally bare. Again addressing the tree the poet asks it to put down its ‘naked arms’ and the ‘entreaties’ to the ‘radiant ball’ will be in vain. The ‘radiant ball’ was not a flash in the monsoon nor was it the strong ‘blast’ of the ‘trade winds’. It was much more powerful than that and it was hopeless to resist it. The ‘green’ on the tree had faded and no secretions from it will make the polluted sky, pure again. The sun that has burnt the tree up was ‘no ordinary sun’. In the final and fifth stanza the poet addresses the tree again; the tree is standing on a ‘shadow less mountain’, the plains are white and the sea floor is dreary and he seals the fate of the tree saying ‘your end at last is written.’ At a glance it seems Tuwhare is addressing the tree but he is actually addressing mankind, telling them the futility about fighting against the nuclear weapons.
‘No Ordinary Sun’ is poem with twenty eight lines split into five stanzas. It is a free verse with no specific rhyme scheme. The whole poem is an epithet as it is in memory of the atomic explosion in Hiroshima. The poem has extended metaphors in comparing the sun to a bomb and trees to humans. However, Tuwhare flits back to seeing the tree as a tree in the second, third and fifth stanza. It is this extended metaphor that makes this poem very different. The usage of ‘enhaloed cloud, ‘radiant ball’, ‘monstrous sun’, and ‘no ordinary sun’ are the references to the atomic explosion. There is not a mention of the nuclear weaponry in the poem but ‘No ordinary Sun’ is an allegory of atomic disaster.