Scoop Review of Books

James K Baxter’s Otago Anthem

Poem of the Week: University Song by James K Baxter with music by Douglas Lilburn

This alternative Otago University anthem written by Baxter and composed by Lilburn had its first public recital in nearly 65 years at the university earlier this week.

University Song

Among these hills our fathers came
By strength of eye and hand alone
They build: and murmur loud as flame
Their voices from the living stone.

Forget not those whom Scotland bred
Above whose bones our cities stand:
Forget not them! nor the unknown dead
Whose broken veins flow through our land.

As streams in wilderness rise
And green the desolate shingle plain:
So under windy southern skies
Peace flowered, and wisdom shall remain.

The generations rouse and pass
Like falling birds to well of night;
Or like the wind-sown summer grass
Now tall, now withered in our sight.

But our sons’ sons alike shall find
Perpetual, though nations cease
Within these walls the quiet mind
The storm-unshaken rose of peace.

James K Baxter and Douglas Lilburn


Otago Daily Times story
Television One News


  1. truth teller, 30. August 2009, 1:01

    But this is a total crap poem that the later Baxter would have been ashamed of. Its philosophy is vile and disgusting.

  2. Moriori Chap, 2. September 2009, 14:15

    Hey ‘Truth’ teller… are you upset by the male or European references?

    Pray tell what do you find disgusting/vile?

  3. Keri Hulme, 4. September 2009, 23:59

    It is not a particularly good poem: it is pedestrian, lacking any fire, unoriginal. It’s early Baxter, and he is not at his best: he has a long way (in his life &; poetry terms – short though they both were) to grow-

    I haven’t heard the musical setting, but truthteller is going way beyond reasonable to call it ‘vile and disgusting.”

    I find it very telling that this is the first recital in “nearly 65 years”….