Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ah, Zealandia -- what has become of thee?

Zealandia, Brittania's daughter, and the personification of the young colony proclaimed in 1840 and uplifted to dominion status in 1907 -- what has become of thee?

Richard Seddon was probably your greatest champion. After all, he was keen to create a Zealandia mini-empire of territories and dependencies with New Zealand at the centre -- and he opposed joining the Federation of Australia.

But these days, aside from your modernised position on our national coat of arms, few know even your name. "Zealandia" these days, in an unconscious hark-back to Seddonian rhetoric, is now the name given to the whole continental shelf we rest on, our part of Gondwanaland, and it's a brand for such as a sanctuary park.

There is a wonderful Denis Glover article online from the 1966 Encyclopedia of New Zealand. That at least is a tribute to you, old girl.
"Universal penny postage (ah, Progress) swept her triumphantly onward and outward on the flood of trivialities that makes up the postbag. From 1901 till 1909, in a well-washed red, her figure was daily battered by the cancellation mark of every post office in the land. Zealandia has suffered a sea change. She now stands on the end of a wharf, leaning against a murky globe. The caduceus shows signs of weighing heavy, and her right hand rests unsteadily on the foremast of a proud steamer tossing in mid-Tasman. She has lost her hat, and her tresses are wildly windswept. There is a slight glaze to her eye: she looks dissolute. Against the gale her nightie is reinforced by a nether Kaiapoi rug. It is cold, and there's not a sailor in sight."
Photos are from the Boer War display, Scars on the Heart, Auckland War Memorial Museum.

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