The Book of Nadath
Robin Hyde and ed. Michele Leggott
The Book of Nadath is a long prose poem by well-known poet and novelist Robin Hyde which has remained unpublished for 60 years. Written in 1937, Hyde’s last year in New Zealand, it is a sounding device for all the concerns which mark The Godwits Fly, A Home in This World and Nor the Years Condemn.
Among Hyde’s most brilliant works, it is a poem of exceptional lyric beauty and moving personal grief, and arguably the crowning achievement of her poetry. Nadath consists of 14 sections in which the central figure of a false prophet observes and is implicated in scenes ranging from the decolonising inheritance of New Zealand to the imminence of another war and possible conquest; but the moment of 1937 is its primary focus, the problem of how to articulate crisis – which writing voice best serves political and spiritual truth – is its enduring fascination.
The publication of this poem, with the assistance of Leggott’s introduction and textual notes, will significantly shift our assessment of Hyde’s achievement.
Leggott’s work in bringing the poem to light is an amazing feat of academic detective work. Her introduction is a rigorous and important piece of scholarship. – Stuart Murray, Landfall