• <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958
  • <em>The Wake</em>, 1958

The Wake, 1958

Record number
The Wake
ink, oil
16 unstretched canvases
1: 1785 x 1265 mm
2: 1785 x 740 mm
3: 1785 x 1225 mm
4: 1785 x 755 mm
5: 1785 x 1265 mm
6: 1785 x 1225 mm
7: 1785 x 1225 mm
8: 1785 x 1225 mm
9: 1785 x 1170 mm
10: 1785 x 820 mm
11: 1785 x 1265 mm
12: 1785 x 620 mm
13: 1785 x 1265 mm
14: 1785 x 1265 mm
15: 1785 x 790 mm
16: 1785 x 610 mm
1: McCahon '58. (brushpoint, b.r.); TITIRANGI / 1957. [sic] (brushpoint, c.r.)
2: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.)
3: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.); JOHN CASELBERG 'THE WAKE' I (brushpoint, b.c.); ONE (brushpoint, t.r.)
4: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.)
5: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.); John Caselberg 'THE WAKE II' (brushpoint, b.l.-b.c.)
6: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.); JOHN CASELBERG 'THE WAKE' III (brushpoint, b.c.-b.r.); THREE (brushpoint, t.c.)
7: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.); JOHN CASELBERG 'THE WAKE' IV. (brushpoint, b.l.-b.c.)
8: McCahon '58. (brushpoint, b.l.); JOHN CASELBERG "THE WAKE." V. (brushpoint, b.c.-b.r.)
9: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.); JOHN CASELBERG. "THE WAKE" VI. (brushpoint, b.c.-b.r.); SIX. (brushpoint, t.c.)
10: McCAHON '58 (brushpoint, b.l.)
11: McCahon '58. (brushpoint, b.l.); JOHN CASELBERG 'THE WAKE' VII. (brushpoint, b.c.); SEVEN. (brushpoint, t.l.)
12: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.-b.c.)
13: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.); JOHN CASELBERG "THE WAKE" VIII. (brushpoint, l.c.); EIGHT (brushpoint, t.l.-t.c.)
14: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.); JOHN CASELBERG "THE WAKE" IX. (brushpoint, b.l.-b.r.); NINE (brushpoint, t.r.)
16: McCahon '58 (brushpoint, b.l.)
Credit line
Given by Colin McCahon, Auckland, 1978
Accession number
Extended inscriptions
1: JOHN CASELBERG (t.l.-t.c.); "THE / WAKE" / for / Thor, Great Dane. (u.l.-l.r.)

3: your going maims God : God
Let it be sung of and wept for forever,
Echoing the savagery of your loss
like that of the dread
Avalanche or Adelie Land's
boiling winter
of terror like the oceanwards
flight of the river.

5: Sirius, Dog-Star, stab night-long your
Lights as if the blind uprooting
of his flesh
From the fond-wombed throat-hurt
trembling -
Hearted earth who grieves his death
as harsh
As Dante's Hell were not real;
Were unimaginable. Stop your
And weep, you Cold Stars. Weep
Fomalhaut, Vega, Cross and Centaur,
Whom yesterday he honoured
by his ways,
Rain down your scalding tears of
Lamentation on his going
where he lies,
Where he is; Where his breath was
That now is mixed with chaos. Chaos
and doom
Tear up the templates now
obliterating him.

6: And you, trees, mute cypress-hooded
Bend your brows for him whose
your kin, whose gentle mien and
goodness named
Him scion of the same heroic
generations as
your own sweet sap has been
distilled from.
Clench tighter, roots, where you have
felt your sires
after their hushed bird-lovely thousand
of succouring beauty murdered,
bellowing, boom
Upon the subterranean gloom and wet
that you were plumbing then
- And mourn again. Stand aeons for him,
Allow your stem's
Immobile masts the imaging of his limbs;
Letting their alchemy of ever-green, blue-mercury
His lost being. He gazed like you. His ways
like yours will light
The future dark. Like you he did
no hurt.

7: Though they have earthed through
me their hands and those
Six lightning years have guttered
out and flown.
Since first you ran quick-silvering
on the apple-green
At Fairymeadow, learning, nostril-
Below his smoking brows, obeisance
to a Sun-
Stoked continent's ravishment of
scents, being
Sea-stung in earshot of the ocean's shattering
Her orange sands and rock the harbourers
of a man
Once our world's (our world's vates) whose rapt heart as vast
And shaking-portalled as your own no yet
For dissolution there had rung the diapson
Of such storm as you are drowned in
And its after-calm of sepulture, the
wrecked, floundering
Nightfall hurtle home - they
echo thundering.

8: Orion strides the firmament,
The great dog at his heel.
Scorpio's red heart
Is unextinguishable.
But stars explode
Here. His death is irrevocable.

9: That all the daedal physics
of his flesh,
The chemistry of glacier
teeth, the fresh
Snow-splashed basalt body.
The brow like regal Taranaki
Albatrossing oceans and the hot
Reverbatory engines of his heart
with their concomitant
Jonquil eyes and our tomorrows'
Star-stabbed tui-throated
Open-artery and sea-engendered
Rainbow-swimming days
Should halt, dry, freeze,
Corrupt, rot.

11: Grief, thee I'll wive
In the midnight hours
Since his departure
That eyes again
Will ever start with
His-and-my joy.

13: But time cannot corrupt
The beauty you have
Burgeoning our rock,
Precipice, peak,
Ice, emerald,
Sapphire, gold,

14: your tempering is done
Now, Dane,
Fled (as you came)
Galloping stallion sprung.
From a seaplucked harpstring
Headland, Icarus-brave in
To the dazzlement of oblivion.

Beyond the last of the world's whip
and the sun's gaze.
Exhibition history

1959 The Wake
Canterbury Public Library
27/4/1959 - 17/5/1959

1960 McCahon's The Wake
The Gallery
5/10/1960 - 14/10/1960

1972 Colin McCahon: A Survey Exhibition
Auckland City Art Gallery
7/3/1972 - 23/4/1972

1988 Colin McCahon: Gates and Journeys
Auckland City Art Gallery
11/11/1988 - 26/2/1989

2001 Answering Hark: Caselberg/McCahon: Poet/Painter
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
17/3/2001 - 20/5/2001

2006 Colin McCahon: The Titirangi Years: 1953-1959
Lopdell House
25/8/2006 - 8/10/2006

2017 Freefall
University of Otago Library
6/5/2017 - 1/7/2017

2019 The Wake: A Poem in the Forest
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
13/7/2019 - 27/1/2020

The text is that of John Caselberg's poem of the same title, recording the author's grief on the death in 1957 of his dog, Thor, a Great Dane. The poem was not published until 1965, in Six Songs & The Wake (Nag's Head Press, 1965).