Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Pause by Ursula Bethell


When I am very earnestly digging
I lift my head sometimes, and look at the mountains,
And muse upon them, muscles relaxing

I think how freely the wild grasses flower there,
How grandly the storm-shaped trees are massed in their gorges,
And the rain-worn rocks strewn in magnificent heaps,

Pioneer plants on those uplands find their own footings
No vigorous growth, there, is an evil weed:
All weathers are salutary.

It is only a little while since this hillside
Lay untrammelled likewise,
Unceasingly swept by transmarine winds.

In a very little while, it may be,
When our impulsive limbs and our superior skulls
Have to the soil restored several ounces of fertiliser,

The Mother of all will take charge again,
And soon wipe away with her elements
Our small fond human enclosures.


Ursula Bethell (1874-1945) was born in England, grew up in New Zealand and spent her early adult life in Britain and Europe before returning to New Zealand. She lived in the Cashmere Hills on the south side of Christchurch. Many of her poems refer to gardens and gardening.

The last stanza of this poem was quoted in an article a couple of weeks ago in our local paper, on the Canterbury landscape in literature, as related to the recent earthquakes. It had me seeking out the full poem, which I found in the Oxford Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English.

For more poems, visit the Tuesday Poem hub, where you will find the Tuesday Poets listed in the sidebar.


Mary McCallum said...

DOn't they say that NZ Literature really began when Ursula Bethell lifted her head and looked at the hills? Or was that Harvey McQueen who said it? Either way, it sounds good to me.

Jennifer Compton said...

great comment Mary - I love this poem, but then i think i love all the work of hers i have come across - so simple and authentic and singing