new zealand electronic poetry centre

Ursula Bethell

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Sauntering home from church we lingered
looking away northwards over the white gates.
I see our visitors in go-to-meeting dress.
I do not see my parents. Perhaps that day they chose
to ‘stay behind’ – mysterious phrase of those times,
meaning reserved from children, I must think.

Above that gate the downs. I see them now,
I see them gentle brown and amethyst.
Our grown-up guests the landscape viewed
and commented – Lovely! perhaps a sketch?
My eager praises added met with prompt rebuff.
Too young, too young to notice lovely views.

Wrong, Madam, wrong – dear Wordsworth was more reasonable.
Too late! the great African bishop rhetorician
cried out upon himself, too late have I sought thee,
Beauty! – His vision abides. Let us begin here
upon the downs. . . . A few years gone
I passed them by in autumn and their fields
a basket of ripe fruit, of purple plums
and yellow apricots, ruddy pears –
but to my memory of earlier day, soft pasture.

The guardian Mt Grey still casts a spell
of greatness, majesty that does not go with measurement,
a mien of kinship with all renowned heights,
a look of having kept inviolable for a thousand years
a secret of great comfort. Who has not traced,
looking from southward hills, its noble outline?
Who has not watched the pencilled shadows deepen
upon its flanks? I do not see you there,
Mt Grey, looking down at the end of our village streets,
but I was conscious. I have found you, since,
something familiar, and I salute you now, for your significance.

From Collected Poems (Caxton, 1950)


Last updated 22 May, 2005