new zealand electronic poetry centre

Ursula Bethell

online works

November 1939

Once again, my darling, it is come, the time you died,
And on this quiet harbour once again I look –
Not that other harbour, not your earthly bourne,
But in this place where you had left me once
That I full-end, unhindered, an insistent task,
And went back solitary to our common home.

By the umbrageous guard of the old burial ground
I now rest solitary, breathing as the trees breathe
Soft the sea-fresh air, and in the vivid oak,
The scented pine and ancient manuka the random birds
Bestrew their notes, and take up little tunes,
The same we often listened to when you were here.

Hearts that once had ached for those whose sleeping bones
At first were laid beneath this grass, have ceased to ache
Long since, their fleeting semblances in turn
Lost like that wisp of cloud upon the rocky heights
I have watched dissipate, and now resumed in blue –
My heart will ache for you until it also sleep.

The old man gathering cones now wanders near
And gives me cheerful greeting. Individual grief
In all his charge of sepulture these many years
He could not know. The sun is warm today,
And windy storms wide scattering much fruits
Have furnished kindly warmth for him in winter’s need.

The noon hour nears. Goes, with shouldered sack
Homewards the cone-gatherer. The birds, the trees
Subdue and fuse and lose their tunes in the sun’s rays,
In the rising murmur of stress, recess on musicked shore,
Where the stealthy waves of the climbing tide turning over
Mark time, as life’s appointment ebbs away.

Return I now to join a casual throng. No more
Rounding, alone, a coign of the sea-scalloped track,
Shall I, surprised, perceive my dear, with eager pace
Coming to meet me, and with eager look of love,
And go companioned; nor may I ask to know
Such cherished company, such tender love again.

To me, unworthy, once in punctual succour sent,
By the same sacred Will on sudden caught away,
You left me, darling, desolate – might it not be to find,
To accomplish in my solitude some unfinished work,
To glean some stormy harvest that remains? – oh rest,
Rest in your lucid heaven. See, I am content,
Rest peaceful. The task ended, then I follow on.

From Collected Poems (Caxton, 1960)


Last updated 10 April, 2005