Tuesday Poem – Dirge, by Mary Ursula Bethell

Easter. And leaves falling.
Easter. And first autumn rains.
Easter. And dusk stealing
Our bright working daylight;
And cold night coming down
In which we may not work.

Easter. And morning bells
Chime in the late dark.
Soon those fluttering birds
Will seek a more genial clime.
Time has come to light fires
For lack of enlivening sun.

Summer’s arrow is spent,
Stored her last tribute.
So, now, we plant our bulbs
With assured vision,
And, now, we sow our seeds
Sagely for sure quickening.

So, purging our borders
We burn all rubbish up,
That all weak and waste growth,
That all unprofitable weeds,
All canker and corrosion,
May be consumed utterly.

These universal bonfires
Have a savour of sacrifice.
See how their clean smoke,
Ruddy and white whorls,
Rises to the still heavens
In plumy spirals.

You take me – yes, I know it –
Fresh from your vernal Lent.
These ashes I will now spread
For nutriment about the roses,
Dust unto fertile dust,
And say no word more.

From a Garden in the Antipodes (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1929)

More on Ursula Bethell at the nzepc

Don’t forget to check out the communal Tuesday Birthday Poem.


  1. This feels so modern – and is so marvellous – a brilliant kiwi Easter poem. Thank you, Janis. And thank you for your support of Tuesday Poem over the past two years – all the poets and poems you bring to it – your own work – and the exciting things TP has brought to you with the publication of Alice the Spider in the US. Brilliant stuff. Mary & Claire.

  2. Hi Janis, I have been in gardens where the owner proudly displayed cuttings from Ursula’s garden and watched the growth of a cutting from the cutiing. It did wonderfully well. It’s lovely to be reminded in this poem. She probably wasn’t looking forward to another ChCh winter.:-)

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