Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Empty Places / Marjory Nicholls

The Empty Places

A wind is sighing wistfully
Down the valley quiet and lonely,
No green leaves to stir and quicken,
Blowing over gray grass only.

Blackened, gray and moss-enamelled,
Here and there are tree-trunks showing,
Lichen-stained, the old stumps crumble
In their rifts, green fern fronds growing.

Desolate and sad the valley,
And the little stream unshaded,
Sadly flows in shrunken beauty
By its banks once forest-shaded.

Now I hear a sheep call faintly,
Then the rustle of the grasses,
Such a mournful silence breaking,
As the wistful wind down-passes.

Tane! Tane! Is it you
Mourning in the empty places
Where your forest trees once grew?
Where the rimu's drooping green
And the kowhai's gold were seen;
And the matai's lofty head
And the rata, burning red;
Where konini berries hung
And the birds your praises sung?
When the sun could only gleam
In shafts, leaf-piercing, on the stream;
When vivid, glowing, pulsing life
Beauty achieved in forest strife –
Tane! Tane! is it you
Mourning in the empty places
Where your forest trees once grew?

Marjory Nicholls
from Gathered Leaves, 1922

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

17 - Tane: a giant kauri tree, over 2,000 years old.
20-24 - rimu, kowhai, matai, rata, konini - native New Zealand trees.

Marjory Nicholls biography

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