Monday, May 28, 2012

Ursula Bethell

Ursula Bethell (1874—1945) has been described as “the most firmly, traditionally Christian” of New Zealand's poets. She was born in England, but moved to New Zealand as a small child; she was educated in England and Switzerland — later continuing to travel extensively, including living for awhile in Geneva to study painting.

Her poetry often reflects her interest in painting and her love of gardening. She writes of the beauty of creation, often avoiding overtly Christian language. In her poem “Warning in Winter” she uses the term “The Spirit of Beauty”. In a letter she said, “Some people haven't liked [the term] 'The Spirit of Beauty' but surely it's true — The Holy Spirit must be the Spirit of Beauty”.

She had long been a supporter of the role of women in the church, and in 1935 donated her home as accomodation for an Anglican deaconess training institute.

The following is one section of a longer poem from her collection Day And Night (1939).

From At the Lighting of the Lamps (For Music)


Praise, praise to thee, Almighty Artificer, Architect,
Poet, whose pure inexhaustible spring eternally flows,
Artist, whose marvellous works eternally are made manifest,
Eternally making, in making, eternally finding repose.
Praise to the All; the One; Ineffable; and Intimate;
Calling thy stars, thy souls, thy least electrons by name;
For thine, as ours, the human heart that beat upon Olivet
Under these same stars, and thine the unquenchable flame
Of love in that heart.… The city lights of Jerusalem
Burned low.… beloved, pitiless city of light
Put out, put out; but in pity, on high to be lit again,
For the price of the heart broken, the life put out for a night,
But mightily rising, rising again, and prevailing mightily.…
Light of lights, Lamp of the City, Orient blaze
Of glorious splendour, on us shed forth thy golden rays!
In thy light our lights are consumed, and yet not utterly,
Night after night, in peace, amen, we hymn thy praise.

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Ursula Bethell: second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: