The Empty Places

Original Text: 
Marjory Nicholls, Collected Poems, comp. Niel Wright (Wellington: Original Books, 2009).
2Down the valley quiet and lonely,
3No green leaves to stir and quicken,
4Blowing over gray grass only.
5Blackened, gray and moss-enamelled,
6Here and there are tree-trunks showing,
7Lichen-stained, the old stumps crumble
8In their rifts, green fern fronds growing.
9Desolate and sad the valley,
10And the little stream unshaded,
11Sadly flows in shrunken beauty
12By its banks once forest-shaded.
13Now I hear a sheep call faintly,
14Then the rustle of the grasses,
15Such a mournful silence breaking,
16As the wistful wind down-passes.
18Mourning in the empty places
19Where your forest trees once grew?
25And the birds your praises sung?
26When the sun could only gleam
27In shafts, leaf-piercing, on the stream;
28When vivid, glowing, pulsing life
29Beauty achieved in forest strife--
30    Tane! Tane! is it you
31Mourning in the empty places
32Where your forest trees once grew?


1] The Empty Places: native forests were often cut down to make pasturage for sheep. Back to Line
17] Tane: Tane Mahuta, a giant kauri tree in the Waipouia Forest of New Zealand. Estimated to be more than 2,000 years old, it is the largest kauri tree alive. It is a remnant of an ancient subtropical rainforest. Back to Line
20] rimu: a large evergreen tree, known as the red pine, native to New Zealand. Back to Line
21] kowhai: a small tree native to New Zealand with clusters of yellow flowers. Back to Line
22] matai: an evergreen tree, known as the black pine, native to New Zealand. Back to Line
23] rata: a tree of the myrtle family native to New Zealand, and especially noted for its brilliant red flowers that bloom from November through January. Back to Line
24] konini: a deciduous shrub or tree of the fuschia family native to New Zealand with maroon or reddish flowers. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Gathered Leaves (1922)
RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: