Bethell’s “Leaves of Gold”: An Unpublished Poem


  • Peter Whiteford Victoria University of Wellington



Ursula Bethell left a number of unpublished poems and fragments in her papers when she died which are now contained in her archive. They include an early work, extant in two copies, in which she translates ‘Les feuilles d’or’, a poem by a little-known Swiss poet, Henry Spiess. The translation was intended for a competition in The Westminster Gazette in 1904, but Bethell never submitted her entry. Spiess’s poem is clearly influenced by the French Symbolists; Bethell’s strikingly effective translation is sensitive to that influence and shows remarkable technical sophistication. In addition, it anticipates in many ways the major concerns of her first volume of poetry. The poem is published here for the first time, and its connections with Bethell’s mature work explored.

Peter Whiteford is a Professor of English Literature at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Correspondence about this article may be directed to the author at


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