POEMS BY MURIEL STUART
"CHRIST AT CARNIVAL"
"THE COCKPIT OF IDOLS"
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
THE IMMORTAL FACTOR OF DELIVERANCE
- Men wondered why I loved you, and none guessed
- How sweet your slow, divine stupidity,
- Your look of earth, your sense of drowsy rest,
- So rich, so strange, so all unlike my sea.
- After the temper of my sails, my lean
- Tall masts, you were the lure of harbour hours,--
- A sleepy landscape warm and very green,
- Where browsing creatures stare above still flowers.
- These salt hands holding sweetness, the leader led,
- A slave, too happy and crazed to rule,
- Sea land-locked, brine and honey in one bed,
- And Englands's man your servant and your fool!
- My banqueting eyes foreswore my waiting ships;
- I was a silly landsman at your lips.
Is it not a wonderful thing to be able to force an astonished plant to bear rare
flowers which are foreign to it. . . and to obtain a marvelous result from sap
which, left to itself, would have produced corollas without beauty? -VIRGIL.
- I stood forlorn and pale,
- Pressed by the cold sand, pinched by the thin grass,
- Last of my race and frail
- Who reigned in beauty once, when beauty was,
- Before the rich earth beckoned to the sea,
- Took his salt lips to taste,
- And spread this gradual waste-
- This ruin of lower, this doom of grass and tree.
- Each Spring could scarcely lift
- My brows from the sand drift
- To fill my lips with April as she went,
- Or force my weariness
- To its sad, summer dress:
- On the harsh beach, I heard the grey sea rise,
- The ragged grass made ceaseless, dim lament,
- And day and night scarce changed the mournful skies.
- Foot on the sand, a shadow on the sea!
- A face leaned over me.
- Across each wasted limb
- Passed healingly a warm, great, god-like hand.
- I was drawn up to him,
- From my frail feet fell the last grains of sand.
- Then haste and darkness stooped and made me theirs;
- Deep handed me to deep; . . .
- I faded then as names fade from men's prayers,--
- As a sigh at last made friends with sleep.
- But the same hand that bore me from the sea,
- Waking me tenderly,
- Bound me to a rough stranger of my race,--
- Me weary and pale to him, and him to me.
- I turned my piteous face
- Aside ashamed; I struggled to be free.
- I slept, I dreamed, I woke to that embrace! . . .
- Sweet tides stole through my veins,
- Strange fires and thrills and pains;
- To my cold lips the bloom crept back once more
- I glowed as a bride glows;
- I watched the day with delicate hands restore
- My kinship with the rose.
- About my throat my hair went like a flame,
- My brows were wreathed, in purple I was dressed,
- I bore my bride's name,
- A great star burned my breast.
- No longer bound, I leaned the same sweet way
- Towards her lover. Now astonished I
- Who was a beggar stand obediently
- Beside Cophetua.
IN THE ORCHARD.
- "I THOUGHT you loved me." "No, it was only fun."
- "When we stood there, closer Than all?" "Well, the harvest moon
- "Was shining and queer in your hair, and it turned my head. "
- "That made you?" "Yes." "Just the moon and the light it made
- "Under the tree?" "Well, your mouth too". "Yes, my mouth? "
- "And the quiet there that sang like the drum in the booth. "
- "You shouldn't have danced like that." "Like what?" "So close,
- "With your head turned up, and the flower in your hair, a rose
- "That smelt all warm. " "I loved you. I thought you knew.
- "I wouldn't have danced like that with any but you. "
- "I didn't know. I thought you knew it was fun. "
- "I thought it was love you meant. " "Well, it's done. " "Yes, it's done.
- "I've seen boys stone a blackbird, and watched them drown
- "A kitten -- it clawed at the reeds, and they pushed it down
- "Into the pool while it screamed. Is that fun, too? "
- "Well, boys are like that . . . Your brothers . . . " Yes, I know.
- But you, so lovely and strong! Not you! Not You! "
- "They don't understand it's cruel. It's only a game."
- "And are girls fun too?" "No, still in a way it's the same.
- "It's queer and lovely to have a girl . . ." "Go on."
- "It makes you mad for a bit to feel she's your own,
- "And you laugh and kiss her, and maybe you give her a ring,
- "But it's only in fun." "But I gave you everything."
- "Well, you shouldn't have done it. You know what a fellow thinks
- "When a girl does that." "Yes, he talks of her over his drinks
- "And calls her a-" "Stop that now. I thought you knew."
- "But it wasn't with anyone else. It was only you."
- "How did I know?" "I thought you wanted it too.
- "I thought you were like the rest. Well, what's to be done?"
- "To be done?" "Is it all right?" "Yes." "Sure?" "Yes, but why?"
- "I don't know. I thought you were going to cry.
- "You said you had something to tell me." "Yes, I know.
- "It wasn't anything really . . . I think I'll go."
- "Yes, it's late. There's thunder about, a drop of rain
- "Fell on my hand in the dark. I'll see you again
- "At the dance next week. You're sure that everything's right?"
- "Yes." "Well, I'll be going." "Kiss me . . ." "Good night." . . . "Good night."
THE WOOD AND THE SHORE.
- THE low bay melts into a ring of silver,
- And slips it on the shore's reluctant finger,
- Though in an hour the tide will turn, will tremble,
- Forsaking her because the moon persuades him.
- But the black wood that leans and sighs above her
- No hour can change, no moon can slave or summon,
- Though leaning to the tide she hears nor heeds him.
- Then comes the dark; on sleepy, shell-strewn beaches,
- O'er long, pale leagues of sand and cold, clear water
- She hears the tide go out toward the moonlight.
- The wood still leans . . . weeping she turns to seek him,
- And his black hair all night is on her bosom.
- I raised the veil, I loosed the bands,
- I took the dead thing from its place.
- Like a warm stream in frozen lands
- My lips went wandering on her face,
- My hands burnt in her hands.
- She could not stay me, being dead;
- Her body here was mine to hold.
- What if her lips had lost their red?
- To me they always tasted cold
- With the cold words she said.
- Did my breath run along her hair,
- And free the pulse, and fire the brain,
- My wild blood wake her wild blood there?
- Here eyelids lifted wide again
- In a blue, sudden stare.
- Beneath my fierce, profane caress
- The whole white length of body moved;
- The drowsy bosom seemed to press
- As if against a breast beloved,
- Then fail for weariness.
- No, not that anguish! Christ forbid
- That I should raise such dead! I rose,
- Stifled the mouth with lilies, hid
- Those eyes, And drew the long hair close,
- And shut the coffin lid.
- My cold brow on the cold wood laid,
- Quiet and close to-night we lie.
- No cruel words her lips have said.
- I shall not take nor she deny.
- The dead is with the dead.
Do you remember, Leda?
- There are those who love, to whom Love brings
- Great gladness: such things have not I.
- Love looks and has no mercy, brings
- Long doom to others. Such was I.
- Heart breaking hand upon the lute
- Long last made musical by you?
- Sharp bird-beak in the swelling fruit,
- Or raise the eyelids of these flowers?
- I dare not watch that hidden pool,
- Nor see the wild bird's sudden wing
- Lifting the wide, brown shaken pool,
- But round me falls that secret wing,
- And in that sharp, perverse, sweet pain
- That is half-terror and half-bliss
- My withered hands are curled on pain
- That were so wide once, after bliss.
- And gold is springing in my hair
- As my thought spring and flower with it,
- Though I sit hid in my grey hair,
- Without love or the pain of it.
- Yet, oh my Swan, if love have wings,
- As the gods tell us, you were love
- Who took and broke me with those wings.
- I, weak, and being far gone in love
- Let blushless things be breathed and done-
- Things flowered out now in bitter fruit
- That once done are no more undone
- Than last year's frost and last year's fruit.
- For what has come of love and me
- Who knew the first joy that loving is?
- Where has love led and beckoned me
- But to the end where nothing is?
- I have seen my blood beat out again
- Red in the hands of all my line,
- My sin has swelled and flowered again
- Corrupt and fierce through Sparta's line.
- Bred through me-bred through delicate hands
- And wandering eyes and wanton lips,
- Sighing after strange flesh as sighed these lips,
- Straying after new sin as strayed these hands.
- Mother of Helen! She whose breasts
- To new desires unshaped the world;
- Above Troy's summit towered these breasts
- Helen who wantoned with the world!
- Helen is dead (she had love enough
- To mock at doom and laugh at shrine)
- And Clytemnestra, quiet enough
- To-night beneath Apollo's shrine.
- And I am left, the source, the spring
- Of all their madness. They are dead
- While I still sit here, the old spring
- That fouled them flows above the dead.
- But I have paid. I have borne enough.
- I am very old in love and woe.
- For all souls these things are enough-
- Who have known love are the friends of woe.
- There those who love, and who escape,
- There are those who love and do not die.
- I loved, and there was no escape,
- Long since I died and daily die.
- And death alone makes hate and love
- Friends with each other and with sleep . . .
- All's quiet here that once was love,
- This that is left belongs to sleep.
- You give me no portent of impermanence
- Though before sun goes you are long gone hence,
- Your bright, inherited crown
- Withered and fallen down.
- It seems that your blue immobility
- Has been for ever, and must for ever be.
- Man seems the unstable thing,
- Fevered and hurrying.
- So free of joy, so prodigal of tears,
- Yet he can hold his fevers seventy years,
- Out-wear sun, rain and frost,
- By which you are soon lost.
- Is it not brave to be a king, Techelles,--
- Usumcasane and Theridamas,
- Is it not passing brave to be a king,
- And ride in triumph through Persepolis? --MARLOWE
- Bring the great words that scourge the thundering line
- With lust and slaughter-words that reek of doom
- And the lost battle and the ruined shrine;--
- Words dire and black as midnight on a tomb;
- Hushed speech of waters on the lip of gloom;
- Huge sounds of death and plunder in the night;--
- Words whose vast plumes above the ages meet,
- Girdling the lost, dark centuries in their flight,
- The slave of their unfetterable feet.
- Bring words as pure as rills of earliest Spring
- In some far cranny of the hillside born
- To stitch against the earth's green habiting;--
- Words lonely as the long, blue fields of morn;--
- Words on the wistful lyre of winds forlorn
- To the sad ear of grief from distance blown;
- Thin bleat of fawn and airy babble of birds;
- Sounds of bright water slipping on the stone
- Where the thrilled fountain pipes to woodland words.
- Bring passionate words from noontide's slumber roused,
- To slake the amorous lips of love with fruit,
- Dripping with honey, and with syrups drowsed
- To draw bee-murmurs from the dreaming lute-
- Words gold and mad and headlong in pursuit
- Of laughter; words that are too sweet to say
- And fade, unsaid, upon some rose's mouth;--
- Words soft as winds that ever blow one way,
- The summer way, the long way from the south.
- For such words have high lineage, and were known
- Of Milton once, whose heart on theirs still beats;
- Marlowe hurled forth huge stars to make them crown;
- They are stained still with the dying lips of Keats;
- As queen they trod the cloak in Shakespeare's streets;
- Pale hands of Shelley gently guard their flame;
- Chatterton's heart was burst upon their spears:
- Their dynasty unbroken, and their name
- Music in men's mouths for all men's ears.
- But now they are lost, their lordliest 'scutcheon stained;
- Upon their ruined walls no trumpet rings;
- Their shrines defiled, their sacraments profaned:
- Men crown the crow, they have given the jackal wings.
- Slaves wear the peplum, beggars ride as kings.
- They couple foolish words and look for birth
- Of mighty emperor, Christ or Avatar,
- They mate with slaves from whom no king comes forth;
- No child is theirs who follow not the Star.
On to the next poem.