Christ at Carnival
and Other Poems (1916)

Muriel Stuart

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Muriel Stuart

And Other Poems
by Muriel Stuart



Thou who hast loved and striven
So much, so many times,
Given me and forgiven,
Take this poor wreath of rhymes.

To a Poet, Charles Bridges

    THOU singest, thou, meseems,
    Coming from high Parnassus; where thy head
    Beside the silent streams,
    Among fast-fading blooms, hath fashionèd
    A pillow of pale dreams;
    While from thee, sleeping, gods, of heart and soul,
    Have taken fullest toll.

    Thou knowest at what cost
    Thy sleep was taken on those awful hills--
    What thou hast gained, and lost;
    Thou knowest, too, if what thou art fulfils
    The pledge of what thou wast;
    And if all compensates the poet's wreath
    That wounds the brow beneath.

    Rememberest thou that night
    Incomparable? Thou in dreams wast laid,
    Where petals, rose and white,
    Above thy head a pale pavilion made;
    Where at unscalèd height
    The moon lay anchored in the heaving sky,
    And clouds went surging by.

    Then came the gods unknown!--
    The plundering gods--to take thee unawares,
    While thou wast sleeping, thrown
    Upon the sacred mountain that is theirs.
    In vain sad flowers had blown
    A gale of petals o'er thee, on they came
    In a still sheet of flame!

    They knew that those who dare
    To sleep one night beside Parnassus' streams
    The poet's crown must wear--
    Must lip the chalice of immortal dreams,
    And breathe the eternal air;
    Who, even unto trembling Ossa's hill,
    May walk the mount at will!

    They killed thy happiness,
    And strangled all thy youth, with hands profane,
    They brake Love's rosaries,
    Tossing thy ravaged soul amid the slain,
    While thou wast weaponless;
    And left thee gibbeted 'twixt pain and peace,
    Forbidding thy release.

    Then they augustly laid
    Their crippled gifts beside thee, and withdrew
    Into high Pelion's shade;
    Their tireless feet made fall no bead of dew,
    Their passing bent no blade,
    Though thunder muttered round each mighty plume,
    And crumbled into gloom.

    They laid a fatal spell
    Of beauty on thine eyes, that made most fair
    The rose unpluckable;
    They bade thee thirst, yet find no Cup to bear
    Water from any well;
    They mocked thee with a vision passionate,
    And a soul celibate!

    O friend, what thou hast known
    Thou givest me; what thou hast suffered, thou
    Wouldst calmly bear alone;
    Forbidding thorns to gather on my brow,--
    Accustomed on thine own;
    Thou lingerest at my side, to show and spare
    The pitfall and the snare.

    For thou wouldst give to me
    The poet'spillow, who has suffered not
    The poet's penalty;
    A goodly heritage, a happy lot
    Wouldst have my portion be.
    With honey from the rod art fain to feed,
    Not from the gallèd reed.

    Thou hast some rare reward!
    The reed that gods have guided, in thine hand
    Becomes a dreadful sword;
    Their fingers on thy heartstrings still demand
    A loud, triumphant chord:
    They pass the ditch-delivered poets by,
    With wide contemptuous eye.

    Poet: I take thy cup:
    But, from my coloured wreath of morning flowers
    Where bees wild honey sup,
    Upon thy sepulchre of buried hours
    Am fain to offer up
    Some bud, that spills upon thy brow anew
    Its fragile shell of dew.

    And if at last I choose
    To make my pillow on some slope forlorn,
    And, in that slumber, lose
    My morning wreath, that must be tossed and torn
    To feed the jealous Muse,
    Remember the poor gifts that I resign . . .
    I shall remember thine!

Ave et Vale

    FAREWELL is said! Yea, but I cannot take
    All that my Greeting gave.
    In you hath Hope her doom and Joy her grave;
    Still you go crowned with old imaginings,
    Clad in the purple that young passion flings
    About the sorriest god that Love can make.

    Ah! would you might forget, and so pass by
    Unwounded of my kiss,
    Made free of Youth's unmemorable bliss!
    Love's hand that speeds along his daisy chain
    Forgets in swift delight to tell again
    Old prayers upon a new-strung rosary.

    For when I part from you I would not leave
    One shadow that might be
    A ghost to haunt you, what you had of me
    I would fold by in Memory's lavender--
    Something my breath may very gently stir
    In the slow fading of a rainy eve.

    When you drop cherries in the purple wine
    For other lips to drain,
    Let not old nights betrayed leap up again,
    Throw down no murdering chalice at your feast
    To-night, nor find another woman's breast
    Less lovely with the sudden dream of mine.

    Yet if a stranger bear my name, or one
    With the same-coloured eyes
    Glance at you suddenly, lost dreams shall rise
    With unintelligible swift appeals,
    The broken images of old ideals
    Shall stare from corners where as gods they shone.

    Farewell is on the lips of the first kiss
    But speaks no word until
    The loud voice of Desire hath had its will.
    Greeting is swift and beautiful, Farewell
    Is slow and patient and immutable,
    Knowing of old that love must lead to this.

    Greeting! Farewell! The day's grown very old,
    My heart put out the light,
    Read no more pages of the Past to-night.
    There are no roses here to miss the sun;
    A soul hath looked on love and he hath flown;
    Ashes are on the wind; the tale is told.

The Chalice of Circe

    DRINK of our Cup--of the red wine that burns in it,
    All the wild shames that have crusted its mouth,
    Passion that twists in it, Madness that churns in it,
    Fever that yearns in it, Folly that turns in it,
    Drink of our Cup! It is Love, it is Youth!

    "Amorous valleys have travailed to breed in it,
    Eden hath shaken one tree at its brim,
    Syria scattered an infamous seed in it,
    Paphos hath freed in it lovers, to bleed in it,
    Foam from Armida hath rusted its rim!

    Chalice of gold with the bruised roses dying there,
    How the mad kisses have clustered and clung!
    All the sweet loves of the world, softly crying there,
    Longing and lying there, swooning and sighing there,
    Call to me: "Scatter our wine on thy tongue!"

    Rim of it: poisoned with carrion kisses,
    Taints the fresh flower, and forbiddeth the sun:
    Doves never brood where the stirred serpent hisses
    At maddening kisses--mysterious blisses:
    Over its edges the spiders have spun.

    Fierce wife of Philip her portion hath found in it,
    Messaline waits there, Aspasia woos:
    Helen and Egypt go vested and crowned in it,
    Phryne is bound in it, Faustine swings round in it,
    Crying: "Come down to us, watch us and choose!"

    Voices are calling: "The revel begins with us,
    Run thou again in the race of delight!
    All the sweet chase and the capturing win with us,
    Enter thou in with us, gambol and sin with us,
    Fleet is the quarry and fair is the flight!"

    Ere I clould slake at the chalice's wonder
    Lips all a-fire for the taste of such bliss,
    Rose a great storm, sucked the white faces under,
    And tore them asunder with fury and thunder,
    Crushed the last folly and choked the last kiss.

    Fiercely it flung them and savagely shattered them,
    Burst the last breath in a bubble of blood!
    Fury and foam of it broke them and battered them,
    Scorched them and scattered them, tortured and tattered them,
    Hurling their limbs in the froth of the flood.

    .         .         .         .         .         .        .

    Perished their promise, their beauty forsaken;
    Silence alone walked the face of the deep:
    The whirlpool was stilled, and the surface with snaken
    Small ripples was shaken, as if did awaken
    Some sorrowful ghost from the margin of sleep.

    Nothing was left of their beauty and 'plaining--
    Left of their magic and spared of their spell:
    Only the lip of the dark water, staining
    The roses, fast waning; and only the craning
    Of snakes' heads, disturbed by the petals that fell.

To the Old Gods

    To F.D.C.
    Who much inspired what is in this book.

    O YE, who rode the gales of Sicily,
    Sandalled with flame,
    Spread on the pirate winds; o ye who broke
    No wind-flower as ye came--
    Though Pelion shivered when the thunder spoke
    The gods' decree!--

    Into the twilight of the ancient days
    Have not ye flown!--
    Ye, whom the happy Greeks inspirèd hand
    Struck from the frenzied stone:
    That, ye withdrawn, your images should stand
    To take their praise.

    Smeared into clay, and frozen into stone!
    Ye, that do now
    Face eyes unworshipful in plunder's halls,
    Mutilate, with marred brow:
    Broken and maimed: couched along alien walls
    In lands unknown.

    O gracious ones! No more, no more, shall ye
    Spread wing above
    Perilous Ossa! No more wring delight
    From pool and golden grove:
    No more beneath your fire-shod feet in flight
    Shall hiss the sea.

    The thuunder shall not groan between your breasts,
    Nor lightning writhe
    Barbed in your clutch; no worshippers shall trace
    Your steps in grove and hithe.
    No more 'thwart skies your golden stallions race
    On mighty quests.

    And yet what fane, what column, rises now
    To save or shine:
    What temple travails at such quickening feet,
    What wing-tip seeds a shrine:
    What god hath bid us build in wold or street,
    Such breast and brow?

    What have our wisdom and our worship done
    To raise such gods?
    To quench the ruined eyes of Parthenon
    What newer beauty nods,
    And shames the wreckless brow that stares upon
    The amazèd sun?

    Held up in arms of columns white as flowers,
    You faced the sea,
    With your great breasts for glory passioning,--
    For mortal's victory;
    Not 'neath occaisonal thin spires that spring
    From streets of ours,

    Hooding the dying god, whom men revile,--
    Who bears their sin.
    No great winds thunder over sun-splashed thrones,
    Our dusty shrines within,
    Where troubled feet make groan the weary stones,
    In hollow isle.

    I, only I, kneel at forsaken shrine:
    The lamp I bring
    Scarce throws a shade beneath your eyelids there:
    Forlorn the song I sing
    To ears august, and these wrung berries bear
    A bitter wine.

    Yet still I kneel, poor praise to offer up
    To each great name!
    And I shall feel upon my brow descend
    A sudden edge of flame.
    Your wings shall smear these words, even as ye bend
    To this poor cup.

The Dead Moment

    THE world is changed between us, never more
    Shall the dawn rise and seek another mate
    Over the hill-tops; never can the shore
    Spread out her ragged tresses to the roar
    Of the sea passionate,
    Moon-chained, and for a season love-forbid;
    Never shall shift the sullen thunder's lid
    At lightning-lash, and never shall the night
    Throw the wild stars about,
    Nor the day flicker out
    Against the evening's breath; but this shall creep--
    This moment on us, to make different
    The face of every day's intent,
    And change the brow of sleep.

    What can we name it? Oh, the whitest word
    Would leave a stain upon that moment's mouth!
    The sweetest piping heard
    By wearying birds a-South
    Would shake its silence, let no word be said;
    What need of name or music hath the dead?
    Too far for call, too faint for song it is,
    This ghost of ours, that you have buried deep;
    Less earth than any violet nourishes
    Its fragile stem would keep;
    And we could lose it in the frailest shell,
    Or lily's wannest bell;
    In any rose's urn that dust might dwell.

    Oh! to forsake it thus,
    Our only one, our starveling piteous!
    Even as men who garner and lock up
    Gold chasuble and cup,--
    Their alabaster and their tourmaline,--
    Their sandal-wood and wine,
    Will give their dearest to the earth to keep,
    Housed among strangers, and will let the clay
    Or oozing river-bed
    Rot all their wealth away,
    While they go home to sleep!
    Will let the wild roots of the bramble clutch,
    And see the careless sod
    Trample it down, and bruise with common touch
    All that they knew of glory and of God!

    (Who would not house a thief so house their dead!)
    In the blind dark with wolf-winds overhead.
    When night sucks honey from the hive of day
    They lie, while April, with her merry clout,
    Flings the white dust about;
    When the swift silences that ride the Spring
    Whip on their misty chariots, and wring
    Foam from the bridled lips of May;
    What time the sick moon looks up yellowly
    Out of the pillowed sky,
    Or when doth sing
    Some crazy bird, aslant upon a bough
    A song that makes him, just this time of year,
    A poet, and can never sing again;
    When the pale lips of rain
    Tremble above the eyelids of the plain.

    Ah! would you hide our one dead moment, now,
    Even as they, my dear?
    Who into one grave hurdle grace and mirth,
    Beating down Beauty with a noisy spade,
    Nor dream that 'neath the stunned and senseless earth
    Are all their riches laid;--
    Such gold as they shall never see again,
    Such wine as shall not stain
    Their shallow cups! All beauty, all delight,
    Treasure, unbarterable and bright,
    All lie there in the cold, and in the night.

    Nay, you will have it so?
    Let all its sweetness go,
    Brief, exquisite?
    Then take it hence; but make a wreath for it
    And let us sing for it a requiem,
    Not the few strangled words above the dead
    That those, whose hearts condemn,
    Mutter, for having left so long unsaid,
    Pity or praise, to ears desiring them.
    Bury it not as something sick and shamed,
    Unfathered and unnamed.
    Nay, break sweet spices, myrrh and cedar bring,
    Bury it as a king,
    Or some belovèd child that lies beneath
    The rose whose name he knew not, wondering
    Why his young mother wove it in a wreath.

    For, look you, and remember what it gave,--
    Those gifts, that naught and none can take away!
    How it makes red as rose each pallid day,
    Each coward moment, brave;
    And how each wingless heel of Misery
    It sandals with a hope, and sends a-sky!
    While we await the hour that somewhere goes
    Unmatched, unmated . . . it shall not be yet:
    Night's heavy eyelids close
    On tears; and leave the Morning's pillow wet.
    Weep not, though said the requiem, flung the wreath;
    Only when you forget, and I forget,
    Weep for that moment's death.

On to the next poem.

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