Muriel Stuart

Poets' Corner Scripting
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Transcribed for Poets' Corner
May 2005 by S.L.Spanoudis

[This 1922 work is believed to be in the public domain in the US. Please check local restrictions in other geographies.]

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Muriel Stuart





      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.


      "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 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.

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