H O M E

Poems
by
Muriel Stuart
(1922)


Poets' Corner Scripting
© 2005, 2020 S.L. Spanoudis and
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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
POEMS BY MURIEL STUART

AUTHOR OF
"CHRIST AT CARNIVAL"
"THE COCKPIT OF IDOLS"

1922
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN

TO
CHANGE,
THE IMMORTAL FACTOR OF DELIVERANCE


    TO --

      Between two common days this day was hung
      When Love went to the ending that was his;
      His seamless robe was rent, his bow was wrong,
      He took at last the sponge's bitter kiss.

      A simple day the dawn has watched unfold
      Before the night had borne the death of love;
      You took the bread I blessed, and love was sold
      Upon your lips, and paid the price thereof.

      I changed then, as when soul from body slips,
      And casts its passion and its pain aside;
      I pledged you with most spiritual lips,
      And gave you hands that you had crucified.
      You who betrayed, kissed, crucified, forgot,
      You walked with Christ, poor fool, and knew it not!


    FOR FASTING DAYS.

      Are you my songs, importunate of praise?
      Be still, remember for your comforting
      That sweeter birds have had less leave to sing
      Before men piped them from their lonely ways.

      Greener leaves than yours are lost in every spring
      Rubies far redder thrust your eager rays
      Into the blindfold dark for many days
      Before men chose them for a finger-ring.

      Sing as you dare, not as men choose, receive not
      The passing fashion's prize, for dole or due-
      Men's summer-sweet unrecognition-grieve not:
      Oh, stoop not to them! Better far that you
      Should go unsung than sing as you believe not,
      Should go uncrowned than to yourselves untrue.


    THE FATHER.

      The evening found us whom the day had fled,
      Once more in bitter anger, you and I,
      Over some small, some foolish, trivial thing
      Our anger would not decently let die,
      But dragged between us, shamed and shivering
      Until each other's taunts we scarcely heard,
      Until we lost the sense of all we said,
      And knew not who first spoke the fatal word.
      It seemed that even every kiss we wrung
      We killed at birth with shuddering and hate,
      As if we feared a thing too passionate.
      However close we clung
      One hour, the next hour found us separate,
      Estranged, and Love most bitter on our tongue.

      To-night we quarrelled over one small head,
      Our fruit of last year's maying, the white bud
      Blown from our stormy kisses and the dead
      First rapture of our wild, estranging blood.
      You clutched him: there was panther in your eyes,
      We breathed like beasts in thickets; on the wall
      Our shadows swelled as in huge tyrannies,
      The room grew dark with anger, yet through all
      The shame and hurt and pity of it you were
      Still strangely and imperishably dear,
      As one who loves the wild day none the less
      That turns to naught the lilac's miracle,
      Breaking the unrecapturable spell
      Of the first may-tree, magic and mystery
      Utterly scattering of earth and sky.
      Making even the rose's loveliness
      A thing for pain to be remembered by.

      I said: "My son shall wear his father's sword."
      You said: "Shall hands once blossoms at my breast
      Be stained with blood?" I answered with a word
      More bitter, and your own, the bitterest
      Stung me to sullen anger, and I said:
      "My son shall be no coward of his line
      Because his mother choose"; you turned your head,
      And your eyes grew implacable on mine.
      And like a trodden snake you turned to meet
      The foe with sudden hissing ... then you smiled
      And broke our life in pieces at my feet,
      "Your child?" you said: "Your child?" . . .


    ANDROMEDA UNFETTERED.

      ANDROMEDA (the spirit of woman).
      PERSEUS (the new spirit of man).
      CHORUS (1)Woman who desire the old thrall.
                       (2)Women who crave the new freedom.

         The following poem is not a study of the economic struggle of women, but of the deep -rooted antagonism of spirit which constitutes the eternal sex-problem.


      ANDROMEDA.

      Chained to the years by the measureless wrong of man,
      Here I hang, here I suffer, here I cry,
      Since the light sprang forth from the dark, and the day began;
      Since the sky was sundered and saved from the sea,
      And the mouth of the beast was warm on the breast of the sod,
      And the bird's feed glimmered like rings on the blossoming tree,
      And the rivers ran silver with scales, and the earth was thronged
      With creatures lovely and sane and wild and free;
      Till the Image of God arose from the dust and trod
      Woman and beast and bird into slavery.
      Who has wronged me? Man who all earth has wronged:
      Who has mocked me? Man, who made mock of God.

      CHORUS OF FIRST WOMEN.

      Nay, what do you seek?
      If of men we be chained,
      Our chains be of gold,
      If the fetters we break
      What conquest is gained?
      Shall a hill-top out-spread a pavilion more safe than our palace hold?

      Without toil, we are fed,
      We have gold to our hire,
      We have kings at out thrall,
      And made smooth is our bed
      For the fools of desire.
      We falter the world with our eyelids, at our laughter men scatter and fall.

      What is freedom but danger,
      And death, and disaster?
      We are safe: Fool, to crave
      The unknown, the stranger!
      More fettered the back than the burden; man bows; he is slave to a slave!

      ANDROMEDA.

      Yes, in most bitter waters have they drowned
      My spirit, And my soul grows grey on sleep!
      What if with wreaths my empty hands are bound?
      I am slave for all their roses, and I keep
      A tryst with cunning, and a troth with tears.
      Time has kissed out my lips, and I am dumb.
      I am so long called fool, I am become
      That fool-of street or shrine. By body bears
      Burden of men and children. I have been
      All that man has desired or dreamed of me.
      I have trodden a double-weary way-with Sin,
      Or with Sin's pale, cold sister Chastity.
      I am a thing of twilight. I am afraid.
      Dull now and tame now; of myself so shamed.
      Fortressed against redemption; visited
      Of the old dream so seldom, as things tamed
      forget the life that their wild brother leads.
      I am a hurt beast flinching at the light.
      I have been palaced from sun, and night
      Runs in my blood, and all night's blushless deeds!

      CHORUS OF SECOND WOMEN.

      Oh world so blind, so dumb to our desiring,--
      To the vague cry and clamour of our being!
      Oh world so dark to our supreme aspiring,--
      To the pitiful strange travail of our freeing!--

      We weary not for love and lips to love us;
      These have been ours too often and too long;
      We have been hived too close; too sweet above us
      Tastes the bees mouth to our honey-wearied tongue.

      Not love, not love! Love was our first undoing,
      We have lived too long on heart-beats. None can tame
      The mind's new hunger, famished and pursuing,
      Unleashed, and crying its oppressor's name.

      All that the world could give man's mind inherits:
      Two paths were set us. Baffled, weeping, yearning,
      Tossed between God and man, rebellious spirits,
      We wandered, now escaped and unreturning.

      We are arming, waking, terribly unfolding,
      The spent world shudders in a new creation,
      A dread and pitiless flowering beholding,
      Burst from the dark root of our long frustration!

      ANDROMEDA.

      Did God but build this temple for desire
      That man defraud my birthright with a kiss?
      Did he not give me a spirit to aspire
      Beyond man's fortress and necessities?
      Man chains the thing he fears, who fears the free;
      No wildest beast was tamed as I was tamed,
      No prey has been so tracked, no flesh so shamed;
      Man hunts no quarry as he hunted me.
      Of all the things created, one alone
      Rose from the earth his equal; only the might
      Of his brute strength could bid my soul renounce
      Its claim-forswear its just, predestined right.
      To what poor shape of folly am I grown,
      In whom God breathed an equal spirit once!

      CHORUS OF FIRST WOMEN.

      Oh sheltering arms that have bound you,
      Oh hearts you have shaped to your will!
      The lordliest lovers have crowned you,
      They have knelt as they kneel to you still.

      Why speak you so ill of such lovers,
      Why question the will of such lords?
      From your lips, from your laughter, Love offers
      The world on a litter off swords,

      They have borne for you death and disasters,
      They have held you with kingdoms at stake.
      The kings of the earth and the masters
      Were poets and fools for your sake!

      ANDROMEDA.

      Was I made free for all their swords and songs?
      Do fairest songs sung to caged birds sound sweet?
      Did their spears hold the door whence came my wrongs?
      Did they sing my spirit and the hurt of it?
      There was no battle for my freedom's sake;
      They never sang pity of me. Not those
      Who laud it cage the eagle: not those who break
      The delicate stem most deeply love the rose.
      If we have taken the path towards the hills
      They have noosed our feet, they have kenneled us again.
      If we have dared for separate minds and wills,
      We have marched to men's laughter, and the mock of men.
      Oh lords, if you be strong why fear to raise
      Our groping, pitiful bodies from the dust?
      If you were pre-ordained to shape our ways,
      Why has your power shaped that way so ill?
      Only the hireling master wreaks his will
      On slaves, lest rulers they become at last,
      And his poor hour of pride is waned and passed:
      The rightful lord never fears to be just.

      CHORUS OF SECOND WOMEN.

      Stars, you run your course unchidden;
      Sun, the sky puts forth no hand
      To constrain you; unforbidden
      Clouds in ary harness stand;
      And unchallenged comes the moon up, right and slow upon the land.

      Dew, no shadow moves behind you
      To avert your glittering;
      Wind, your race is undenied you;
      Lightning, you have room to spring!
      For the great, free hand of Nature gives sweet leave to everything.

      One great law controls their being,--
      To their utmost bids them rise;
      From the snowdrop, her bell freeing,
      To the bow that leaps the skies;
      For the universal order of the world in freedom lies.

      But one lies here lost and driven
      From the free primeval way,
      From the rights that she was given,
      That she asks of man to-day;
      For her soul has faced her masters, and her spirit stands at bay.

      ANDROMEDA.

      I am the Last Begotten. I am the Rose
      Flung for the bed of kings. I am the Cause
      Of this world's ills, its follies and its woes;
      I am the unclean, the carnal, I make men pause
      From God. I am Sex, and ll vain bodily Lust
      That men desire and spit on, and would not lose
      For the bride of Heaven. I am the little Dust
      Blown from their bitter mouths. I am the Way
      of death. I am the soiled and spotted One
      Bidden in silence to the Church's feast;
      Yea, of all bitterest foes, the crafty priest
      Is mine; no hand has flung a crueler stone;
      Of all oppressors him I most accuse.
      I m the Fool that led the world astray,
      My motherhood the fruits of my first sin.
      I am the Slave to whom sick masters pray.
      I am the Mother. I am Magdalen.
      I am the Dmon, I drink at dead men's lips.
      My grail is blood at midnight. I am burned
      In which craft. I am the Weal of the world's whips.
      No age has risen that has not seen me scorned.
      I am the Harlot, the Accursed Thing, the Prey;
      Bartered for bread; like cattle willed away;
      Sold at the shambles. I am the Chastity
      Men breed for spoiling. I am the soul at bay.
      I am what men have made and marred of me.

      CHORUS OF SECOND WOMEN.

      Oh, behold, oh, beware,
      Andromeda! . . .
      A wing on the air,
      A step on the sands!
      Oh be silent lest he
      Who is master prepare,
      As of old at your plea,
      A new chain for your hands.

      Oh, behold, oh, beware,
      Andromeda!
      She hears not, her cries
      Still tremble the air.
      O sands, set a snare
      For him. Merciful skies,
      Uncradle your mist!
      O crag, beak your breast
      In murdering stone!
      O lightning, untwist
      Your fang from the cloud!
      O winds, shriek aloud
      Till the sea heave and groan,
      And unlock its white thunder
      Till its legions be hurled,
      And the beach quakes thereunder . . .
      Oh, Fool of the World!

      (PERSEUS appears on the sands near ANDROMEDA.)

      PERSEUS.

      Who crieth with a cry long heard of me?

      ANDROMEDA.

      The rebel spirit of woman that would be free.

      PERSEUS.

      How is she named whose wild lips so crave?

      ANDROMEDA.

      This is the World's Fool. This is the Slave.

      PERSEUS.

      Who has wronged her?

      ANDROMEDA.

      The ancient spirit of man.

      PERSEUS.

      Long was she chained?

      ANDROMEDA.

      Since the world began.

      PERSEUS.

      Who are her masters?

      ANDROMEDA.

      The lords of pride and lust.

      PERSEUS.

      Whence comes she?

      ANDROMEDA.

      From dust.

      PERSEUS.

      Where goes she?

      ANDROMEDA.

      To dust!

      CHORUS OF FIRST WOMEN.

      Is he fooled by her hair,
      Is he tranced by her eyes,
      That he draweth him near,
      That he speaketh him wise? . . .

      He has spoken again,
      He has taken her hands,
      He has loosened her chain,
      Unfettered she stands!

      PERSEUS.

      Stand there! Behold the new, uncharted day-
      Not as a fool made sweet for fools to kiss;
      Not as a saint to whom sick masters pray;
      no more the sad shell singing of men's lust;
      No more the sum of priest's pale sophistries;
      But as men stand, unchallenged, equal, free,
      Each path to take and every race to run.
      Stand forth, O shining equal in the sun!
      Unfold, unspring, outblossomfrom the dust,
      O divinist playfellow even as we!

      ANDROMEDA.

      Where is he who chained me? I am weak.
      I crouch still, whom the years forbade to stand.
      The chain is still remembered on my neck,
      There are the marks of slaves still in this hand.

      PERSEUS.

      No more shall he who chained you forge that chain;
      He has looked upon Medusa, and has seen
      What he has made of woman. To him turned
      Is the last face (who shall never see again)
      With its hissing, furious hair, the eyelids burned
      With the eye's hate, slime where the lips have been,
      That tumbled death upon him like a stone;
      And in your name Medusa smiled and spurned
      A dying face more dreadful than her own.

      ANDROMEDA.

      The shackled feet of centuries cannot keep
      Pace yet with feet that have outstripped the world.
      For the maimed even the riven way is steep.
      I am so strange to greatness, I am hurled
      Unsceptered to my glory! I am now
      Almost what you have called me, as things take
      The colour of names men give them; as things grow
      Fierce if dubbed fierce, and weak if branded weak,
      And fools if given no name but foolishness.
      I have been branded fool in life and art,--
      Always a little lower, always the less,
      Until the intolerable prompting has grown part
      Of all I do; my labouring brain and heart
      By that self-doubt are shadowed and undone.
      Let me walk long beside you in the sun,
      Race, wrestle with you, grow wise and swift and strong.
      For I shall speak but foolish words at first W
      ho was hindered of wisdom since the world began.
      I shall blunder and be so wayward who was nursed
      On fear and folly by the laws of man.

      PERSEUS.

      You shall not be less sweet that you are wise,
      And not less beautiful that you are strong.

      ANDROMEDA.

      I shall not see the scorn leap in your eyes?
      Your wisdom will not make my weakness wrong?

      PERSEUS.

      To the freed soul of woman I make my vow!
      Hand in hand we will walk in the sunrise now,
      No more implacable foes, but face to face,
      As masters of the world, and it shall be
      Under an equal law, with equal grace-
      A world where life is proud and sane and free.

      ANDROMEDA.

      Life must be borne. Together let us bear it!
      There is no other answer to the vexed,
      Sad problem of the world.

      PERSEUS.

      Together, free of spirit,
      Of body free, one minded, equal sexed.

      ANDROMEDA.

      I claim of man a thousand centuries!
      Shall one poor decade serve to make me wise
      When men have knelt so long at wisdom's knees?

      PERSEUS.

      Till the last day grows dim to the last eyes!

      ANDROMEDA.

      Let us go forth. Comrade and friend at last.

      PERSEUS.

      Comrade and friend! For me a new day lies,
      Splendid and strange. For you the night is passed.

      CHORUS OF SECOND WOMEN.

      They rise, they go forth, foot by foot, hand in hand.
      He goes not before, nor she after; together they stand.

      He is no less though she be the more. Thus they meet,
      Long sundered, whom life made for union, now at rest, now complete.

      They are separate and free, they are woven and one,
      And the world has grown quiet; between them the battle is done.

      For this is the dream, the ideal, the designate plan,
      So slow of fulfillment, so sure, God's prevision of man.

      Shared burden, shared wonder, shared vision and strife:
      In their fellowship only is found the perfection, of life.

      FINAL CHORUS.

      From what clear wells of wonder
      Upspringing and upspringing,
      From what rock cleft asunder
      Leaps this stream cool and bright?
      What secret joy thereunder
      Melodiously uplinging
      Its heart in ceaseless music upon the lyre of light?

      To what high ary choiring
      This hour her way is winging,
      Her dewey troth to plight?
      This golden hour aspiring
      Above the glad bells ringing,
      More sweet than sweet bird's music, more fleet than fleet bird's flight?

      What joy and hope here clinging,
      With gentle fingers twining,
      In wrapt and mystic rite?
      What love unblind is bringing
      Two mortals swift and shining,
      With faces to the morning, with footsteps from the night?

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