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 Gipsy

    ONCE when some sudden thought beseeches,
    Swift as a homing bird
    I shall come down with Love's young song that reaches
    And whispers to the silence Sorrow teaches
    One sweet April word.--
    To where Wind's whitest hand invisible,
    Stroking the mountain's side
    To silver, breaks in edge of froth each bell
    As waves against the tide.
    Till a soft fringe of flowers frays on bare beaches.

    --To where the blasted tree lies burst asunder
    By hideous lightning's breath,
    And in its track hears growl the wolf of thunder
    Who follows with wide jaws a-gape for plunder
    Along the path of death.
    Where every sloe-tree writhles, sideways struck,
    Crippled, and dumb, and torn,
    And hell-black berries only gnomes would suck,
    Gape on the twisted thorn
    That the moor bears in shame, recoiling under.

    I greet you there--there where the great winds greet you!
    And they shall bring and bear
    My spirit to you, though they blind and beat you,
    And scream away, of this they shall not cheat you,
    My hand is in their hair;
    Where the rough heather gnaws the rattling stones
    Where quarry soil has slipped,
    And flings unshrouded to the day the bones
    Of dead trees, from their crypt;
    There, gipsy in your palace, I will meet you.

    Out in the blare of great wind-bitten spaces,
    Where from the distant shore
    Fugitive foam is flung against our faces,
    While on her heel the tempest raves and races,
    There we shall meet once more!--
    Where the sky's red is under-staunched with grey,
    And sunset's livid eye
    Rolls in sick film of blood to see the Day
    Flash up the darkened sky,--
    Young Victor, with drawn sword, upon his traces!

    Then I shall have no need of song to sing you,--
    No word to speak that day,
    My laugh the spirit of the wild shall fling you,
    My kiss the fresh lips of the gale shall bring you,
    The stream my name shall say.
    As, from the ditch, some hedge-wraith dartling out,
    Shall prick the horse's ear,
    Your heart, astir, whose word you shall not doubt,
    Shall whisper I am near,
    And with the old sweet tang of tears shall sting you.
    Among the lanes that love--the hills that know you,
    There I shall seek and find;
    Across the long, blue fields at dawn, that show you
    Their dream-disheveled brows, the trees that throw you
    Their last leaves down the wind.
    And you shall look up from a dream half-sad,
    A memory half-sweet,
    Find hand in yours, and finding, shall grow glad
    Of feet beside your feet,
    See grey sky blue, and stubble flower below you.

    Then, Gipsy, then, no asking and no talking!
    In that immortal hour
    All has been asked and given; the cross forsaking
    Crowned Love ascending is, and young bud breaking
    Into one heaven, one flower.
    And we shall face the morning, take the sun
    In vetch and bracken root,
    And build our fire, pitch tent when day is flown
    Like any dusty-foot,
    And find clear sky above us at our waking.

    Gipsy, if we, among these grasses lying,
    Could find and hold the best,--
    Could wander, you and I, the world defying,
    Where, on Night's silence falls the day's speech, sighing
    Against the woodland's breast;
    Then life should wander happy, fearless, free,
    And unto both of us
    A flowering, not a Crucifiction be;
    Oh! once to dare and thus
    Live!--and when dying, know not it was dying!

At Life's End

    COME here, rekindle the old fire,
    This last night leave no lamp unlit!
    In later days we twain shall sit,
    Remembering the joys of it,--
    The warmth and sweetness of desire.

    Here, ere we part, again live o'er
    The way we went,--the hour,--the kiss;
    Let Love with magic hand of his
    Rebuild the mirage of our bliss
    In desert days that wend before.

    Swart night of August! when we stood
    Heart-locked beside the window-pane!
    The thunder quickening again
    The laggard pulses of the rain,
    Wrung a few drops as hot as blood.

    Outside we heard the passionate tune
    That wooing wind and water keep;
    The weft that silence keeps with sleep;
    While through the foam-blown silent deep
    Sailed the wan shallop of the moon.

    Outside, the dark night and the sea!
    The sleepy and seductive speech
    Of water to the shrinking beach,
    The wind that odoured plum and peach,
    The white rose that regaled a bee.

    Joy through our hand like water runs!
    Ah! dearest, could we keep those hours
    As some divine unfading flowers,
    Renewed by the eternal showers,
    And lit by everlasting suns!

    But flowers and hours alike must fade;
    In the old book of Memory
    Seal up these hours for you and me,
    As on some page of poetry,
    At glowing words a rose is laid.

    Let the grape purple in the South,
    And let the wild red daisies blow!
    I shall not see, I shall not know;
    For me, alone the darnels* grow,             [weeds]
    Only the hemlocks bruise my mouth.

    To-night the world is stunned with gloom,
    The trees shake in a sudden fright,
    Wincing against the hailstones' spite,
    And the crape curtains of the night
    Hang heavy on the unfinished loom.

    Fit hour for parting! Say 'farewell,'
    Clasp me no closer, ask no more!
    What word can ease--what kiss restore?
    The thunder's hearse is on the shore,
    And the sea tolls a passing bell.

In Praise of Mandragora

    [Editor's Note: Mandragora refers to the Mandrake Root,
    which was believed to have mysterious powers due to its
    similarity in shape to the human form. --Steve]

    O, MANDRAGORA, many sing in praise
    Of life, and death, and immortality,--
    Of passion, that goes famished all her days,--
    Of Faith, or fantasy;
    Thou, all unpraised, unsung, I make this rhyme to thee.

    The woomby underworlds thy roots enclose,
    In human shape, sprung from abhorrent seed;
    But when through crumbling roof the daylight shows,
    And thou my breast hast freed
    Thou growest in the field as any flower or weed.

    At many a cross-road bare thy leaves protrude,
    Upon the brow of lonely, moon-blanched heath,
    And from a loathly breast thou draggest food,
    That moulders far beneath . . .
    Whereon a crazy moon stares out and bares her teeth.

    And sometimes, in the purblind face of morn
    The stealthy hinds slink out to gather thee,
    Then shudder, as thy shrieking roots are torn,
    And turn at last, and flee,
    Leaving a slimy pulp that bleedeth suddenly.

    Ah!--well thou mayest shriek, for he who lies
    In clotted earth, with stones upon his breast,
    Feareth a victim who drags out his eyes
    In vengeance deadliest,
    While to thy loosened feet his screaming mouth is pressed!

    O mystic one, thou hast a couch more dread
    Than Isabella's Basil ever knew;--
    Whose petals on gentle brow were fed,
    Whose leaves in fragrance grew,
    That Death, in sorrowful amend, made sweet with dew.

    O Mandragora, though thy features dwell
    Beneath the earth in such ill company
    Far sweeter than that plant to Isabel,
    Thy blossoms are to me.
    Thou Root of dreamless sleep, take this in praise of thee!

    Close thou Pandora's casket by whose aid
    That goddess Discord queens the escapèd woes,
    She had no power to hinder or dissuade,
    Yet Mandragora shows
    A hope uncabined, and a peace that conquers those!

    From the Nepenthe doth her pitcher fill,
    That barters with the merchandise of grief,
    And for all suffering and every ill
    Hath such a sweet relief,
    That sleep the haven seems, and pain the voyage brief.

    Thou thro' still gardens in the timorous Dusk,
    When all the sky is purpled with the pain
    Of dying Day, dost walk, and myrrh and musk
    Fall from thy misty train,
    And totter all about, and are caught up again.

    There the lulled world within the opiate blue
    Forgets her long-continued pain and falls
    Into an easy sleep; the winds pursue
    Each other round the walls;
    A night bird cries, then lists, then then answers its own calls.

    The moon exhalts her yellow Lily-cup
    Above the rainy evening goldenly,
    The wan tent of her beauty foldeth up
    The frail Anemone,
    From whose white bosom spins the spent and touseled bee.

    I would not proffer any highest god
    Praise for the poor gift of eternity.
    When sin has sucked the honey from its rod,
    And reason bows the knee,
    And Fame beats out her torch, what fire, what feast, for me?

    When Sense is numb, and Song forgets her chant,
    And beauty swells the ashes of the dead,
    And Love's denied white breast forgets to pant
    Beneath some lovely head.
    What Life shall I desire when Love and Youth are fled?

    O Mandragora, when thy lips are laid
    On other paling lips, remember mine.
    Beneath thy kiss all other kisses fade;
    Let Life herself resign
    Her breath upon thy lip, her being unto thine.

    Then all in vain my golden trump declare,
    No flickering lid shall Thracian music raise,
    And Pan in vain shall pipe his cunning air
    In secret woodland ways.
    My closèd lips shall sing my triumph and my praise.

    O Mandragora, we have pledged our vows,
    And I will spill for thee my cup of wine.
    Though poets few have woven for thy brows
    A coronet divine.
    Give thy immortal gift--these verses shall be thine!

The End of Love

    WHO shall forget till his last hour be come,--
    Until the useful service of the dust
    Hath drawn the emptying cerements in and in;--
    Until the Earth hath eaten love and lust,
    Mirth, Beauty, and their kin . . .
    Who shall forget that hour
    That night unstarred, that day ungarlanded;
    Where fell the petals of that fadeless flower?

    When every word was said
    That long had bared frustrate and savage teeth,
    Leashed in the perishable thong of days,
    And whipped to words of praise!
    When every ill, and each ingratitude,
    Each joy misnamed,
    Each deed misunderstood,
    Was flogged into the daylight, halt, and maimed,
    Out of its bier, to bear the day's disgust--
    Out of its decent bed
    To beat Love's tortured head
    Into the troubled and uncertain dust.
    Who can forget the naked hour profane,
    When Love fled from us, shrieking through the dark,
    His torch blown backward by the hurricane
    Licking his dreadful features with its tongue,
    While his mouth spat a curse at every spark,
    And a scourged menace flung?

    Thou wert that dreadful thing!
    O Beautiful, O Rare, O Breath of rose,
    O Spirit as impalpable as Spring!
    How have I held thee, then? Too long, too close?
    For it was thou, was thou, who left me thus,
    With each sweet thing, with all the lovely host
    That turning stared at us,
    And, shuddering, gave up their frailest ghost!

    Oh! to remember! Oh! to hear the tune
    That Love first sang to us, that happy day;
    When over us was furled his radiant wing.
    Oh! for that one May moment. Not to lose
    Its greenest leaf, or miss its singlest spray
    So that this hour by that forgotten day
    Might be all buried by the buds of Spring
    That soft winds beat,--not bruise,--
    To make a bridal bed for June
    From the pale shroud of May.
    O Love, O Love! There was not any need
    For thee to die, for me to be bereft,
    Our garden to be left
    To nettle and to weed,--
    To whips of rain when the chid wind was wroth.
    Surely by some word, some sigh, had saved us both?
    Could everything be lost,
    All torn and tossed
    Between thy speech and mine? Could all our vows,
    And all our lovely life be laid so low,
    And God fall on His face within the house
    At first marauder's blow?
    Yea, it was so:
    And all of pride and pleasure, peace and power,
    All Life's rich fruit and flower,
    Died, as least darnel* dies, in that dread hour.            [grass,weed]

On to the next poem.

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