Muriel Stuart

(1889-1967 / England)

Leda - Poem by Muriel Stuart

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.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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