Madala Goes By The Orphanage - Poem by Muriel Stuart
Unaware of its terror,
And but half aware
Of the world's beauty near her-
Of sunlight on the stones,
And trembling birds in the square,
Lightly went Madala-
A rose blown suddenly
From Spring's gay mouth; part of the Spring was she.
Warmed to her delicate bones,
Cool in its linen her skin,
her hair up-combed and circled,
Lightly she flowered on the sin
And pain of the Spring-struck world.
Down the street went crazy men,
The winter misery of their blood
Budding in new pain
While beggars whined beside her,
While the street's daughters eyed her,--
Poor flowers that kept midsummer
With desperate bloom, and thrust
Stale rose at each newcomer,
And crime and hunger and lust
Raged in the noisy dust.
Lightly went Madala,
Unshaken still of that spell,
Coral beads and jade to buy,
While her thoughts roamed easily-
Thoughts like bees in lavender,--
Thoughts gay and fragile as a robin's shell.
Till suddenly she had come
To grim age-stubborned wall
Behind whose mask of bars
Starts up in shame the Foundling's Hospital.*
At the gates to watch her pass
A caged thing eyed her dumb,
Most mercifully unaware of
Its own hurt, but Madala
Stopped short of Spring that day.
The air grew pinched and wan,
A hand came over the sun,
Birds huddled, stones went grey,
Her lace and linen white
Seemed but her body's sin,
her flesh unscarred and bright
Burnt like a leper's skin.
Her mouth was stale with bread
Flung her by strangers, she was fed,
Housed, fathered by the State, and she had grown
A thing belonged to, and loved, by none.
Though the shut mouth said no word,
from the caged thing she heard,
'Who has wronged me, that this Spring
'Gives me nothing and you everything,
'Who alike were made,
'Who beckon the same dream?
'You buy coral and jade,
'I sew long, hungry seams
'To pay for charity . . .'
Then Madala's heart, afraid,
Cried the first selfish cry;
'Is it my fault? Can I
'Help what the world has done?
'Can the flower in the shade
'Blame the flower in the sun?'
Then quick the caged thing said,
As if to ask pardon that its words had made
Madala's Spring so spoiled for her that day:
'But there's a way, a way!
'If flowers would share their Spring
'There's be sunshine enough for all the flowers.
'Such sunshine you could bring,
'Such joy that swings and flies
'With posies your hours through,
'So just beyond my hours.
'If I could walk with you-
'Not in pitiful two by two
Flayed by free children's eyes,
Your sister for an hour to be,
It would double joy and woo
Spring back to you, and more than Spring to me.'
Then something quaked in Madala,
Quaked with magic, quaked with awe.
Love-quickening, She became a part
Of this caged thing, she was aware
Of strange lips tugging at her heart.
So clear the way was! Tenderer
Grew her eyes, and as they grew,
Back to the flowers rushed the dew,
The earth filled out with the sun,
The cold birds in the square
Unbunched and preened upon
Their twigs in the softening air;
The cold wind dwindled and dropped,
Nearer drew Madala,
At the dumb thing she smiled,
And Spring that a child had stopped
Came back from the eyes of a child.
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