Muriel Stuart

(1889-1967 / England)

To The Old Gods - Poem by Muriel Stuart

O YE, who rode the gales of Sicily,
Sandalled with flame,
Spread on the pirate winds; o ye who broke
No wind-flower as ye came--
Though Pelion shivered when the thunder spoke
The gods' decree!--

Into the twilight of the ancient days
Have not ye flown!--
Ye, whom the happy Greeks inspired hand
Struck from the frenzied stone:
That, ye withdrawn, your images should stand
To take their praise.

Smeared into clay, and frozen into stone!
Ye, that do now
Face eyes unworshipful in plunder's halls,
Mutilate, with marred brow:
Broken and maimed: couched along alien walls
In lands unknown.

O gracious ones! No more, no more, shall ye
Spread wing above
Perilous Ossa! No more wring delight
From pool and golden grove:
No more beneath your fire-shod feet in flight
Shall hiss the sea.

The thuunder shall not groan between your breasts,
Nor lightning writhe
Barbed in your clutch; no worshippers shall trace
Your steps in grove and hithe.
No more 'thwart skies your golden stallions race
On mighty quests.

And yet what fane, what column, rises now
To save or shine:
What temple travails at such quickening feet,
What wing-tip seeds a shrine:
What god hath bid us build in wold or street,
Such breast and brow?

What have our wisdom and our worship done
To raise such gods?
To quench the ruined eyes of Parthenon
What newer beauty nods,
And shames the wreckless brow that stares upon
The amazèd sun?

Held up in arms of columns white as flowers,
You faced the sea,
With your great breasts for glory passioning,--
For mortal's victory;
Not 'neath occaisonal thin spires that spring
From streets of ours,

Hooding the dying god, whom men revile,--
Who bears their sin.
No great winds thunder over sun-splashed thrones,
Our dusty shrines within,
Where troubled feet make groan the weary stones,
In hollow isle.

I, only I, kneel at forsaken shrine:
The lamp I bring
Scarce throws a shade beneath your eyelids there:
Forlorn the song I sing
To ears august, and these wrung berries bear
A bitter wine.

Yet still I kneel, poor praise to offer up
To each great name!
And I shall feel upon my brow descend
A sudden edge of flame.
Your wings shall smear these words, even as ye bend
To this poor cup.


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Read poems about / on: august, sea, flower, sun, spring, happy, song, beauty, fire, god, wind, rose, sky



Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004



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