Muriel Stuart

(1889-1967 / England)

Words - Poem by Muriel Stuart

Is it not brave to be a king, Techelles,--
Usumcasane and Theridamas,
Is it not passing brave to be a king,
And ride in triumph through Persepolis? --MARLOWE

Bring the great words that scourge the thundering line
With lust and slaughter-words that reek of doom
And the lost battle and the ruined shrine;--
Words dire and black as midnight on a tomb;
Hushed speech of waters on the lip of gloom;
Huge sounds of death and plunder in the night;--
Words whose vast plumes above the ages meet,
Girdling the lost, dark centuries in their flight,
The slave of their unfetterable feet.

Bring words as pure as rills of earliest Spring
In some far cranny of the hillside born
To stitch against the earth's green habiting;--
Words lonely as the long, blue fields of morn;--
Words on the wistful lyre of winds forlorn
To the sad ear of grief from distance blown;
Thin bleat of fawn and airy babble of birds;
Sounds of bright water slipping on the stone
Where the thrilled fountain pipes to woodland words.

Bring passionate words from noontide's slumber roused,
To slake the amorous lips of love with fruit,
Dripping with honey, and with syrups drowsed
To draw bee-murmurs from the dreaming lute-
Words gold and mad and headlong in pursuit
Of laughter; words that are too sweet to say
And fade, unsaid, upon some rose's mouth;--
Words soft as winds that ever blow one way,
The summer way, the long way from the south.

For such words have high lineage, and were known
Of Milton once, whose heart on theirs still beats;
Marlowe hurled forth huge stars to make them crown;
They are stained still with the dying lips of Keats;
As queen they trod the cloak in Shakespeare's streets;
Pale hands of Shelley gently guard their flame;
Chatterton's heart was burst upon their spears:
Their dynasty unbroken, and their name
Music in men's mouths for all men's ears.

But now they are lost, their lordliest 'scutcheon stained;
Upon their ruined walls no trumpet rings;
Their shrines defiled, their sacraments profaned:
Men crown the crow, they have given the jackal wings.
Slaves wear the peplum, beggars ride as kings.
They couple foolish words and look for birth
Of mighty emperor, Christ or Avatar,
They mate with slaves from whom no king comes forth;
No child is theirs who follow not the Star.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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