Muriel Stuart

Thèlus Wood

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I came by night to Thèlus wood,
And though in dark and desperate places
Stubborned with wire and brown with blood
Undaunted April crept and sewed
Her violets in dead men's faces,
And in a soft and snowy shroud
Drew the scarred fields with gentle stitch;
Though in the valley where the ditch
Was hoarse with nettles, blind with mud,
She stroked the golden-headed bud,
And loosed the fern, she dared not here
To touch nor tend this murdered thing;
The wind went wide of it, the year
Upon this breast stopped short of Spring:
Beauty turned back from Thèlus Wood.

From broken brows the dim eyes stared,
Blistered and maimed the wide stumps grinned
From the black mouth of Thèlus bared
In laughter at some monstrous jest.
No creature moved there, weed nor wind.
Huge arms, half-torn from savage breast,
Hung wide, and tangled limbs and faces
Lay, as if giants blind and stark
With violent, with perverse embraces
Groped for each other in the dark.
A moaning rose — not of the wind,
— There was no wind, but hollowly
From its dim bed of mud each tree
Gave forth a sound, till trees and mud
Seemed but a single, sighing mouth,
A wound that spoke with lips uncouth,
And cried to me from Thèlus Wood.

I heard one tree say: "This was I
Who drew great clouds across the sky
To weep against me." This one said:
"I made a gloom where love might lie
All day and dream it night, a bed
Secret and soft, the birds' song had
A twilight sound the whole day there."
One said: "Last night I shook my hair
Before the mirror of the moon."
"I saw a corpse to-day," said one
"That was but buried yester-year."
And one, the smallest, sweetest thing —
A fair child-tree made never stir,
Dead before God had tended her
In the green nurseries of Spring.
She lay, the loveliest, loneliest,
Among the old and ruined trees,
And at each small and broken wrist
The white flowers grew like bandages.

Then from the ruined churchyard where
Old vaults and graves lay turned and tossed
And earth from earth was shaken bare,
Came murmurings of a tongueless host
That to each ghastly brother said:
"Who raised us from our sleep? Is this
The resurrection of the dead?
Upon our bodies no flesh grows,
No bright blood through our temples springs,
No glory spreads, no trumpet blows,
The air is not white and blind with wings.
And yet dragged up before us lie
The woods of Thèlus at our feet,
And strange hills sentinel the sky,
And where the road went yawns a pit.
The world is finished: let us sleep.
God has forgotten: we shall keep
Here a sweet, safe Eternity.
There is no other end than this,
And this is death, and that is peace."
But even as they ceased the stones
Were loosed, the earth shook where I stood,
And from far off the crouching guns
Swung slowly round on Thèlus Wood.

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Muriel Stuart