The Father

Muriel Stuart

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The evening found us whom the day had fled,
Once more in bitter anger, you and I,
Over some small, some foolish, trivial thing
Our anger would not decently let die,
But dragged between us, shamed and shivering
Until each other's taunts we scarcely heard,
Until we lost the sense of all we said,
And knew not who first spoke the fatal word.
It seemed that even every kiss we wrung
We killed at birth with shuddering and hate,
As if we feared a thing too passionate.
However close we clung
One hour the next hour found us separate,
Estranged, and Love most bitter on our tongue.

To-night we quarrelled over one small head,
Our fruit of last year's maying, the white bud
Blown from our stormy kisses and the dead
First rapture of our wild, estranging blood.
You clutched him: there was panther in your eyes,
We breathed like beasts in thickets, on the wall
Our shadows in huge challenge seemed to rise,
The room grew dark with anger. Yet through all
The shame and hurt and pity of it you were
Still strangely and imperishably dear,
As one who loves the wild day none the less
That breaks in bitter hands the buds of Spring,
Whose cold hand stops the breath of loveliness,
And drives the wailing ghost of beauty past,
Making the rose, — even the rose, a thing
For pain to be remembered by at last.

I said: "My son shall wear his father's sword."
You said: "Shall hands once blossoms at my breast
Be stained with blood?" I answered with a word
More bitter, and your own, the bitterest
Stung me to sullen anger, and I said:
"My son shall be no coward of his line
Because his mother choose"; you turned your head
And your eyes grew implacable in mine.
And like a trodden snake you turned to meet
The foe with sudden hissing ... then you smiled,
And broke our life in pieces at my feet,
"Your child?" you said: "Your child?"

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