Muriel Stuart

The Dead Moment

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THE world is changed between us, never more
Shall the dawn rise and seek another mate
Over the hill-tops; never can the shore
Spread out her ragged tresses to the roar
Of the sea passionate,
Moon-chained, and for a season love-forbid;
Never shall shift the sullen thunder's lid
At lightning-lash, and never shall the night
Throw the wild stars about,
Nor the day flicker out
Against the evening's breath; but this shall creep--
This moment on us, to make different
The face of every day's intent,
And change the brow of sleep.

What can we name it? Oh, the whitest word
Would leave a stain upon that moment's mouth!
The sweetest piping heard
By wearying birds a-South
Would shake its silence, let no word be said;
What need of name or music hath the dead?
Too far for call, too faint for song it is,
This ghost of ours, that you have buried deep;
Less earth than any violet nourishes
Its fragile stem would keep;
And we could lose it in the frailest shell,
Or lily's wannest bell;
In any rose's urn that dust might dwell.

Oh! to forsake it thus,
Our only one, our starveling piteous!
Even as men who garner and lock up
Gold chasuble and cup,--
Their alabaster and their tourmaline,--
Their sandal-wood and wine,
Will give their dearest to the earth to keep,
Housed among strangers, and will let the clay
Or oozing river-bed
Rot all their wealth away,
While they go home to sleep!
Will let the wild roots of the bramble clutch,
And see the careless sod
Trample it down, and bruise with common touch
All that they knew of glory and of God!

(Who would not house a thief so house their dead!)
In the blind dark with wolf-winds overhead.
When night sucks honey from the hive of day
They lie, while April, with her merry clout,
Flings the white dust about;
When the swift silences that ride the Spring
Whip on their misty chariots, and wring
Foam from the bridled lips of May;
What time the sick moon looks up yellowly
Out of the pillowed sky,
Or when doth sing
Some crazy bird, aslant upon a bough
A song that makes him, just this time of year,
A poet, and can never sing again;
When the pale lips of rain
Tremble above the eyelids of the plain.

Ah! would you hide our one dead moment, now,
Even as they, my dear?
Who into one grave hurdle grace and mirth,
Beating down Beauty with a noisy spade,
Nor dream that 'neath the stunned and senseless earth
Are all their riches laid;--
Such gold as they shall never see again,
Such wine as shall not stain
Their shallow cups! All beauty, all delight,
Treasure, unbarterable and bright,
All lie there in the cold, and in the night.

Nay, you will have it so?
Let all its sweetness go,
Brief, exquisite?
Then take it hence; but make a wreath for it
And let us sing for it a requiem,
Not the few strangled words above the dead
That those, whose hearts condemn,
Mutter, for having left so long unsaid,
Pity or praise, to ears desiring them.
Bury it not as something sick and shamed,
Unfathered and unnamed.
Nay, break sweet spices, myrrh and cedar bring,
Bury it as a king,
Or some belov├Ęd child that lies beneath
The rose whose name he knew not, wondering
Why his young mother wove it in a wreath.

For, look you, and remember what it gave,--
Those gifts, that naught and none can take away!
How it makes red as rose each pallid day,
Each coward moment, brave;
And how each wingless heel of Misery
It sandals with a hope, and sends a-sky!
While we await the hour that somewhere goes
Unmatched, unmated . . . it shall not be yet:
Night's heavy eyelids close
On tears; and leave the Morning's pillow wet.
Weep not, though said the requiem, flung the wreath;
Only when you forget, and I forget,
Weep for that moment's death.

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Muriel Stuart