Muriel Stuart

To a Poet, Charles Bridges

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THOU singest, thou, me seems,
Coming from high Parnassus; where thy head
Beside the silent streams,
Among fast-fading blooms, hath fashioned
A pillow of pale dreams;
While from thee, sleeping, gods, of heart and soul,
Have taken fullest toll.

Thou knowest at what cost
Thy sleep was taken on those awful hills--
What thou hast gained, and lost;
Thou knowest, too, if what thou art fulfils
The pledge of what thou wast;
And if all compensates the poet's wreath
That wounds the brow beneath.

Rememberest thou that night
Incomparable? Thou in dreams wast laid,
Where petals, rose and white,
Above thy head a pale pavilion made;
Where at unscal├Ęd height
The moon lay anchored in the heaving sky,
And clouds went surging by.

Then came the gods unknown!--
The plundering gods--to take thee unawares,
While thou wast sleeping, thrown
Upon the sacred mountain that is theirs.
In vain sad flowers had blown
A gale of petals o'er thee, on they came
In a still sheet of flame!

They knew that those who dare
To sleep one night beside Parnassus' streams
The poet's crown must wear--
Must lip the chalice of immortal dreams,
And breathe the eternal air;
Who, even unto trembling Ossa's hill,
May walk the mount at will!

They killed thy happiness,
And strangled all thy youth, with hands profane,
They brake Love's rosaries,
Tossing thy ravaged soul amid the slain,
While thou wast weaponless;
And left thee gibbeted 'twixt pain and peace,
Forbidding thy release.

Then they augustly laid
Their crippled gifts beside thee, and withdrew
Into high Pelion's shade;
Their tireless feet made fall no bead of dew,
Their passing bent no blade,
Though thunder muttered round each mighty plume,
And crumbled into gloom.

They laid a fatal spell
Of beauty on thine eyes, that made most fair
The rose unpluckable;
They bade thee thirst, yet find no Cup to bear
Water from any well;
They mocked thee with a vision passionate,
And a soul celibate!

O friend, what thou hast known
Thou givest me; what thou hast suffered, thou
Wouldst calmly bear alone;
Forbidding thorns to gather on my brow,--
Accustomed on thine own;
Thou lingerest at my side, to show and spare
The pitfall and the snare.

For thou wouldst give to me
The poet's pillow, who has suffered not
The poet's penalty;
A goodly heritage, a happy lot
Wouldst have my portion be.
With honey from the rod art fain to feed,
Not from the galled reed.

Thou hast some rare reward!
The reed that gods have guided, in thine hand
Becomes a dreadful sword;
Their fingers on thy heartstrings still demand
A loud, triumphant chord:
They pass the ditch-delivered poets by,
With wide contemptuous eye.

Poet: I take thy cup:
But, from my coloured wreath of morning flowers
Where bees wild honey sup,
Upon thy sepulchre of buried hours
Am fain to offer up
Some bud, that spills upon thy brow anew
Its fragile shell of dew.

And if at last I choose
To make my pillow on some slope forlorn,
And, in that slumber, lose
My morning wreath, that must be tossed and torn
To feed the jealous Muse,
Remember the poor gifts that I resign . . .
I shall remember thine!

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Muriel Stuart