Muriel Stuart (1885 -1967) was a poet who was greatly admired in her day; Hardy thought her poetry was superlative, and so did High McDiarmid. She was of Scottish descent but lived in Norbury – where I also spent my childhood. Did I ever bump into her in Sainsbury’s, or Achille Serre, I wonder? Her most famous poem, In The Orchard, is a dialogue between a man and the girl he has just slept with, giving a very contemporary take on their different expectations of the act
I don’t know what happened to her in later life, but she gave up poetry and turned to writing about gardening. Some of her poerty is rather lush and overblown for today’s taste- maybe she just fell out of fashion. But I love this simple and evocative poem:
The Seed Shop Muriel Stuart
Here in a quiet and dusty room they lie,
Faded as crumbled stone or shifting sand,
Forlorn as ashes, shrivelled, scentless, dry –
Meadows and gardens running through my hand.
Dead that shall quicken at the call of spring,
Sleepers to stir beneath June’s magic kiss,
Though birds pass over, unremembering
And no bee seek here roses that were his.
In this brown husk a dale of hawthorn dreams,
A cedar in this narrow cell is thrust
That will drink deeply of a century’s streams,
These lilies shall make summer on my dust.
Here in their safe and simple house of death,
Sealed in their shells a million roses leap;
Here I can blow a garden with my breath,
And in my hand a forest lies asleep.