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Hertha

Written by: Algernon Charles Swinburne | Biography
 I AM that which began; 
 Out of me the years roll; 
 Out of me God and man; 
 I am equal and whole; 
God changes, and man, and the form of them bodily; I am the soul. 

 Before ever land was, 
 Before ever the sea, 
 Or soft hair of the grass, 
 Or fair limbs of the tree, 
Or the flesh-colour'd fruit of my branches, I was, and thy soul was in 
me. 

 First life on my sources 
 First drifted and swam; 
 Out of me are the forces 
 That save it or damn; 
Out of me man and woman, and wild-beast and bird: before God was, I 
am. 

 Beside or above me 
 Naught is there to go; 
 Love or unlove me, 
 Unknow me or know, 
I am that which unloves me and loves; I am stricken, and I am the 
blow. 

 I the mark that is miss'd 
 And the arrows that miss, 
 I the mouth that is kiss'd 
 And the breath in the kiss, 
The search, and the sought, and the seeker, the soul and the body that 
is. 

 I am that thing which blesses 
 My spirit elate; 
 That which caresses 
 With hands uncreate 
My limbs unbegotten that measure the length of the measure of fate. 

 But what thing dost thou now, 
 Looking Godward, to cry, 
 'I am I, thou art thou, 
 I am low, thou art high'? 
I am thou, whom thou seekest to find him; find thou but thyself, thou 
art I. 

 I the grain and the furrow, 
 The plough-cloven clod 
 And the ploughshare drawn thorough, 
 The germ and the sod, 
The deed and the doer, the seed and the sower, the dust which is God. 

 Hast thou known how I fashion'd thee, 
 Child, underground? 
 Fire that impassion'd thee, 
 Iron that bound, 
Dim changes of water, what thing of all these hast thou known of or 
found? 

 Canst thou say in thine heart 
 Thou hast seen with thine eyes 
 With what cunning of art 
 Thou wast wrought in what wise, 
By what force of what stuff thou wast shapen, and shown on my breast 
to the skies? 

 Who hath given, who hath sold it thee, 
 Knowledge of me? 
 Has the wilderness told it thee? 
 Hast thou learnt of the sea? 
Hast thou communed in spirit with night? have the winds taken counsel 
with thee? 

 Have I set such a star 
 To show light on thy brow 
 That thou sawest from afar 
 What I show to thee now? 
Have ye spoken as brethren together, the sun and the mountains and 
thou? 

 What is here, dost thou know it? 
 What was, hast thou known? 
 Prophet nor poet 
 Nor tripod nor throne 
Nor spirit nor flesh can make answer, but only thy mother alone. 

 Mother, not maker, 
 Born, and not made; 
 Though her children forsake her, 
 Allured or afraid, 
Praying prayers to the God of their fashion, she stirs not for all 
that have pray'd. 

 A creed is a rod, 
 And a crown is of night; 
 But this thing is God, 
 To be man with thy might, 
To grow straight in the strength of thy spirit, and live out thy life 
as the light. 

 I am in thee to save thee, 
 As my soul in thee saith; 
 Give thou as I gave thee, 
 Thy life-blood and breath, 
Green leaves of thy labour, white flowers of thy thought, and red 
fruit of thy death. 

 Be the ways of thy giving 
 As mine were to thee; 
 The free life of thy living, 
 Be the gift of it free; 
Not as servant to lord, nor as master to slave, shalt thou give thee 
to me. 

 O children of banishment, 
 Souls overcast, 
 Were the lights ye see vanish meant 
 Alway to last, 
Ye would know not the sun overshining the shadows and stars overpast. 

 I that saw where ye trod 
 The dim paths of the night 
 Set the shadow call'd God 
 In your skies to give light; 
But the morning of manhood is risen, and the shadowless soul is in 
sight. 

 The tree many-rooted 
 That swells to the sky 
 With frondage red-fruited, 
 The life-tree am I; 
In the buds of your lives is the sap of my leaves: ye shall live and 
not die. 

 But the Gods of your fashion 
 That take and that give, 
 In their pity and passion 
 That scourge and forgive, 
They are worms that are bred in the bark that falls off; they shall 
die and not live. 

 My own blood is what stanches 
 The wounds in my bark; 
 Stars caught in my branches 
 Make day of the dark, 
And are worshipp'd as suns till the sunrise shall tread out their 
fires as a spark. 

 Where dead ages hide under 
 The live roots of the tree, 
 In my darkness the thunder 
 Makes utterance of me; 
In the clash of my boughs with each other ye hear the waves sound of 
the sea. 

 That noise is of Time, 
 As his feathers are spread 
 And his feet set to climb 
 Through the boughs overhead, 
And my foliage rings round him and rustles, and branches are bent with 
his tread. 

 The storm-winds of ages 
 Blow through me and cease, 
 The war-wind that rages, 
 The spring-wind of peace, 
Ere the breath of them roughen my tresses, ere one of my blossoms 
increase. 

 All sounds of all changes, 
 All shadows and lights 
 On the world's mountain-ranges 
 And stream-riven heights, 
Whose tongue is the wind's tongue and language of storm-clouds on 
earth-shaking nights; 

 All forms of all faces, 
 All works of all hands 
 In unsearchable places 
 Of time-stricken lands, 
All death and all life, and all reigns and all ruins, drop through me 
as sands. 

 Though sore be my burden 
 And more than ye know, 
 And my growth have no guerdon 
 But only to grow, 
Yet I fail not of growing for lightnings above me or deathworms below. 

 These too have their part in me, 
 As I too in these; 
 Such fire is at heart in me, 
 Such sap is this tree's, 
Which hath in it all sounds and all secrets of infinite lands and of 
seas. 

 In the spring-colour'd hours 
 When my mind was as May's 
 There brake forth of me flowers 
 By centuries of days, 
Strong blossoms with perfume of manhood, shot out from my spirit as 
rays. 

 And the sound of them springing 
 And smell of their shoots 
 Were as warmth and sweet singing 
 And strength to my roots; 
And the lives of my children made perfect with freedom of soul were my 
fruits. 

 I bid you but be; 
 I have need not of prayer; 
 I have need of you free 
 As your mouths of mine air; 
That my heart may be greater within me, beholding the fruits of me 
fair. 

 More fair than strange fruit is 
 Of faiths ye espouse; 
 In me only the root is 
 That blooms in your boughs; 
Behold now your God that ye made you, to feed him with faith of your 
vows. 

 In the darkening and whitening 
 Abysses adored, 
 With dayspring and lightning 
 For lamp and for sword, 
God thunders in heaven, and his angels are red with the wrath of the 
Lord. 

 O my sons, O too dutiful 
 Toward Gods not of me, 
 Was not I enough beautiful? 
 Was it hard to be free? 
For behold, I am with you, am in you and of you; look forth now and 
see. 

 Lo, wing'd with world's wonders, 
 With miracles shod, 
 With the fires of his thunders 
 For raiment and rod, 
God trembles in heaven, and his angels are white with the terror of 
God. 

 For his twilight is come on him, 
 His anguish is here; 
 And his spirits gaze dumb on him, 
 Grown gray from his fear; 
And his hour taketh hold on him stricken, the last of his infinite 
year. 

 Thought made him and breaks him, 
 Truth slays and forgives; 
 But to you, as time takes him, 
 This new thing it gives, 
Even love, the beloved Republic, that feeds upon freedom and lives. 

 For truth only is living, 
 Truth only is whole, 
 And the love of his giving 
 Man's polestar and pole; 
Man, pulse of my centre, and fruit of my body, and seed of my soul. 

 One birth of my bosom; 
 One beam of mine eye; 
 One topmost blossom 
 That scales the sky; 
Man, equal and one with me, man that is made of me, man that is I.



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