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Epilogue

Written by: Algernon Charles Swinburne | Biography
 Between the wave-ridge and the strand
I let you forth in sight of land,
Songs that with storm-crossed wings and eyes
Strain eastward till the darkness dies;
Let signs and beacons fall or stand,
And stars and balefires set and rise;
Ye, till some lordlier lyric hand
Weave the beloved brows their crown,
At the beloved feet lie down.

O, whatsoever of life or light
Love hath to give you, what of might
Or heart or hope is yours to live,
I charge you take in trust to give
For very love's sake, in whose sight,
Through poise of hours alternative
And seasons plumed with light or night,
Ye live and move and have your breath
To sing with on the ridge of death.

I charge you faint not all night through
For love's sake that was breathed on you
To be to you as wings and feet
For travel, and as blood to heat
And sense of spirit to renew
And bloom of fragrance to keep sweet
And fire of purpose to keep true
The life, if life in such things be,
That I would give you forth of me.

Out where the breath of war may bear,
Out in the rank moist reddened air
That sounds and smells of death, and hath
No light but death's upon its path
Seen through the black wind's tangled hair,
I send you past the wild time's wrath
To find his face who bade you bear
Fruit of his seed to faith and love,
That he may take the heart thereof.

By day or night, by sea or street,
Fly till ye find and clasp his feet
And kiss as worshippers who bring
Too much love on their lips to sing,
But with hushed heads accept and greet
The presence of some heavenlier thing
In the near air; so may ye meet
His eyes, and droop not utterly
For shame's sake at the light you see.

Not utterly struck spiritless
For shame's sake and unworthiness
Of these poor forceless hands that come
Empty, these lips that should be dumb,
This love whose seal can but impress
These weak word-offerings wearisome
Whose blessings have not strength to bless
Nor lightnings fire to burn up aught
Nor smite with thunders of their thought.

One thought they have, even love; one light,
Truth, that keeps clear the sun by night;
One chord, of faith as of a lyre;
One heat, of hope as of a fire;
One heart, one music, and one might,
One flame, one altar, and one choir;
And one man's living head in sight
Who said, when all time's sea was foam,
"Let there be Rome"--and there was Rome.

As a star set in space for token
Like a live word of God's mouth spoken,
Visible sound, light audible,
In the great darkness thick as hell
A stanchless flame of love unsloken,
A sign to conquer and compel,
A law to stand in heaven unbroken
Whereby the sun shines, and wherethrough
Time's eldest empires are made new;

So rose up on our generations
That light of the most ancient nations,
Law, life, and light, on the world's way,
The very God of very day,
The sun-god; from their star-like stations
Far down the night in disarray
Fled, crowned with fires of tribulations,
The suns of sunless years, whose light
And life and law were of the night.

The naked kingdoms quenched and stark
Drave with their dead things down the dark,
Helmless; their whole world, throne by throne,
Fell, and its whole heart turned to stone,
Hopeless; their hands that touched our ark
Withered; and lo, aloft, alone,
On time's white waters man's one bark,
Where the red sundawn's open eye
Lit the soft gulf of low green sky.

So for a season piloted
It sailed the sunlight, and struck red
With fire of dawn reverberate
The wan face of incumbent fate
That paused half pitying overhead
And almost had foregone the freight
Of those dark hours the next day bred
For shame, and almost had forsworn
Service of night for love of morn.

Then broke the whole night in one blow,
Thundering; then all hell with one throe
Heaved, and brought forth beneath the stroke
Death; and all dead things moved and woke
That the dawn's arrows had brought low,
At the great sound of night that broke
Thundering, and all the old world-wide woe;
And under night's loud-sounding dome
Men sought her, and she was not Rome.

Still with blind hands and robes blood-wet
Night hangs on heaven, reluctant yet,
With black blood dripping from her eyes
On the soiled lintels of the skies,
With brows and lips that thirst and threat,
Heart-sick with fear lest the sun rise,
And aching with her fires that set,
And shuddering ere dawn bursts her bars,
Burns out with all her beaten stars.

In this black wind of war they fly
Now, ere that hour be in the sky
That brings back hope, and memory back,
And light and law to lands that lack;
That spiritual sweet hour whereby
The bloody-handed night and black
Shall be cast out of heaven to die;
Kingdom by kingdom, crown by crown,
The fires of darkness are blown down.

Yet heavy, grievous yet the weight
Sits on us of imperfect fate.
From wounds of other days and deeds
Still this day's breathing body bleeds;
Still kings for fear and slaves for hate
Sow lives of men on earth like seeds
In the red soil they saturate;
And we, with faces eastward set,
Stand sightless of the morning yet.

And many for pure sorrow's sake
Look back and stretch back hands to take
Gifts of night's giving, ease and sleep,
Flowers of night's grafting, strong to steep
The soul in dreams it will not break,
Songs of soft hours that sigh and sweep
Its lifted eyelids nigh to wake
With subtle plumes and lulling breath
That soothe its weariness to death.

And many, called of hope and pride,
Fall ere the sunrise from our side.
Fresh lights and rumours of fresh fames
That shift and veer by night like flames,
Shouts and blown trumpets, ghosts that glide
Calling, and hail them by dead names,
Fears, angers, memories, dreams divide
Spirit from spirit, and wear out
Strong hearts of men with hope and doubt.

Till time beget and sorrow bear
The soul-sick eyeless child despair,
That comes among us, mad and blind,
With counsels of a broken mind,
Tales of times dead and woes that were,
And, prophesying against mankind,
Shakes out the horror of her hair
To take the sunlight with its coils
And hold the living soul in toils.

By many ways of death and moods
Souls pass into their servitudes.
Their young wings weaken, plume by plume
Drops, and their eyelids gather gloom
And close against man's frauds and feuds,
And their tongues call they know not whom
To help in their vicissitudes;
For many slaveries are, but one
Liberty, single as the sun.

One light, one law, that burns up strife,
And one sufficiency of life.
Self-stablished, the sufficing soul
Hears the loud wheels of changes roll,
Sees against man man bare the knife,
Sees the world severed, and is whole;
Sees force take dowerless fraud to wife,
And fear from fraud's incestuous bed
Crawl forth and smite his father dead:

Sees death made drunk with war, sees time
Weave many-coloured crime with crime,
State overthrown on ruining state,
And dares not be disconsolate.
Only the soul hath feet to climb,
Only the soul hath room to wait,
Hath brows and eyes to hold sublime
Above all evil and all good,
All strength and all decrepitude.

She only, she since earth began,
The many-minded soul of man,
From one incognizable root
That bears such divers-coloured fruit,
Hath ruled for blessing or for ban
The flight of seasons and pursuit;
She regent, she republican,
With wide and equal eyes and wings
Broods on things born and dying things.

Even now for love or doubt of us
The hour intense and hazardous
Hangs high with pinions vibrating
Whereto the light and darkness cling,
Dividing the dim season thus,
And shakes from one ambiguous wing
Shadow, and one is luminous,
And day falls from it; so the past
Torments the future to the last.

And we that cannot hear or see
The sounds and lights of liberty,
The witness of the naked God
That treads on burning hours unshod
With instant feet unwounded; we
That can trace only where he trod
By fire in heaven or storm at sea,
Not know the very present whole
And naked nature of the soul;

We that see wars and woes and kings,
And portents of enormous things,
Empires, and agonies, and slaves,
And whole flame of town-swallowing graves;
That hear the harsh hours clap sharp wings
Above the roar of ranks like waves,
From wreck to wreck as the world swings;
Know but that men there are who see
And hear things other far than we.

By the light sitting on their brows,
The fire wherewith their presence glows,
The music falling with their feet,
The sweet sense of a spirit sweet
That with their speech or motion grows
And breathes and burns men's hearts with heat;
By these signs there is none but knows
Men who have life and grace to give,
Men who have seen the soul and live.

By the strength sleeping in their eyes,
The lips whereon their sorrow lies
Smiling, the lines of tears unshed,
The large divine look of one dead
That speaks out of the breathless skies
In silence, when the light is shed
Upon man's soul of memories;
The supreme look that sets love free,
The look of stars and of the sea;

By the strong patient godhead seen
Implicit in their mortal mien,
The conscience of a God held still
And thunders ruled by their own will
And fast-bound fires that might burn clean
This worldly air that foul things fill,
And the afterglow of what has been,
That, passing, shows us without word
What they have seen, what they have heard,

By all these keen and burning signs
The spirit knows them and divines.
In bonds, in banishment, in grief,
Scoffed at and scourged with unbelief,
Foiled with false trusts and thwart designs,
Stripped of green days and hopes in leaf,
Their mere bare body of glory shines
Higher, and man gazing surelier sees
What light, what comfort is of these.

So I now gazing; till the sense
Being set on fire of confidence
Strains itself sunward, feels out far
Beyond the bright and morning star,
Beyond the extreme wave's refluence,
To where the fierce first sunbeams are
Whose fire intolerant and intense
As birthpangs whence day burns to be
Parts breathless heaven from breathing sea.

I see not, know not, and am blest,
Master, who know that thou knowest,
Dear lord and leader, at whose hand
The first days and the last days stand,
With scars and crowns on head and breast,
That fought for love of the sweet land
Or shall fight in her latter quest;
All the days armed and girt and crowned
Whose glories ring thy glory round.

Thou sawest, when all the world was blind,
The light that should be of mankind,
The very day that was to be;
And how shalt thou not sometime see
Thy city perfect to thy mind
Stand face to living face with thee,
And no miscrowned man's head behind;
The hearth of man, the human home,
The central flame that shall be Rome?

As one that ere a June day rise
Makes seaward for the dawn, and tries
The water with delighted limbs
That taste the sweet dark sea, and swims
Right eastward under strengthening skies,
And sees the gradual rippling rims
Of waves whence day breaks blossom-wise
Take fire ere light peer well above,
And laughs from all his heart with love;

And softlier swimming with raised head
Feels the full flower of morning shed
And fluent sunrise round him rolled
That laps and laves his body bold
With fluctuant heaven in water's stead,
And urgent through the growing gold
Strikes, and sees all the spray flash red,
And his soul takes the sun, and yearns
For joy wherewith the sea's heart burns;

So the soul seeking through the dark
Heavenward, a dove without an ark,
Transcends the unnavigable sea
Of years that wear out memory;
So calls, a sunward-singing lark,
In the ear of souls that should be free;
So points them toward the sun for mark
Who steer not for the stress of waves,
And seek strange helmsmen, and are slaves.

For if the swimmer's eastward eye
Must see no sunrise--must put by
The hope that lifted him and led
Once, to have light about his head,
To see beneath the clear low sky
The green foam-whitened wave wax red
And all the morning's banner fly -
Then, as earth's helpless hopes go down,
Let earth's self in the dark tides drown.

Yea, if no morning must behold
Man, other than were they now cold,
And other deeds than past deeds done,
Nor any near or far-off sun
Salute him risen and sunlike-souled,
Free, boundless, fearless, perfect, one,
Let man's world die like worlds of old,
And here in heaven's sight only be
The sole sun on the worldless sea.



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