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Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

A Ballad of Death

 Kneel down, fair Love, and fill thyself with tears,
Girdle thyself with sighing for a girth
Upon the sides of mirth,
Cover thy lips and eyelids, let thine ears
Be filled with rumour of people sorrowing;
Make thee soft raiment out of woven sighs
Upon the flesh to cleave,
Set pains therein and many a grievous thing,
And many sorrows after each his wise
For armlet and for gorget and for sleeve.
O Love's lute heard about the lands of death, Left hanged upon the trees that were therein; O Love and Time and Sin, Three singing mouths that mourn now underbreath, Three lovers, each one evil spoken of; O smitten lips wherethrough this voice of mine Came softer with her praise; Abide a little for our lady's love.
The kisses of her mouth were more than wine, And more than peace the passage of her days.
O Love, thou knowest if she were good to see.
O Time, thou shalt not find in any land Till, cast out of thine hand, The sunlight and the moonlight fail from thee, Another woman fashioned like as this.
O Sin, thou knowest that all thy shame in her Was made a goodly thing; Yea, she caught Shame and shamed him with her kiss, With her fair kiss, and lips much lovelier Than lips of amorous roses in late spring.
By night there stood over against my bed Queen Venus with a hood striped gold and black, Both sides drawn fully back From brows wherein the sad blood failed of red, And temples drained of purple and full of death.
Her curled hair had the wave of sea-water And the sea's gold in it.
Her eyes were as a dove's that sickeneth.
Strewn dust of gold she had shed over her, And pearl and purple and amber on her feet.
Upon her raiment of dyed sendaline Were painted all the secret ways of love And covered things thereof, That hold delight as grape-flowers hold their wine; Red mouths of maidens and red feet of doves, And brides that kept within the bride-chamber Their garment of soft shame, And weeping faces of the wearied loves That swoon in sleep and awake wearier, With heat of lips and hair shed out like flame.
The tears that through her eyelids fell on me Made mine own bitter where they ran between As blood had fallen therein, She saying; Arise, lift up thine eyes and see If any glad thing be or any good Now the best thing is taken forth of us; Even she to whom all praise Was as one flower in a great multitude, One glorious flower of many and glorious, One day found gracious among many days: Even she whose handmaiden was Love--to whom At kissing times across her stateliest bed Kings bowed themselves and shed Pale wine, and honey with the honeycomb, And spikenard bruised for a burnt-offering; Even she between whose lips the kiss became As fire and frankincense; Whose hair was as gold raiment on a king, Whose eyes were as the morning purged with flame, Whose eyelids as sweet savour issuing thence.
Then I beheld, and lo on the other side My lady's likeness crowned and robed and dead.
Sweet still, but now not red, Was the shut mouth whereby men lived and died.
And sweet, but emptied of the blood's blue shade, The great curled eyelids that withheld her eyes.
And sweet, but like spoilt gold, The weight of colour in her tresses weighed.
And sweet, but as a vesture with new dyes, The body that was clothed with love of old.
Ah! that my tears filled all her woven hair And all the hollow bosom of her gown-- Ah! that my tears ran down Even to the place where many kisses were, Even where her parted breast-flowers have place, Even where they are cloven apart--who knows not this? Ah! the flowers cleave apart And their sweet fills the tender interspace; Ah! the leaves grown thereof were things to kiss Ere their fine gold was tarnished at the heart.
Ah! in the days when God did good to me, Each part about her was a righteous thing; Her mouth an almsgiving, The glory of her garments charity, The beauty of her bosom a good deed, In the good days when God kept sight of us; Love lay upon her eyes, And on that hair whereof the world takes heed; And all her body was more virtuous Than souls of women fashioned otherwise.
Now, ballad, gather poppies in thine hands And sheaves of brier and many rusted sheaves Rain-rotten in rank lands, Waste marigold and late unhappy leaves And grass that fades ere any of it be mown; And when thy bosom is filled full thereof Seek out Death's face ere the light altereth, And say "My master that was thrall to Love Is become thrall to Death.
" Bow down before him, ballad, sigh and groan.
But make no sojourn in thy outgoing; For haply it may be That when thy feet return at evening Death shall come in with thee.


Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

A Ballad of Dreamland

 I hid my heart in a nest of roses,
Out of the sun's way, hidden apart;
In a softer bed then the soft white snow's is,
Under the roses I hid my heart.
Why would it sleep not? why should it start, When never a leaf of the rose-tree stirred? What made sleep flutter his wings and part? Only the song of a secret bird.
Lie still, I said, for the wind's wing closes, And mild leaves muffle the keen sun's dart; Lie still, for the wind on the warm seas dozes, And the wind is unquieter yet than thou art.
Does a thought in thee still as a thorn's wound smart? Does the fang still fret thee of hope deferred? What bids the lips of thy sleep dispart? Only the song of a secret bird.
The green land's name that a charm encloses, It never was writ in the traveller's chart, And sweet on its trees as the fruit that grows is, It never was sold in the merchant's mart.
The swallows of dreams through its dim fields dart, And sleep's are the tunes in its tree-tops heard; No hound's note wakens the wildwood hart, Only the song of a secret bird.
ENVOI In the world of dreams I have chosen my part, To sleep for a season and hear no word Of true love's truth or of light love's art, Only the song of a secret bird.
Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

Mater Triumphalis

 Mother of man's time-travelling generations,
Breath of his nostrils, heartblood of his heart,
God above all Gods worshipped of all nations,
Light above light, law beyond law, thou art.
Thy face is as a sword smiting in sunder Shadows and chains and dreams and iron things; The sea is dumb before thy face, the thunder Silent, the skies are narrower than thy wings.
Angels and Gods, spirit and sense, thou takest In thy right hand as drops of dust or dew; The temples and the towers of time thou breakest, His thoughts and words and works, to make them new.
All we have wandered from thy ways, have hidden Eyes from thy glory and ears from calls they heard; Called of thy trumpets vainly, called and chidden, Scourged of thy speech and wounded of thy word.
We have known thee and have not known thee; stood beside thee, Felt thy lips breathe, set foot where thy feet trod, Loved and renounced and worshipped and denied thee, As though thou wert but as another God, "One hour for sleep," we said, "and yet one other; All day we served her, and who shall serve by night?" Not knowing of thee, thy face not knowing, O mother, O light wherethrough the darkness is as light.
Men that forsook thee hast thou not forsaken, Races of men that knew not hast thou known; Nations that slept thou hast doubted not to waken, Worshippers of strange Gods to make thine own.
All old grey histories hiding thy clear features, O secret spirit and sovereign, all men's tales, Creeds woven of men thy children and thy creatures, They have woven for vestures of thee and for veils.
Thine hands, without election or exemption, Feed all men fainting from false peace or strife, O thou, the resurrection and redemption, The godhead and the manhood and the life.
Thy wings shadow the waters; thine eyes lighten The horror of the hollows of the night; The depths of the earth and the dark places brighten Under thy feet, whiter than fire is white.
Death is subdued to thee, and hell's bands broken; Where thou art only is heaven; who hears not thee, Time shall not hear him; when men's names are spoken, A nameless sign of death shall his name be.
Deathless shall be the death, the name be nameless; Sterile of stars his twilight time of breath; With fire of hell shall shame consume him shameless, And dying, all the night darken his death.
The years are as thy garments, the world's ages As sandals bound and loosed from thy swift feet; Time serves before thee, as one that hath for wages Praise or shame only, bitter words or sweet.
Thou sayest "Well done," and all a century kindles; Again thou sayest "Depart from sight of me," And all the light of face of all men dwindles, And the age is as the broken glass of thee.
The night is as a seal set on men's faces, On faces fallen of men that take no light, Nor give light in the deeps of the dark places, Blind things, incorporate with the body of night.
Their souls are serpents winterbound and frozen, Their shame is as a tame beast, at their feet Couched; their cold lips deride thee and thy chosen, Their lying lips made grey with dust for meat.
Then when their time is full and days run over, The splendour of thy sudden brow made bare Darkens the morning; thy bared hands uncover The veils of light and night and the awful air.
And the world naked as a new-born maiden Stands virginal and splendid as at birth, With all thine heaven of all its light unladen, Of all its love unburdened all thine earth.
For the utter earth and the utter air of heaven And the extreme depth is thine and the extreme height; Shadows of things and veils of ages riven Are as men's kings unkingdomed in thy sight.
Through the iron years, the centuries brazen-gated, By the ages' barred impenetrable doors, From the evening to the morning have we waited, Should thy foot haply sound on the awful floors.
The floors untrodden of the sun's feet glimmer, The star-unstricken pavements of the night; Do the lights burn inside? the lights wax dimmer On festal faces withering out of sight.
The crowned heads lose the light on them; it may be Dawn is at hand to smite the loud feast dumb; To blind the torch-lit centuries till the day be, The feasting kingdoms till thy kingdom come.
Shall it not come? deny they or dissemble, Is it not even as lightning from on high Now? and though many a soul close eyes and tremble, How should they tremble at all who love thee as I? I am thine harp between thine hands, O mother! All my strong chords are strained with love of thee.
We grapple in love and wrestle, as each with other Wrestle the wind and the unreluctant sea.
I am no courtier of thee sober-suited, Who loves a little for a little pay.
Me not thy winds and storms nor thrones disrooted Nor molten crowns nor thine own sins dismay.
Sinned hast thou sometime, therefore art thou sinless; Stained hast thou been, who art therefore without stain; Even as man's soul is kin to thee, but kinless Thou, in whose womb Time sows the all-various grain.
I do not bid thee spare me, O dreadful mother! I pray thee that thou spare not, of thy grace.
How were it with me then, if ever another Should come to stand before thee in this my place? I am the trumpet at thy lips, thy clarion Full of thy cry, sonorous with thy breath; The graves of souls born worms and creeds grown carrion Thy blast of judgment fills with fires of death.
Thou art the player whose organ-keys are thunders, And I beneath thy foot the pedal prest; Thou art the ray whereat the rent night sunders, And I the cloudlet borne upon thy breast.
I shall burn up before thee, pass and perish, As haze in sunrise on the red sea-line; But thou from dawn to sunsetting shalt cherish The thoughts that led and souls that lighted mine.
Reared between night and noon and truth and error, Each twilight-travelling bird that trills and screams Sickens at midday, nor can face for terror The imperious heaven's inevitable extremes.
I have no spirit of skill with equal fingers At sign to sharpen or to slacken strings; I keep no time of song with gold-perched singers And chirp of linnets on the wrists of kings.
I am thy storm-thrush of the days that darken, Thy petrel in the foam that bears thy bark To port through night and tempest; if thou hearken, My voice is in thy heaven before the lark.
My song is in the mist that hides thy morning, My cry is up before the day for thee; I have heard thee and beheld thee and give warning, Before thy wheels divide the sky and sea.
Birds shall wake with thee voiced and feathered fairer, To see in summer what I see in spring; I have eyes and heart to endure thee, O thunder-bearer, And they shall be who shall have tongues to sing.
I have love at least, and have not fear, and part not From thine unnavigable and wingless way; Thou tarriest, and I have not said thou art not, Nor all thy night long have denied thy day.
Darkness to daylight shall lift up thy paean, Hill to hill thunder, vale cry back to vale, With wind-notes as of eagles AEschylean, And Sappho singing in the nightingale.
Sung to by mighty sons of dawn and daughters, Of this night's songs thine ear shall keep but one; That supreme song which shook the channelled waters, And called thee skyward as God calls the sun.
Come, though all heaven again be fire above thee; Though death before thee come to clear thy sky; Let us but see in his thy face who love thee; Yea, though thou slay us, arise and let us die.
Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

A Watch In The Night

 Watchman, what of the night? - 
Storm and thunder and rain, 
Lights that waver and wane,
Leaving the watchfires unlit.
Only the balefires are bright, And the flash of the lamps now and then From a palace where spoilers sit, Trampling the children of men.
Prophet, what of the night? - I stand by the verge of the sea, Banished, uncomforted, free, Hearing the noise of the waves And sudden flashes that smite Some man's tyrannous head, Thundering, heard among graves That hide the hosts of his dead.
Mourners, what of the night? - All night through without sleep We weep, and we weep, and we weep.
Who shall give us our sons ? Beaks of raven and kite, Mouths of wolf and of hound, Give us them back whom the guns Shot for you dead on the ground.
Dead men, what of the night? - Cannon and scaffold and sword, Horror of gibbet and cord, Mowed us as sheaves for the grave, Mowed us down for the right.
We do not grudge or repent.
Freely to freedom we gave Pledges, till life should be spent.
Statesman, what of the night? - The night will last me my time.
The gold on a crown or a crime Looks well enough yet by the lamps.
Have we not fingers to write, Lips to swear at a need? Then, when danger decamps, Bury the word with the deed.
Warrior, what of the night? - Whether it be not or be Night, is as one thing to me.
I for one, at the least, Ask not of dews if they blight, Ask not of flames if they slay, Ask not of prince or of priest How long ere we put them away.
Master, what of the night? - Child, night is not at all Anywhere, fallen or to fall, Save in our star-stricken eyes.
Forth of our eyes it takes flight, Look we but once nor before Nor behind us, but straight on the skies; Night is not then any more.
Exile, what of the night? - The tides and the hours run out, The seasons of death and of doubt, The night-watches bitter and sore.
In the quicksands leftward and right My feet sink down under me; But I know the scents of the shore And the broad blown breaths of the sea.
Captives, what of the night? - It rains outside overhead Always, a rain that is red, And our faces are soiled with the rain.
Here in the seasons' despite Day-time and night-time are one, Till the curse of the kings and the chain Break, and their toils be undone.
Christian, what of the night? - I cannot tell; I am blind.
I halt and hearken behind If haply the hours will go back And return to the dear dead light, To the watchfires and stars that of old Shone where the sky now is black, Glowed where the earth now is cold.
High priest, what of the night? - The night is horrible here With haggard faces and fear, Blood, and the burning of fire.
Mine eyes are emptied of sight, Mine hands are full of the dust, If the God of my faith be a liar, Who is it that I shall trust? Princes, what of the night? - Night with pestilent breath Feeds us, children of death, Clothes us close with her gloom.
Rapine and famine and fright Crouch at our feet and are fed.
Earth where we pass is a tomb, Life where we triumph is dead.
Martyrs, what of the night? - Nay, is it night with you yet? We, for our part, we forget What night was, if it were.
The loud red mouths of the fight Are silent and shut where we are.
In our eyes the tempestuous air Shines as the face of a star.
England, what of the night? - Night is for slumber and sleep, Warm, no season to weep.
Let me alone till the day.
Sleep would I still if I might, Who have slept for two hundred years.
Once I had honour, they say; But slumber is sweeter than tears.
France, what of the night? - Night is the prostitute's noon, Kissed and drugged till she swoon, Spat upon, trod upon, whored.
With bloodred rose-garlands dight, Round me reels in the dance Death, my saviour, my lord, Crowned; there is no more France.
Italy, what of the night? - Ah, child, child, it is long! Moonbeam and starbeam and song Leave it dumb now and dark.
Yet I perceive on the height Eastward, not now very far, A song too loud for the lark, A light too strong for a star.
Germany, what of the night ? - Long has it lulled me with dreams; Now at midwatch, as it seems, Light is brought back to mine eyes, And the mastery of old and the might Lives in the joints of mine hands, Steadies my limbs as they rise, Strengthens my foot as it stands.
Europe, what of the night ? - Ask of heaven, and the sea, And my babes on the bosom of me, Nations of mine, but ungrown.
There is one who shall surely requite All that endure or that err: She can answer alone: Ask not of me, but of her.
Liberty, what of the night ? - I feel not the red rains fall, Hear not the tempest at all, Nor thunder in heaven any more.
All the distance is white With the soundless feet of the sun.
Night, with the woes that it wore, Night is over and done.
Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

A Years Carols

 JANUARY
HAIL, January, that bearest here
On snowbright breasts the babe-faced year
That weeps and trembles to be born.
Hail, maid and mother, strong and bright, Hooded and cloaked and shod with white, Whose eyes are stars that match the morn.
Thy forehead braves the storm's bent bow, Thy feet enkindle stars of snow.
FEBRUARY Wan February with weeping cheer, Whose cold hand guides the youngling year Down misty roads of mire and rime, Before thy pale and fitful face The shrill wind shifts the clouds apace Through skies the morning scarce may climb.
Thine eyes are thick with heavy tears, But lit with hopes that light the year's.
MARCH Hail, happy March, whose foot on earth Rings as the blast of martial mirth When trumpets fire men's hearts for fray.
No race of wild things winged or finned May match the might that wings thy wind Through air and sea, through scud and spray.
Strong joy and thou were powers twin-born Of tempest and the towering morn.
APRIL Crowned April, king whose kiss bade earth Bring forth to time her lordliest birth When Shakespeare from thy lips drew breath And laughed to hold in one soft hand A spell that bade the world's wheel stand, And power on life, and power on death, With quiring suns and sunbright showers Praise him, the flower of all thy flowers.
MAY Hail, May, whose bark puts forth full-sailed For summer; May, whom Chaucer hailed With all his happy might of heart, And gave thy rosebright daisy-tips Strange frarance from his amorous lips That still thine own breath seems to part And sweeten till each word they say Is even a flower of flowering May.
JUNE Strong June, superb, serene, elate With conscience of thy sovereign state Untouched of thunder, though the storm Scathe here and there thy shuddering skies And bid its lightning cross thine eyes With fire, thy golden hours inform Earth and the souls of men with life That brings forth peace from shining strife.
JULY Hail, proud July, whose fervent mouth Bids even be morn and north be south By grace and gospel of thy word, Whence all the splendour of the sea Lies breathless with delight in thee And marvel at the music heard From the ardent silent lips of noon And midnight's rapturous plenilune.
AUGUST Great August, lord of golden lands, Whose lordly joy through seas and strands And all the red-ripe heart of earth Strikes passion deep as life, and stills The folded vales and folding hills With gladness too divine for mirth, The gracious glories of thine eyes Make night a noon where darkness dies.
SEPTEMBER Hail, kind September, friend whose grace Renews the bland year's bounteous face With largess given of corn and wine Through many a land that laughs with love Of thee and all the heaven above, More fruitful found than all save thine Whose skies fulfil with strenuous cheer The fervent fields that knew thee near.
OCTOBER October of the tawny crown, Whose heavy-laden hands drop down Blessing, the bounties of thy breath And mildness of thy mellowing might Fill earth and heaven with love and light Too sweet for fear to dream of death Or memory, while thy joy lives yet, To know what joy would fain forget.
NOVEMBER Hail, soft November, though thy pale Sad smile rebuke the words that hail Thy sorrow with no sorrowing words Or gratulate thy grief with song Less bitter than the winds that wrong Thy withering woodlands, where the birds Keep hardly heart to sing or see How fair thy faint wan face may be.
DECEMBER December, thou whose hallowing hands On shuddering seas and hardening lands Set as a sacramental sign The seal of Christmas felt on earth As witness toward a new year's birth Whose promise makes thy death divine, The crowning joy that comes of thee Makes glad all grief on land or sea.
Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

Ave atque Vale (In memory of Charles Baudelaire)

 SHALL I strew on thee rose or rue or laurel, 
 Brother, on this that was the veil of thee? 
 Or quiet sea-flower moulded by the sea, 
Or simplest growth of meadow-sweet or sorrel, 
 Such as the summer-sleepy Dryads weave, 
 Waked up by snow-soft sudden rains at eve? 
Or wilt thou rather, as on earth before, 
 Half-faded fiery blossoms, pale with heat 
 And full of bitter summer, but more sweet 
To thee than gleanings of a northern shore 
 Trod by no tropic feet? 

For always thee the fervid languid glories 
 Allured of heavier suns in mightier skies; 
 Thine ears knew all the wandering watery sighs 
Where the sea sobs round Lesbian promontories, 
 The barren kiss of piteous wave to wave 
 That knows not where is that Leucadian grave 
Which hides too deep the supreme head of song.
Ah, salt and sterile as her kisses were, The wild sea winds her and the green gulfs bear Hither and thither, and vex and work her wrong, Blind gods that cannot spare.
Thou sawest, in thine old singing season, brother, Secrets and sorrows unbeheld of us: Fierce loves, and lovely leaf-buds poisonous, Bare to thy subtler eye, but for none other Blowing by night in some unbreathed-in clime; The hidden harvest of luxurious time, Sin without shape, and pleasure without speech; And where strange dreams in a tumultuous sleep Make the shut eyes of stricken spirits weep; And with each face thou sawest the shadow on each, Seeing as men sow men reap.
O sleepless heart and sombre soul unsleeping, That were athirst for sleep and no more life And no more love, for peace and no more strife! Now the dim gods of death have in their keeping Spirit and body and all the springs of song, Is it well now where love can do no wrong, Where stingless pleasure has no foam or fang Behind the unopening closure of her lips? Is it not well where soul from body slips And flesh from bone divides without a pang As dew from flower-bell drips? It is enough; the end and the beginning Are one thing to thee, who art past the end.
O hand unclasp'd of unbeholden friend, For thee no fruits to pluck, no palms for winning, No triumph and no labour and no lust, Only dead yew-leaves and a little dust.
O quiet eyes wherein the light saith naught, Whereto the day is dumb, nor any night With obscure finger silences your sight, Nor in your speech the sudden soul speaks thought, Sleep, and have sleep for light.
Now all strange hours and all strange loves are over, Dreams and desires and sombre songs and sweet, Hast thou found place at the great knees and feet Of some pale Titan-woman like a lover, Such as thy vision here solicited, Under the shadow of her fair vast head, The deep division of prodigious breasts, The solemn slope of mighty limbs asleep, The weight of awful tresses that still keep The savour and shade of old-world pine-forests Where the wet hill-winds weep? Hast thou found any likeness for thy vision? O gardener of strange flowers, what bud, what bloom, Hast thou found sown, what gather'd in the gloom? What of despair, of rapture, of derision, What of life is there, what of ill or good? Are the fruits gray like dust or bright like blood? Does the dim ground grow any seed of ours, The faint fields quicken any terrene root, In low lands where the sun and moon are mute And all the stars keep silence? Are there flowers At all, or any fruit? Alas, but though my flying song flies after, O sweet strange elder singer, thy more fleet Singing, and footprints of thy fleeter feet, Some dim derision of mysterious laughter From the blind tongueless warders of the dead, Some gainless glimpse of Proserpine's veil'd head, Some little sound of unregarded tears Wept by effaced unprofitable eyes, And from pale mouths some cadence of dead sighs-- These only, these the hearkening spirit hears, Sees only such things rise.
Thou art far too far for wings of words to follow, Far too far off for thought or any prayer.
What ails us with thee, who art wind and air? What ails us gazing where all seen is hollow? Yet with some fancy, yet with some desire, Dreams pursue death as winds a flying fire, Our dreams pursue our dead and do not find.
Still, and more swift than they, the thin flame flies, The low light fails us in elusive skies, Still the foil'd earnest ear is deaf, and blind Are still the eluded eyes.
Not thee, O never thee, in all time's changes, Not thee, but this the sound of thy sad soul, The shadow of thy swift spirit, this shut scroll I lay my hand on, and not death estranges My spirit from communion of thy song-- These memories and these melodies that throng Veil'd porches of a Muse funereal-- These I salute, these touch, these clasp and fold As though a hand were in my hand to hold, Or through mine ears a mourning musical Of many mourners roll'd.
I among these, I also, in such station As when the pyre was charr'd, and piled the sods.
And offering to the dead made, and their gods, The old mourners had, standing to make libation, I stand, and to the Gods and to the dead Do reverence without prayer or praise, and shed Offering to these unknown, the gods of gloom, And what of honey and spice my seed-lands bear, And what I may of fruits in this chill'd air, And lay, Orestes-like, across the tomb A curl of sever'd hair.
But by no hand nor any treason stricken, Not like the low-lying head of Him, the King, The flame that made of Troy a ruinous thing, Thou liest and on this dust no tears could quicken.
There fall no tears like theirs that all men hear Fall tear by sweet imperishable tear Down the opening leaves of holy poets' pages.
Thee not Orestes, not Electra mourns; But bending us-ward with memorial urns The most high Muses that fulfil all ages Weep, and our God's heart yearns.
For, sparing of his sacred strength, not often Among us darkling here the lord of light Makes manifest his music and his might In hearts that open and in lips that soften With the soft flame and heat of songs that shine.
Thy lips indeed he touch'd with bitter wine, And nourish'd them indeed with bitter bread; Yet surely from his hand thy soul's food came, The fire that scarr'd thy spirit at his flame Was lighted, and thine hungering heart he fed Who feeds our hearts with fame.
Therefore he too now at thy soul's sunsetting, God of all suns and songs, he too bends down To mix his laurel with thy cypress crown, And save thy dust from blame and from forgetting.
Therefore he too, seeing all thou wert and art, Compassionate, with sad and sacred heart, Mourns thee of many his children the last dead, And hollows with strange tears and alien sighs Thine unmelodious mouth and sunless eyes, And over thine irrevocable head Sheds light from the under skies.
And one weeps with him in the ways Lethean, And stains with tears her changing bosom chill; That obscure Venus of the hollow hill, That thing transform'd which was the Cytherean, With lips that lost their Grecian laugh divine Long since, and face no more call'd Erycine-- A ghost, a bitter and luxurious god.
Thee also with fair flesh and singing spell Did she, a sad and second prey, compel Into the footless places once more trod, And shadows hot from hell.
And now no sacred staff shall break in blossom, No choral salutation lure to light A spirit sick with perfume and sweet night And love's tired eyes and hands and barren bosom.
There is no help for these things; none to mend, And none to mar; not all our songs, O friend, Will make death clear or make life durable.
Howbeit with rose and ivy and wild vine And with wild notes about this dust of thine At least I fill the place where white dreams dwell And wreathe an unseen shrine.
Sleep; and if life was bitter to thee, pardon, If sweet, give thanks; thou hast no more to live; And to give thanks is good, and to forgive.
Out of the mystic and the mournful garden Where all day through thine hands in barren braid Wove the sick flowers of secrecy and shade, Green buds of sorrow and sin, and remnants gray, Sweet-smelling, pale with poison, sanguine-hearted, Passions that sprang from sleep and thoughts that started, Shall death not bring us all as thee one day Among the days departed? For thee, O now a silent soul, my brother, Take at my hands this garland, and farewell.
Thin is the leaf, and chill the wintry smell, And chill the solemn earth, a fatal mother, With sadder than the Niobean womb, And in the hollow of her breasts a tomb.
Content thee, howsoe'er, whose days are done; There lies not any troublous thing before, Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more, For whom all winds are quiet as the sun, All waters as the shore.
Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

An Appeal

 Art thou indeed among these,
Thou of the tyrannous crew,
The kingdoms fed upon blood,
O queen from of old of the seas,
England, art thou of them too
That drink of the poisonous flood,
That hide under poisonous trees?



Nay, thy name from of old,
Mother, was pure, or we dreamed
Purer we held thee than this,
Purer fain would we hold;
So goodly a glory it seemed,
A fame so bounteous of bliss,
So more precious than gold.
A praise so sweet in our ears, That thou in the tempest of things As a rock for a refuge shouldst stand, In the bloodred river of tears Poured forth for the triumph of kings; A safeguard, a sheltering land, In the thunder and torrent of years.
Strangers came gladly to thee, Exiles, chosen of men, Safe for thy sake in thy shade, Sat down at thy feet and were free.
So men spake of thee then; Now shall their speaking be stayed? Ah, so let it not be! Not for revenge or affright, Pride, or a tyrannous lust, Cast from thee the crown of thy praise.
Mercy was thine in thy might; Strong when thou wert, thou wert just; Now, in the wrong-doing days, Cleave thou, thou at least, to the right.
How should one charge thee, how sway, Save by the memories that were? Not thy gold nor the strength of thy ships, Nor the might of thine armies at bay, Made thee, mother, most fair; But a word from republican lips Said in thy name in thy day.
Hast thou said it, and hast thou forgot? Is thy praise in thine ears as a scoff? Blood of men guiltless was shed, Children, and souls without spot, Shed, but in places far off; Let slaughter no more be, said Milton; and slaughter was not.
Was it not said of thee too, Now, but now, by thy foes, By the slaves that had slain their France, And thee would slay as they slew - "Down with her walls that enclose Freemen that eye us askance, Fugitives, men that are true!" This was thy praise or thy blame From bondsman or freeman--to be Pure from pollution of slaves, Clean of their sins, and thy name Bloodless, innocent, free; Now if thou be not, thy waves Wash not from off thee thy shame.
Freeman he is not, but slave, Whoso in fear for the State Cries for surety of blood, Help of gibbet and grave; Neither is any land great Whom, in her fear-stricken mood, These things only can save.
Lo, how fair from afar, Taintless of tyranny, stands Thy mighty daughter, for years Who trod the winepress of war; Shines with immaculate hands; Slays not a foe, neither fears; Stains not peace with a scar.
Be not as tyrant or slave, England; be not as these, Thou that wert other than they.
Stretch out thine hand, but to save; Put forth thy strength, and release; Lest there arise, if thou slay, Thy shame as a ghost from the grave.


Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

A Swimmers Dream

 Somno mollior unda 

I 
Dawn is dim on the dark soft water, 
Soft and passionate, dark and sweet.
Love's own self was the deep sea's daughter, Fair and flawless from face to feet, Hailed of all when the world was golden, Loved of lovers whose names beholden Thrill men's eyes as with light of olden Days more glad than their flight was fleet.
So they sang: but for men that love her, Souls that hear not her word in vain, Earth beside her and heaven above her Seem but shadows that wax and wane.
Softer than sleep's are the sea's caresses, Kinder than love's that betrays and blesses, Blither than spring's when her flowerful tresses Shake forth sunlight and shine with rain.
All the strength of the waves that perish Swells beneath me and laughs and sighs, Sighs for love of the life they cherish, Laughs to know that it lives and dies, Dies for joy of its life, and lives Thrilled with joy that its brief death gives -- Death whose laugh or whose breath forgives Change that bids it subside and rise.
II Hard and heavy, remote but nearing, Sunless hangs the severe sky's weight, Cloud on cloud, though the wind be veering Heaped on high to the sundawn's gate.
Dawn and even and noon are one, Veiled with vapour and void of sun; Nought in sight or in fancied hearing Now less mighty than time or fate.
The grey sky gleams and the grey seas glimmer, Pale and sweet as a dream's delight, As a dream's where darkness and light seem dimmer, Touched by dawn or subdued by night.
The dark wind, stern and sublime and sad, Swings the rollers to westward, clad With lustrous shadow that lures the swimmer, Lures and lulls him with dreams of light.
Light, and sleep, and delight, and wonder, Change, and rest, and a charm of cloud, Fill the world of the skies whereunder Heaves and quivers and pants aloud All the world of the waters, hoary Now, but clothed with its own live glory, That mates the lightning and mocks the thunder With light more living and word more proud.
III Far off westward, whither sets the sounding strife, Strife more sweet than peace, of shoreless waves whose glee Scorns the shore and loves the wind that leaves them free, Strange as sleep and pale as death and fair as life, Shifts the moonlight-coloured sunshine on the sea.
Toward the sunset's goal the sunless waters crowd, Fast as autumn days toward winter: yet it seems Here that autumn wanes not, here that woods and streams Lose not heart and change not likeness, chilled and bowed, Warped and wrinkled: here the days are fair as dreams.
IV O russet-robed November, What ails thee so to smile? Chill August, pale September, Endured a woful while, And fell as falls an ember From forth a flameless pile: But golden-girt November Bids all she looks on smile.
The lustrous foliage, waning As wanes the morning moon, Here falling, here refraining, Outbraves the pride of June With statelier semblance, feigning No fear lest death be soon: As though the woods thus waning Should wax to meet the moon.
As though, when fields lie stricken By grey December's breath, These lordlier growths that sicken And die for fear of death Should feel the sense requicken That hears what springtide saith And thrills for love, spring-stricken And pierced with April's breath.
The keen white-winged north-easter That stings and spurs thy sea Doth yet but feed and feast her With glowing sense of glee: Calm chained her, storm released her, And storm's glad voice was he: South-wester or north-easter, Thy winds rejoice the sea.
V A dream, a dream is it all -- the season, The sky, the water, the wind, the shore? A day-born dream of divine unreason, A marvel moulded of sleep -- no more? For the cloudlike wave that my limbs while cleaving Feel as in slumber beneath them heaving Soothes the sense as to slumber, leaving Sense of nought that was known of yore.
A purer passion, a lordlier leisure, A peace more happy than lives on land, Fulfils with pulse of diviner pleasure The dreaming head and the steering hand.
I lean my cheek to the cold grey pillow, The deep soft swell of the full broad billow, And close mine eyes for delight past measure, And wish the wheel of the world would stand.
The wild-winged hour that we fain would capture Falls as from heaven that its light feet clomb, So brief, so soft, and so full the rapture Was felt that soothed me with sense of home.
To sleep, to swim, and to dream, for ever -- Such joy the vision of man saw never; For here too soon will a dark day sever The sea-bird's wing from the sea-wave's foam.
A dream, and more than a dream, and dimmer At once and brighter than dreams that flee, The moment's joy of the seaward swimmer Abides, remembered as truth may be.
Not all the joy and not all the glory Must fade as leaves when the woods wax hoary; For there the downs and the sea-banks glimmer, And here to south of them swells the sea.
Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

Cleopatra

 HER mouth is fragrant as a vine,
A vine with birds in all its boughs;
Serpent and scarab for a sign
Between the beauty of her brows
And the amorous deep lids divine.
Her great curled hair makes luminous Her cheeks, her lifted throat and chin.
Shall she not have the hearts of us To shatter, and the loves therein To shred between her fingers thus? Small ruined broken strays of light, Pearl after pearl she shreds them through Her long sweet sleepy fingers, white As any pearl's heart veined with blue, And soft as dew on a soft night.
As if the very eyes of love Shone through her shutting lids, and stole The slow looks of a snake or dove; As if her lips absorbed the whole Of love, her soul the soul thereof.
Lost, all the lordly pearls that were Wrung from the sea's heart, from the green Coasts of the Indian gulf-river; Lost, all the loves of the world---so keen Towards this queen for love of her.
You see against her throat the small Sharp glittering shadows of them shake; And through her hair the imperial Curled likeness of the river snake, Whose bite shall make an end of all.
Through the scales sheathing him like wings, Through hieroglyphs of gold and gem, The strong sense of her beauty stings, Like a keen pulse of love in them, A running flame through all his rings.
Under those low large lids of hers She hath the histories of all time; The fruit of foliage-stricken years; The old seasons with their heavy chime That leaves its rhyme in the world's ears.
She sees the hand of death made bare, The ravelled riddle of the skies, The faces faded that were fair, The mouths made speechless that were wise, The hollow eyes and dusty hair; The shape and shadow of mystic things, Things that fate fashions or forbids; The staff of time-forgotten Kings Whose name falls off the Pyramids, Their coffin-lids and grave-clothings; Dank dregs, the scum of pool or clod, God-spawn of lizard-footed clans, And those dog-headed hulks that trod Swart necks of the old Egyptians, Raw draughts of man's beginning God; The poised hawk, quivering ere he smote, With plume-like gems on breast and back; The asps and water-worms afloat Between the rush-flowers moist and slack; The cat's warm black bright rising throat.
The purple days of drouth expand Like a scroll opened out again; The molten heaven drier than sand, The hot red heaven without rain, Sheds iron pain on the empty land.
All Egypt aches in the sun's sight; The lips of men are harsh for drouth, The fierce air leaves their cheeks burnt white, Charred by the bitter blowing south, Whose dusty mouth is sharp to bite.
All this she dreams of, and her eyes Are wrought after the sense hereof.
There is no heart in her for sighs; The face of her is more than love--- A name above the Ptolemies.
Her great grave beauty covers her As that sleek spoil beneath her feet Clothed once the anointed soothsayer; The hallowing is gone forth from it Now, made unmeet for priests to wear.
She treads on gods and god-like things, On fate and fear and life and death, On hate that cleaves and love that clings, All that is brought forth of man's breath And perisheth with what it brings.
She holds her future close, her lips Hold fast the face of things to be; Actium, and sound of war that dips Down the blown valleys of the sea, Far sails that flee, and storms of ships; The laughing red sweet mouth of wine At ending of life's festival; That spice of cerecloths, and the fine White bitter dust funereal Sprinkled on all things for a sign; His face, who was and was not he, In whom, alive, her life abode; The end, when she gained heart to see Those ways of death wherein she trod, Goddess by god, with Antony.
Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

The Many

 Greene, garlanded with February's few flowers
Ere March came in with Marlowe's rapturous rage;
Peele, from whose hand the sweet white locks of age
Took the mild chaplet woven of honored hours;
Nash, laughing hard; Lodge, flushed from lyric bowers;
And Lilly, a goldfinch in a twisted cage
Fed by some gay great lady's pettish page
Till short sweet songs gush clear like short spring showers;
Kid, whose grim sport still gamboled over graves;
And Chettle, in whose fresh funereal verse
Weeps Marian yet on Robin's wildwood hearse;
Cooke, whose light boat of song one soft breath saves,
Sighed from a maiden's amorous mouth averse;
Live likewise ye--Time takes not you for slaves.
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