SONGS OF THE SPRINGTIDES
Taken from THE COLLECTED POETICAL WORKS OF ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE, VOL. III
Algernon Charles Swinburne
SWINBURNE'S POETICAL WORKS
I. POEMS AND BALLADS (First Series).
II. SONGS BEFORE SUNRISE, AND SONGS OF TWO NATIONS.
III. POEMS AND BALLADS (Second and Third Series), and SONGS OF THE SPRINGTIDES.
IV. TRISTRAM OF LYONESSE, THE TALE OF BALEN, ATALANTA IN CALYDON, ERECHTHEUS.
V. STUDIES IN SONG, A CENTURY OF ROUNDELS, SONNETS ON ENGLISH DRAMATIC POETS, THE HEPTALOGIA, ETC.
VI. A MIDSUMMER HOLIDAY, ASTROPHEL, A CHANNEL PASSAGE AND OTHER POEMS.
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
SONGS OF THE SPRINGTIDES
Algernon Charles Swinburne
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
First printed (Chatto), 1904
Reprinted 1904, '09, '10, '12
London: William Heinemann, 1917
SONGS OF THE SPRINGTIDES
TO EDWARD JOHN TRELAWNY 293
ON THE CLIFFS 311
THE GARDEN OF CYMODOCE 326
BIRTHDAY ODE 341
SONGS OF THE SPRINGTIDES
TO EDWARD JOHN TRELAWNY
A sea-mew on a sea-king's wrist alighting, As the north sea-wind caught and strained and curled The raven-figured flag that led men fighting From field to green field of the water-world, Might find such brief high favour at his hand For wings imbrued with brine, with foam impearled, As these my songs require at yours on land, That durst not save for love's free sake require, Being lightly born between the foam and sand, But reared by hope and memory and desire Of lives that were and life that is to be, Even such as filled his heavenlier song with fire Whose very voice, that sang to set man free, Was in your ears as ever in ours his lyre, Once, ere the flame received him from the sea.
Upon the flowery forefront of the year, One wandering by the grey-green April sea Found on a reach of shingle and shallower sand Inlaid with starrier glimmering jewellery Left for the sun's love and the light wind's cheer Along the foam-flowered strand Breeze-brightened, something nearer sea than land Though the last shoreward blossom-fringe was near, A babe asleep with flower-soft face that gleamed To sun and seaward as it laughed and dreamed, Too sure of either love for either's fear, Albeit so birdlike slight and light, it seemed Nor man nor mortal child of man, but fair As even its twin-born tenderer spray-flowers were, That the wind scatters like an Oread's hair.
For when July strewed fire on earth and sea The last time ere that year, Out of the flame of morn Cymothoe Beheld one brighter than the sunbright sphere Move toward her from its fieriest heart, whence trod The live sun's very God, Across the foam-bright water-ways that are As heavenlier heavens with star for answering star, And on her eyes and hair and maiden mouth Felt a kiss falling fierier than the South And heard above afar A noise of songs and wind-enamoured wings And lutes and lyres of milder and mightier strings, And round the resonant radiance of his car Where depth is one with height, Light heard as music, music seen as light. And with that second moondawn of the spring's That fosters the first rose, A sun-child whiter than the sunlit snows Was born out of the world of sunless things That round the round earth flows and ebbs and flows.
But he that found the sea-flower by the sea And took to foster like a graft of earth Was born of man's most highest and heavenliest birth, Free-born as winds and stars and waves are free; A warrior grey with glories more than years, Though more of years than change the quick to dead Had rained their light and darkness on his head; A singer that in time's and memory's ears Should leave such words to sing as all his peers Might praise with hallowing heat of rapturous tears Till all the days of human flight were fled. And at his knees his fosterling was fed Not with man's wine and bread Nor mortal mother-milk of hopes and fears, But food of deep memorial days long sped; For bread with wisdom and with song for wine Clear as the full calm's emerald hyaline. And from his grave glad lips the boy would gather Fine honey of song-notes goldener than gold, More sweet than bees make of the breathing heather, That he, as glad and bold, Might drink as they, and keep his spirit from cold. And the boy loved his laurel-laden hair As his own father's risen on the eastern air, And that less white brow-binding bayleaf bloom More than all flowers his father's eyes relume; And those high songs he heard, More than all notes of any landward bird, More than all sounds less free Than the wind's quiring to the choral sea.
High things the high song taught him; how the breath Too frail for life may be more strong than death; And this poor flash of sense in life, that gleams As a ghost's glory in dreams, More stabile than the world's own heart's root seems, By that strong faith of lordliest love which gives To death's own sightless-seeming eyes a light Clearer, to death's bare bones a verier might, Than shines or strikes from any man that lives. How he that loves life overmuch shall die The dog's death, utterly: And he that much less loves it than he hates All wrongdoing that is done Anywhere always underneath the sun Shall live a mightier life than time's or fate's. One fairer thing he shewed him, and in might More strong than day and night Whose strengths build up time's towering period: Yea, one thing stronger and more high than God, Which if man had not, then should God not be: And that was Liberty. And gladly should man die to gain, he said, Freedom; and gladlier, having lost, lie dead. For man's earth was not, nor the sweet sea-waves His, nor his own land, nor its very graves, Except they bred not, bore not, hid not slaves: But all of all that is, Were one man free in body and soul, were his.
And the song softened, even as heaven by night Softens, from sunnier down to starrier light, And with its moonbright breath Blessed life for death's sake, and for life's sake death. Till as the moon's own beam and breath confuse In one clear hueless haze of glimmering hues The sea's line and the land's line and the sky's, And light for love of darkness almost dies, As darkness only lives for light's dear love, Whose hands the web of night is woven of, So in that heaven of wondrous words were life And death brought out of strife; Yea, by that strong spell of serene increase Brought out of strife to peace.
And the song lightened, as the wind at morn Flashes, and even with lightning of the wind Night's thick-spun web is thinned And all its weft unwoven and overworn Shrinks, as might love from scorn. And as when wind and light on water and land Leap as twin gods from heavenward hand in hand, And with the sound and splendour of their leap Strike darkness dead, and daunt the spirit of sleep, And burn it up with fire; So with the light that lightened from the lyre Was all the bright heat in the child's heart stirred And blown with blasts of music into flame Till even his sense became Fire, as the sense that fires the singing bird Whose song calls night by name. And in the soul within the sense began The manlike passion of a godlike man, And in the sense within the soul again Thoughts that make men of gods and gods of men.
For love the high song taught him: love that turns God's heart toward man as man's to Godward; love That life and death and life are fashioned of, From the first breath that burns Half kindled on the flowerlike yeanling's lip, So light and faint that life seems like to slip, To that yet weaklier drawn When sunset dies of night's devouring dawn. But the man dying not wholly as all men dies If aught be left of his in live men's eyes Out of the dawnless dark of death to rise; If aught of deed or word Be seen for all time or of all time heard. Love, that though body and soul were overthrown Should live for love's sake of itself alone, Though spirit and flesh were one thing doomed and dead, Not wholly annihilated. Seeing even the hoariest ash-flake that the pyre Drops, and forgets the thing was once afire And gave its heart to feed the pile's full flame Till its own heart its own heat overcame, Outlives its own life, though by scarce a span, As such men dying outlive themselves in man, Outlive themselves for ever; if the heat Outburn the heart that kindled it, the sweet Outlast the flower whose soul it was, and flit Forth of the body of it Into some new shape of a strange perfume More potent than its light live spirit of bloom, How shall not something of that soul relive, That only soul that had such gifts to give As lighten something even of all men's doom Even from the labouring womb Even to the seal set on the unopening tomb? And these the loving light of song and love Shall wrap and lap round and impend above, Imperishable; and all springs born illume Their sleep with brighter thoughts than wake the dove To music, when the hillside winds resume The marriage-song of heather-flower and broom And all the joy thereof.
And hate the song too taught him: hate of all That brings or holds in thrall Of spirit or flesh, free-born ere God began, The holy body and sacred soul of man. And wheresoever a curse was or a chain, A throne for torment or a crown for bane Rose, moulded out of poor men's molten pain, There, said he, should man's heaviest hate be set Inexorably, to faint not or forget Till the last warmth bled forth of the last vein In flesh that none should call a king's again, Seeing wolves and dogs and birds that plague-strike air Leave the last bone of all the carrion bare.
And hope the high song taught him: hope whose eyes Can sound the seas unsoundable, the skies Inaccessible of eyesight; that can see What earth beholds not, hear what wind and sea Hear not, and speak what all these crying in one Can speak not to the sun. For in her sovereign eyelight all things are Clear as the closest seen and kindlier star That marries morn and even and winter and spring With one love's golden ring. For she can see the days of man, the birth Of good and death of evil things on earth Inevitable and infinite, and sure As present pain is, or herself is pure. Yea, she can hear and see, beyond all things That lighten from before Time's thunderous wings Through the awful circle of wheel-winged periods, The tempest of the twilight of all Gods: And higher than all the circling course they ran The sundawn of the spirit that was man.
And fear the song too taught him; fear to be Worthless the dear love of the wind and sea That bred him fearless, like a sea-mew reared In rocks of man's foot feared, Where nought of wingless life may sing or shine. Fear to wax worthless of that heaven he had When all the life in all his limbs was glad And all the drops in all his veins were wine And all the pulses music; when his heart, Singing, bade heaven and wind and sea bear part In one live song's reiterance, and they bore: Fear to go crownless of the flower he wore When the winds loved him and the waters knew, The blithest life that clove their blithe life through With living limbs exultant, or held strife More amorous than all dalliance aye anew With the bright breath and strength of their large life, With all strong wrath of all sheer winds that blew, All glories of all storms of the air that fell Prone, ineluctable, With roar from heaven of revel, and with hue As of a heaven turned hell. For when the red blast of their breath had made All heaven aflush with light more dire than shade, He felt it in his blood and eyes and hair Burn as if all the fires of the earth and air Had laid strong hold upon his flesh, and stung The soul behind it as with serpent's tongue, Forked like the loveliest lightnings: nor could bear But hardly, half distraught with strong delight, The joy that like a garment wrapped him round And lapped him over and under With raiment of great light And rapture of great sound At every loud leap earthward of the thunder From heaven's most furthest bound: So seemed all heaven in hearing and in sight, Alive and mad with glory and angry joy, That something of its marvellous mirth and might Moved even to madness, fledged as even for flight, The blood and spirit of one but mortal boy.
So, clothed with love and fear that love makes great, And armed with hope and hate, He set first foot upon the spring-flowered ways That all feet pass and praise. And one dim dawn between the winter and spring, In the sharp harsh wind harrying heaven and earth To put back April that had borne his birth From sunward on her sunniest shower-struck wing, With tears and laughter for the dew-dropt thing, Slight as indeed a dew-drop, by the sea One met him lovelier than all men may be, God-featured, with god's eyes; and in their might Somewhat that drew men's own to mar their sight, Even of all eyes drawn toward him: and his mouth Was as the very rose of all men's youth, One rose of all the rose-beds in the world: But round his brows the curls were snakes that curled, And like his tongue a serpent's; and his voice Speaks death, and bids rejoice. Yet then he spake no word, seeming as dumb, A dumb thing mild and hurtless; nor at first From his bowed eyes seemed any light to come, Nor his meek lips for blood or tears to thirst: But as one blind and mute in mild sweet wise Pleading for pity of piteous lips and eyes, He strayed with faint bare lily-lovely feet Helpless, and flowerlike sweet: Nor might man see, not having word hereof, That this of all gods was the great god Love.
And seeing him lovely and like a little child That wellnigh wept for wonder that it smiled And was so feeble and fearful, with soft speech The youth bespake him softly; but there fell From the sweet lips no sweet word audible That ear or thought might reach: No sound to make the dim cold silence glad, No breath to thaw the hard harsh air with heat; Only the saddest smile of all things sweet, Only the sweetest smile of all things sad.
And so they went together one green way Till April dying made free the world for May; And on his guide suddenly Love's face turned, And in his blind eyes burned Hard light and heat of laughter; and like flame That opens in a mountain's ravening mouth To blear and sear the sunlight from the south, His mute mouth opened, and his first word came: 'Knowest thou me now by name?' And all his stature waxed immeasurable, As of one shadowing heaven and lightening hell; And statelier stood he than a tower that stands And darkens with its darkness far-off sands Whereon the sky leans red; And with a voice that stilled the winds he said: 'I am he that was thy lord before thy birth, I am he that is thy lord till thou turn earth: I make the night more dark, and all the morrow Dark as the night whose darkness was my breath: O fool, my name is sorrow; Thou fool, my name is death.'
And he that heard spake not, and looked right on Again, and Love was gone.
Through many a night toward many a wearier day His spirit bore his body down its way. Through many a day toward many a wearier night His soul sustained his sorrows in her sight. And earth was bitter, and heaven, and even the sea Sorrowful even as he. And the wind helped not, and the sun was dumb; And with too long strong stress of grief to be His heart grew sere and numb.
And one bright eve ere summer in autumn sank At stardawn standing on a grey sea-bank He felt the wind fitfully shift and heave As toward a stormier eve; And all the wan wide sea shuddered; and earth Shook underfoot as toward some timeless birth, Intolerable and inevitable; and all Heaven, darkling, trembled like a stricken thrall. And far out of the quivering east, and far From past the moonrise and its guiding star, Began a noise of tempest and a light That was not of the lightning; and a sound Rang with it round and round That was not of the thunder; and a flight As of blown clouds by night, That was not of them; and with songs and cries That sang and shrieked their soul out at the skies A shapeless earthly storm of shapes began From all ways round to move in on the man, Clamorous against him silent; and their feet Were as the wind's are fleet, And their shrill songs were as wild birds' are sweet.
And as when all the world of earth was wronged And all the host of all men driven afoam By the red hand of Rome, Round some fierce amphitheatre overthronged With fair clear faces full of bloodier lust Than swells and stings the tiger when his mood Is fieriest after blood And drunk with trampling of the murderous must That soaks and stains the tortuous close-coiled wood Made monstrous with its myriad-mustering brood, Face by fair face panted and gleamed and pressed, And breast by passionate breast Heaved hot with ravenous rapture, as they quaffed The red ripe full fume of the deep live draught, The sharp quick reek of keen fresh bloodshed, blown Through the dense deep drift up to the emperor's throne From the under steaming sands With clamour of all-applausive throats and hands, Mingling in mirthful time With shrill blithe mockeries of the lithe-limbed mime: So from somewhence far forth of the unbeholden, Dreadfully driven from over and after and under, Fierce, blown through fifes of brazen blast and golden, With sound of chiming waves that drown the thunder Or thunder that strikes dumb the sea's own chimes, Began the bellowing of the bull-voiced mimes, Terrible; firs bowed down as briars or palms Even at the breathless blast as of a breeze Fulfilled with clamour and clangour and storms of psalms; Red hands rent up the roots of old-world trees, Thick flames of torches tossed as tumbling seas Made mad the moonless and infuriate air That, ravening, revelled in the riotous hair And raiment of the furred Bassarides.
So came all those in on him; and his heart, As out of sleep suddenly struck astart, Danced, and his flesh took fire of theirs, and grief Was as a last year's leaf Blown dead far down the wind's way; and he set His pale mouth to the brightest mouth it met That laughed for love against his lips, and bade Follow; and in following all his blood grew glad And as again a sea-bird's; for the wind Took him to bathe him deep round breast and brow Not as it takes a dead leaf drained and thinned, But as the brightest bay-flower blown on bough, Set springing toward it singing: and they rode By many a vine-leafed, many a rose-hung road, Exalt with exultation; many a night Set all its stars upon them as for spies On many a moon-bewildering mountain-height Where he rode only by the fierier light Of his dread lady's hot sweet hungering eyes. For the moon wandered witless of her way, Spell-stricken by strong magic in such wise As wizards use to set the stars astray. And in his ears the music that makes mad Beat always; and what way the music bade, That alway rode he; nor was any sleep His, nor from height nor deep. But heaven was as red iron, slumberless, And had no heart to bless; And earth lay sere and darkling as distraught, And help in her was nought.
Then many a midnight, many a morn and even, His mother, passing forth of her fair heaven, With goodlier gifts than all save gods can give From earth or from the heaven where sea-things live, With shine of sea-flowers through the bay-leaf braid Woven for a crown her foam-white hands had made To crown him with land's laurel and sea-dew, Sought the sea-bird that was her boy: but he Sat panther-throned beside Erigone, Riding the red ways of the revel through Midmost of pale-mouthed passion's crownless crew. Till on some winter's dawn of some dim year He let the vine-bit on the panther's lip Slide, and the green rein slip, And set his eyes to seaward, nor gave ear If sound from landward hailed him, dire or dear; And passing forth of all those fair fierce ranks Back to the grey sea-banks, Against a sea-rock lying, aslant the steep, Fell after many sleepless dreams on sleep.
And in his sleep the dun green light was shed Heavily round his head That through the veil of sea falls fathom-deep, Blurred like a lamp's that when the night drops dead Dies; and his eyes gat grace of sleep to see The deep divine dark dayshine of the sea, Dense water-walls and clear dusk water-ways, Broad-based, or branching as a sea-flower sprays That side or this dividing; and anew The glory of all her glories that he knew. And in sharp rapture of recovering tears He woke on fire with yearnings of old years, Pure as one purged of pain that passion bore, Ill child of bitter mother; for his own Looked laughing toward him from her midsea throne, Up toward him there ashore.
Thence in his heart the great same joy began, Of child that made him man: And turned again from all hearts else on quest, He communed with his own heart, and had rest. And like sea-winds upon loud waters ran His days and dreams together, till the joy Burned in him of the boy. Till the earth's great comfort and the sweet sea's breath Breathed and blew life in where was heartless death, Death spirit-stricken of soul-sick days, where strife Of thought and flesh made mock of death and life. And grace returned upon him of his birth Where heaven was mixed with heavenlike sea and earth; And song shot forth strong wings that took the sun From inward, fledged with might of sorrow and mirth And father's fire made mortal in his son. Nor was not spirit of strength in blast and breeze To exalt again the sun's child and the sea's; For as wild mares in Thessaly grow great With child of ravishing winds, that violate Their leaping length of limb with manes like fire And eyes outburning heaven's With fires more violent than the lightning levin's And breath drained out and desperate of desire, Even so the spirit in him, when winds grew strong, Grew great with child of song. Nor less than when his veins first leapt for joy To draw delight in such as burns a boy, Now too the soul of all his senses felt The passionate pride of deep sea-pulses dealt Through nerve and jubilant vein As from the love and largess of old time, And with his heart again The tidal throb of all the tides keep rhyme And charm him from his own soul's separate sense With infinite and invasive influence That made strength sweet in him and sweetness strong, Being now no more a singer, but a song.
Till one clear day when brighter sea-wind blew And louder sea-shine lightened, for the waves Were full of godhead and the light that saves, His father's, and their spirit had pierced him through, He felt strange breath and light all round him shed That bowed him down with rapture; and he knew His father's hand, hallowing his humbled head, And the old great voice of the old good time, that said:
"Child of my sunlight and the sea, from birth A fosterling and fugitive on earth; Sleepless of soul as wind or wave or fire, A manchild with an ungrown God's desire; Because thou hast loved nought mortal more than me, Thy father, and thy mother-hearted sea; Because thou hast set thine heart to sing, and sold Life and life's love for song, God's living gold; Because thou hast given thy flower and fire of youth To feed men's hearts with visions, truer than truth; Because thou hast kept in those world-wandering eyes The light that makes me music of the skies; Because thou hast heard with world-unwearied ears The music that puts light into the spheres; Have therefore in thine heart and in thy mouth The sound of song that mingles north and south, The song of all the winds that sing of me, And in thy soul the sense of all the sea."
ON THE CLIFFS
[Greek: imerophonos aedon.]
Between the moondawn and the sundown here The twilight hangs half starless; half the sea Still quivers as for love or pain or fear Or pleasure mightier than these all may be A man's live heart might beat Wherein a God's with mortal blood should meet And fill its pulse too full to bear the strain With fear or love or pleasure's twin-born, pain. Fiercely the gaunt woods to the grim soil cling That bears for all fair fruits Wan wild sparse flowers of windy and wintry spring Between the tortive serpent-shapen roots Wherethrough their dim growth hardly strikes and shoots And shews one gracious thing Hardly, to speak for summer one sweet word Of summer's self scarce heard. But higher the steep green sterile fields, thick-set With flowerless hawthorn even to the upward verge Whence the woods gathering watch new cliffs emerge Higher than their highest of crowns that sea-winds fret, Hold fast, for all that night or wind can say, Some pale pure colour yet, Too dim for green and luminous for grey. Between the climbing inland cliffs above And these beneath that breast and break the bay, A barren peace too soft for hate or love Broods on an hour too dim for night or day.
O wind, O wingless wind that walk'st the sea, Weak wind, wing-broken, wearier wind than we, Who are yet not spirit-broken, maimed like thee, Who wail not in our inward night as thou In the outer darkness now, What word has the old sea given thee for mine ear From thy faint lips to hear? For some word would she send me, knowing not how.
Nay, what far other word Than ever of her was spoken, or of me Or all my winged white kinsfolk of the sea Between fresh wave and wave was ever heard, Cleaves the clear dark enwinding tree with tree Too close for stars to separate and to see Enmeshed in multitudinous unity? What voice of what strong God hath stormed and stirred The fortressed rock of silence, rent apart Even to the core Night's all-maternal heart? What voice of God grown heavenlier in a bird, Made keener of edge to smite Than lightning—yea, thou knowest, O mother Night, Keen as that cry from thy strange children sent Wherewith the Athenian judgment-shrine was rent, For wrath that all their wrath was vainly spent, Their wrath for wrong made right By justice in her own divine despite That bade pass forth unblamed The sinless matricide and unashamed? Yea, what new cry is this, what note more bright Than their song's wing of words was dark of flight, What word is this thou hast heard, Thine and not thine or theirs, O Night, what word More keen than lightning and more sweet than light? As all men's hearts grew godlike in one bird And all those hearts cried on thee, crying with might, Hear us, O mother Night.
Dumb is the mouth of darkness as of death: Light, sound and life are one In the eyes and lips of dawn that draw the sun To hear what first child's word with glimmering breath Their weak wan weanling child the twilight saith; But night makes answer none.
God, if thou be God,—bird, if bird thou be,— Do thou then answer me. For but one word, what wind soever blow, Is blown up usward ever from the sea. In fruitless years of youth dead long ago And deep beneath their own dead leaves and snow Buried, I heard with bitter heart and sere The same sea's word unchangeable, nor knew But that mine own life-days were changeless too And sharp and salt with unshed tear on tear And cold and fierce and barren; and my soul, Sickening, swam weakly with bated breath In a deep sea like death, And felt the wind buffet her face with brine Hard, and harsh thought on thought in long bleak roll Blown by keen gusts of memory sad as thine Heap the weight up of pain, and break, and leave Strength scarce enough to grieve In the sick heavy spirit, unmanned with strife Of waves that beat at the tired lips of life.
Nay, sad may be man's memory, sad may be The dream he weaves him as for shadow of thee, But scarce one breathing-space, one heartbeat long, Wilt thou take shadow of sadness on thy song. Not thou, being more than man or man's desire, Being bird and God in one, With throat of gold and spirit of the sun; The sun whom all our souls and songs call sire, Whose godhead gave thee, chosen of all our quire, Thee only of all that serve, of all that sing Before our sire and king, Borne up some space on time's world-wandering wing, This gift, this doom, to bear till time's wing tire— Life everlasting of eternal fire.
Thee only of all; yet can no memory say How many a night and day My heart has been as thy heart, and my life As thy life is, a sleepless hidden thing, Full of the thirst and hunger of winter and spring, That seeks its food not in such love or strife As fill men's hearts with passionate hours and rest. From no loved lips and on no loving breast Have I sought ever for such gifts as bring Comfort, to stay the secret soul with sleep. The joys, the loves, the labours, whence men reap Rathe fruit of hopes and fears, I have made not mine; the best of all my days Have been as those fair fruitless summer strays, Those water-waifs that but the sea-wind steers, Flakes of glad foam or flowers on footless ways That take the wind in season and the sun, And when the wind wills is their season done.
For all my days as all thy days from birth My heart as thy heart was in me as thee, Fire; and not all the fountains of the sea Have waves enough to quench it, nor on earth Is fuel enough to feed, While day sows night and night sows day for seed.
We were not marked for sorrow, thou nor I, For joy nor sorrow, sister, were we made, To take delight and grief to live and die, Assuaged by pleasures or by pains affrayed That melt men's hearts and alter; we retain A memory mastering pleasure and all pain, A spirit within the sense of ear and eye, A soul behind the soul, that seeks and sings And makes our life move only with its wings And feed but from its lips, that in return Feed of our hearts wherein the old fires that burn Have strength not to consume Nor glory enough to exalt us past our doom.
Ah, ah, the doom (thou knowest whence rang that wail) Of the shrill nightingale! (From whose wild lips, thou knowest, that wail was thrown) For round about her have the great gods cast A wing-borne body, and clothed her close and fast With a sweet life that hath no part in moan. But me, for me (how hadst thou heart to hear?) Remains a sundering with the two-edged spear.
Ah, for her doom! so cried in presage then The bodeful bondslave of the king of men, And might not win her will. Too close the entangling dragnet woven of crime, The snare of ill new-born of elder ill, The curse of new time for an elder time, Had caught, and held her yet, Enmeshed intolerably in the intolerant net, Who thought with craft to mock the God most high, And win by wiles his crown of prophecy From the Sun's hand sublime, As God were man, to spare or to forget.
But thou,—the gods have given thee and forgiven thee More than our master gave That strange-eyed spirit-wounded strange-tongued slave There questing houndlike where the roofs red-wet Reeked as a wet red grave. Life everlasting has their strange grace given thee, Even hers whom thou wast wont to sing and serve With eyes, but not with song, too swift to swerve; Yet might not even thine eyes estranged estrange her, Who seeing thee too, but inly, burn and bleed Like that pale princess-priest of Priam's seed, For stranger service gave thee guerdon stranger; If this indeed be guerdon, this indeed Her mercy, this thy meed— That thou, being more than all we born, being higher Than all heads crowned of him that only gives The light whereby man lives, The bay that bids man moved of God's desire Lay hand on lute or lyre, Set lip to trumpet or deflowered green reed— If this were given thee for a grace indeed, That thou, being first of all these, thou alone Shouldst have the grace to die not, but to live And lose nor change one pulse of song, one tone Of all that were thy lady's and thine own, Thy lady's whom thou criedst on to forgive, Thou, priest and sacrifice on the altar-stone Where none may worship not of all that live, Love's priestess, errant on dark ways diverse; If this were grace indeed for Love to give, If this indeed were blessing and no curse.
Love's priestess, mad with pain and joy of song, Song's priestess, mad with joy and pain of love, Name above all names that are lights above, We have loved, praised, pitied, crowned and done thee wrong, O thou past praise and pity; thou the sole Utterly deathless, perfect only and whole Immortal, body and soul. For over all whom time hath overpast The shadow of sleep inexorable is cast, The implacable sweet shadow of perfect sleep That gives not back what life gives death to keep; Yea, all that lived and loved and sang and sinned Are all borne down death's cold sweet soundless wind That blows all night and knows not whom its breath, Darkling, may touch to death: But one that wind hath touched and changed not,—one Whose body and soul are parcel of the sun; One that earth's fire could burn not, nor the sea Quench; nor might human doom take hold on thee; All praise, all pity, all dreams have done thee wrong, All love, with eyes love-blinded from above; Song's priestess, mad with joy and pain of love, Love's priestess, mad with pain and joy of song.
Hast thou none other answer then for me Than the air may have of thee, Or the earth's warm woodlands girdling with green girth Thy secret sleepless burning life on earth, Or even the sea that once, being woman crowned And girt with fire and glory of anguish round, Thou wert so fain to seek to, fain to crave If she would hear thee and save And give thee comfort of thy great green grave? Because I have known thee always who thou art, Thou knowest, have known thee to thy heart's own heart, Nor ever have given light ear to storied song That did thy sweet name sweet unwitting wrong, Nor ever have called thee nor would call for shame, Thou knowest, but inly by thine only name, Sappho—because I have known thee and loved, hast thou None other answer now? As brother and sister were we, child and bird, Since thy first Lesbian word Flamed on me, and I knew not whence I knew This was the song that struck my whole soul through, Pierced my keen spirit of sense with edge more keen, Even when I knew not,—even ere sooth was seen,— When thou wast but the tawny sweet winged thing Whose cry was but of spring.
And yet even so thine ear should hear me—yea, Hear me this nightfall by this northland bay, Even for their sake whose loud good word I had, Singing of thee in the all-beloved clime Once, where the windy wine of spring makes mad Our sisters of Majano, who kept time Clear to my choral rhyme. Yet was the song acclaimed of these aloud Whose praise had made mute humbleness misproud, The song with answering song applauded thus, But of that Daulian dream of Itylus. So but for love's love haply was it—nay, How else?—that even their song took my song's part, For love of love and sweetness of sweet heart, Or god-given glorious madness of mid May And heat of heart and hunger and thirst to sing, Full of the new wine of the wind of spring.
Or if this were not, and it be not sin To hold myself in spirit of thy sweet kin, In heart and spirit of song; If this my great love do thy grace no wrong, Thy grace that gave me grace to dwell therein; If thy gods thus be my gods, and their will Made my song part of thy song—even such part As man's hath of God's heart— And my life like as thy life to fulfil; What have our gods then given us? Ah, to thee, Sister, much more, much happier than to me, Much happier things they have given, and more of grace Than falls to man's light race; For lighter are we, all our love and pain Lighter than thine, who knowest of time or place Thus much, that place nor time Can heal or hurt or lull or change again The singing soul that makes his soul sublime Who hears the far fall of its fire-fledged rhyme Fill darkness as with bright and burning rain Till all the live gloom inly glows, and light Seems with the sound to cleave the core of night.
The singing soul that moves thee, and that moved When thou wast woman, and their songs divine Who mixed for Grecian mouths heaven's lyric wine Fell dumb, fell down reproved Before one sovereign Lesbian song of thine. That soul, though love and life had fain held fast, Wind-winged with fiery music, rose and past Through the indrawn hollow of earth and heaven and hell, As through some strait sea-shell The wide sea's immemorial song,—the sea That sings and breathes in strange men's ears of thee How in her barren bride-bed, void and vast, Even thy soul sang itself to sleep at last.
To sleep? Ah, then, what song is this, that here Makes all the night one ear, One ear fulfilled and mad with music, one Heart kindling as the heart of heaven, to hear A song more fiery than the awakening sun Sings, when his song sets fire To the air and clouds that build the dead night's pyre? O thou of divers-coloured mind, O thou Deathless, God's daughter subtle-souled—lo, now, Now too the song above all songs, in flight Higher than the day-star's height, And sweet as sound the moving wings of night! Thou of the divers-coloured seat—behold, Her very song of old!— O deathless, O God's daughter subtle-souled! That same cry through this boskage overhead Rings round reiterated, Palpitates as the last palpitated, The last that panted through her lips and died Not down this grey north sea's half sapped cliff-side That crumbles toward the coastline, year by year More near the sands and near; The last loud lyric fiery cry she cried, Heard once on heights Leucadian,—heard not here.
Not here; for this that fires our northland night, This is the song that made Love fearful, even the heart of love afraid, With the great anguish of its great delight. No swan-song, no far-fluttering half-drawn breath, No word that love of love's sweet nature saith, No dirge that lulls the narrowing lids of death, No healing hymn of peace-prevented strife,— This is her song of life.
I loved thee,—hark, one tenderer note than all— Atthis, of old time, once—one low long fall, Sighing—one long low lovely loveless call, Dying—one pause in song so flamelike fast— Atthis, long since in old time overpast— One soft first pause and last. One,—then the old rage of rapture's fieriest rain Storms all the music-maddened night again.
Child of God, close craftswoman, I beseech thee, Bid not ache nor agony break nor master, Lady, my spirit— O thou her mistress, might her cry not reach thee? Our Lady of all men's loves, could Love go past her, Pass, and not hear it?
She hears not as she heard not; hears not me, O treble-natured mystery,—how should she Hear, or give ear?—who heard and heard not thee; Heard, and went past, and heard not; but all time Hears all that all the ravin of his years Hath cast not wholly out of all men's ears And dulled to death with deep dense funeral chime Of their reiterate rhyme. And now of all songs uttering all her praise, All hers who had thy praise and did thee wrong, Abides one song yet of her lyric days, Thine only, this thy song.
O soul triune, woman and god and bird, Man, man at least has heard. All ages call thee conqueror, and thy cry The mightiest as the least beneath the sky Whose heart was ever set to song, or stirred With wind of mounting music blown more high Than wildest wing may fly, Hath heard or hears,—even AEschylus as I. But when thy name was woman, and thy word Human,—then haply, surely then meseems This thy bird's note was heard on earth of none, Of none save only in dreams. In all the world then surely was but one Song; as in heaven at highest one sceptred sun Regent, on earth here surely without fail One only, one imperious nightingale. Dumb was the field, the woodland mute, the lawn Silent; the hill was tongueless as the vale Even when the last fair waif of cloud that felt Its heart beneath the colouring moonrays melt, At high midnoon of midnight half withdrawn, Bared all the sudden deep divine moondawn. Then, unsaluted by her twin-born tune, That latter timeless morning of the moon Rose past its hour of moonrise; clouds gave way To the old reconquering ray, But no song answering made it more than day; No cry of song by night Shot fire into the cloud-constraining light. One only, one AEolian island heard Thrill, but through no bird's throat, In one strange manlike maiden's godlike note, The song of all these as a single bird. Till the sea's portal was as funeral gate For that sole singer in all time's ageless date Singled and signed for so triumphal fate, All nightingales but one in all the world All her sweet life were silent; only then, When her life's wing of womanhood was furled, Their cry, this cry of thine was heard again, As of me now, of any born of men. Through sleepless clear spring nights filled full of thee, Rekindled here, thy ruling song has thrilled The deep dark air and subtle tender sea And breathless hearts with one bright sound fulfilled. Or at midnoon to me Swimming, and birds about my happier head Skimming, one smooth soft way by water and air, To these my bright born brethren and to me Hath not the clear wind borne or seemed to bear A song wherein all earth and heaven and sea Were molten in one music made of thee To enforce us, O our sister of the shore, Look once in heart back landward and adore? For songless were we sea-mews, yet had we More joy than all things joyful of thee—more, Haply, than all things happiest; nay, save thee, In thy strong rapture of imperious joy Too high for heart of sea-borne bird or boy, What living things were happiest if not we? But knowing not love nor change nor wrath nor wrong, No more we knew of song.
Song, and the secrets of it, and their might, What blessings curse it and what curses bless, I know them since my spirit had first in sight, Clear as thy song's words or the live sun's light, The small dark body's Lesbian loveliness That held the fire eternal; eye and ear Were as a god's to see, a god's to hear, Through all his hours of daily and nightly chime, The sundering of the two-edged spear of time: The spear that pierces even the sevenfold shields Of mightiest Memory, mother of all songs made, And wastes all songs as roseleaves kissed and frayed As here the harvest of the foam-flowered fields; But thine the spear may waste not that he wields Since first the God whose soul is man's live breath, The sun whose face hath our sun's face for shade, Put all the light of life and love and death Too strong for life, but not for love too strong, Where pain makes peace with pleasure in thy song, And in thine heart, where love and song make strife, Fire everlasting of eternal life.
THE GARDEN OF CYMODOCE
Sea, and bright wind, and heaven of ardent air, More dear than all things earth-born; O to me Mother more dear than love's own longing, sea, More than love's eyes are, fair, Be with my spirit of song as wings to bear, As fire to feel and breathe and brighten; be A spirit of sense more deep of deity, A light of love, if love may be, more strong In me than very song. For song I have loved with second love, but thee, Thee first, thee, mother; ere my songs had breath, That love of loves, whose bondage makes man free, Was in me strong as death. And seeing no slave may love thee, no, not one That loves not freedom more, And more for thy sake loves her, and for hers Thee; or that hates not, on whate'er thy shore Or what thy wave soever, all things done Of man beneath the sun In his despite and thine, to cross and curse Your light and song that as with lamp and verse Guide safe the strength of our sphered universe, Thy breath it was, thou knowest, and none but thine, That taught me love of one thing more divine.
Ah, yet my youth was old [Str. 1. Its first years dead and cold As last year's autumn's gold, And all my spirit of singing sick and sad and sere, Or ever I might behold The fairest of thy fold Engirt, enringed, enrolled, In all thy flower-sweet flock of islands dear and near.
Yet in my heart I deemed [Str. 2. The fairest things, meseemed, Truth, dreaming, ever dreamed, Had made mine eyes already like a god's to see: Of all sea-things that were Clothed on with water and air, That none could live more fair Than thy sweet love long since had shown for love to me.
I knew not, mother of mine, [Ant. 1. That one birth more divine Than all births else of thine That hang like flowers or jewels on thy deep soft breast Was left for me to shine Above thy girdling line Of bright and breathing brine, To take mine eyes with rapture and my sense with rest.
That this was left for me, [Ant.2. Mother, to have of thee, To touch, to taste, to see, To feel as fire fulfilling all my blood and breath, As wine of living fire Keen as the heart's desire That makes the heart its pyre And on its burning visions burns itself to death.
For here of all thy waters, here of all Thy windy ways the wildest, and beset As some beleaguered city's war-breached wall With deaths enmeshed all round it in deep net, Thick sown with rocks deadlier than steel, and fierce With loud cross-countering currents, where the ship Flags, flickering like a wind-bewildered leaf, The densest weft of waves that prow may pierce Coils round the sharpest warp of shoals that dip Suddenly, scarce well under for one brief Keen breathing-space between the streams adverse, Scarce showing the fanged edge of one hungering lip Or one tooth lipless of the ravening reef; And midmost of the murderous water's web All round it stretched and spun, Laughs, reckless of rough tide and raging ebb, The loveliest thing that shines against the sun.
O flower of all wind-flowers and sea-flowers, [Str. 3. Made lovelier by love of the sea Than thy golden own field-flowers, or tree-flowers Like foam of the sea-facing tree! No foot but the seamew's there settles On the spikes of thine anthers like horns, With snow-coloured spray for thy petals, Black rocks for thy thorns.
Was it here, in the waste of his waters, [Ant. 3. That the lordly north wind, when his love On the fairest of many king's daughters Bore down for a spoil from above, Chose forth of all farthest far islands As a haven to harbour her head, Of all lowlands on earth and all highlands, His bride-worthy bed?
Or haply, my sea-flower, he found thee [Str. 4. Made fast as with anchors to land, And broke, that his waves might be round thee, Thy fetters like rivets of sand? And afar by the blast of him drifted Thy blossom of beauty was borne, As a lark by the heart in her lifted To mix with the morn?
By what rapture of rage, by what vision [Ant. 4. Of a heavenlier heaven than above, Was he moved to devise thy division From the land as a rest for his love? As a nest when his wings would remeasure The ways where of old they would be, As a bride-bed upbuilt for his pleasure By sea-rock and sea?
For in no deeps of midmost inland May More flowerbright flowers the hawthorn, or more sweet Swells the wild gold of the earth for wandering feet; For on no northland way Crowds the close whin-bloom closer, set like thee With thorns about for fangs of sea-rock shown Through blithe lips of the bitter brine to lee; Nor blithelier landward comes the sea-wind blown, Nor blithelier leaps the land-wind back to sea: Nor louder springs the living song of birds To shame our sweetest words. And in the narrowest of thine hollowest hold For joy thine aspens quiver as though for cold, And many a self-lit flower-illumined tree Outlaughs with snowbright or with rosebright glee The laughter of the fields whose laugh is gold. Yea, even from depth to height, Even thine own beauty with its own delight Fulfils thine heart in thee an hundredfold Beyond the larger hearts of islands bright With less intense contraction of desire Self-satiate, centred in its own deep fire; Of shores not self-enchanted and entranced By heavenly severance from all shadow of mirth Or mourning upon earth: As thou, by no similitude enhanced, By no fair foil made fairer, but alone Fair as could be no beauty save thine own, And wondrous as no world-beholden wonder: Throned, with the world's most perilous sea for throne, And praised from all its choral throats of thunder.
Yet one praise hast thou, holier [Str. 5. Than praise of theirs may be, To exalt thee, wert thou lowlier Than all that take the sea With shores whence waves ebb slowlier Than these fall off from thee;
That One, whose name gives glory, [Ant. 5. One man whose life makes light, One crowned and throned in story Above all empire's height, Came, where thy straits run hoary, To hold thee fast in sight;
With hallowing eyes to hold thee, [Str. 6. With rapturous heart to read, To encompass and enfold thee With love whence all men feed, To brighten and behold thee, Who is mightiest of man's seed:
More strong than strong disaster, [Ant. 6. For fate and fear too strong; Earth's friend, whose eyes look past her, Whose hands would purge of wrong; Our lord, our light, our master, Whose word sums up all song.
Be it April or September [Str. 7. That plays his perfect part, Burn June or blow December, Thou canst not in thine heart But rapturously remember, All heavenlike as thou art,
Whose footfall made thee fairer, [Ant. 7. Whose passage more divine, Whose hand, our thunder-bearer, Held fire that bade thee shine With subtler glory and rarer Than thrills the sun's own shrine.
Who knows how then his godlike banished gaze Turned haply from its goal of natural days And homeward hunger for the clear French clime, Toward English earth, whereunder now the Accursed Rots, in the hate of all men's hearts inhearsed, A carrion ranker to the sense of time For that sepulchral gift of stone and lime By royal grace laid on it, less of weight Than the load laid by fate, Fate, misbegotten child of his own crime, Son of as foul a bastard-bearing birth As even his own on earth; Less heavy than the load of cursing piled By loyal grace of all souls undefiled On one man's head, whose reeking soul made rotten The loathed live corpse on earth once misbegotten? But when our Master's homeless feet were here France yet was foul with joy more foul than fear, And slavery chosen, more vile by choice of chance Than dull damnation of inheritance From Russian year to year Alas fair mother of men, alas my France, What ailed thee so to fall, that wert so dear For all men's sake to all men, in such trance, Plague-stricken? Had the very Gods, that saw Thy glory lighten on us for a law, Thy gospel go before us for a guide, Had these waxed envious of our love and awe, Or was it less their envy than thy pride That bared thy breast for the obscene vulture-claw, High priestess, by whose mouth Love prophesied That fate should yet mean freedom? Howsoever, That hour, the helper of men's hearts, we praise, Which blots out of man's book of after days The name above all names abhorred for ever. And His name shall we praise not, whom these flowers, These rocks and ravening waters bound for girth Round this wild starry spanlong plot of earth, Beheld, the mightier for those heavier hours That bowed his heart not down Nor marred one crowning blossom of his crown? For surely, might we say, Even from the dark deep sea-gate that makes way Through channelled darkness for the darkling day Hardly to let men's faltering footfall win The sunless passage in, Where breaks a world aflower against the sun, A small sweet world of wave-encompassed wonder Kept from the wearier landward world asunder With violence of wild waters, and with thunder Of many winds as one, To where the keen sea-current grinds and frets The black bright sheer twin flameless Altarlets That lack no live blood-sacrifice they crave Of shipwreck and the shrine-subservient wave, Having for priest the storm-wind, and for choir Lightnings and clouds whose prayer and praise are fire, All the isle acclaimed him coming; she, the least Of all things loveliest that the sea's love hides From strange men's insult, walled about with tides That bid strange guests back from her flower-strewn feast, Set all her fields aflower, her flowers aflame, To applaud him that he came. Nor surely flashed not something of delight Through that steep strait of rock whose twin-cliffed height Links crag with crag reiterate, land with land, By one sheer thread of narrowing precipice Bifront, that binds and sunders Abyss from hollower imminent abyss And wilder isle with island, blind for bliss Of sea that lightens and of wind that thunders; Nor pealed not surely back from deep to steep Reverberate acclamation, steep to deep Inveterately reclaiming and replying Praise, and response applausive; nor the sea, For all the sea-wind's crying, Knew not the song her sister, even as she Thundering, or like her confluent spring-tides brightening, And like her darkness lightening; The song that moved about him silent, now Both soundless wings refolded and refurled On that Promethean brow, Then quivering as for flight that wakes the world.
From the roots of the rocks underlying the gulfs that engird it around [Str. 8. Was the isle not enkindled with light of him landing, or thrilled not with sound? Yea, surely the sea like a harper laid hand on the shore as a lyre, As the lyre in his own for a birthright of old that was given of his sire, And the hand of the child was put forth on the chords yet alive and aflame From the hand of the God that had wrought it in heaven; and the hand was the same. And the tongue of the child spake, singing; and never a note that he sang, But the strings made answer unstricken, as though for the God they rang. And the eyes of the child shone, lightening; and touched as by life at his nod, They shuddered with music, and quickened as though from the glance of the God. So trembled the heart of the hills and the rocks to receive him, and yearned With desirous delight of his presence and love that beholding him burned. Yea, down through the mighty twin hollows where never the sunlight shall be, Deep sunk under imminent earth, and subdued to the stress of the sea, That feel when the dim week changes by change of their tides in the dark, As the wave sinks under within them, reluctant, removed from its mark, Even there in the terror of twilight in bloom with its blossoms ablush, Did a sense of him touch not the gleam of their flowers with a fierier flush? Though the sun they behold not for ever, yet knew they not over them One Whose soul was the soul of the morning, whose song was the song of the sun? But the secrets inviolate of sunlight in hollows untrodden of day, Shall he dream what are these who beholds not? or he that hath seen, shall he say? For the path is for passage of sea-mews; and he that hath glided and leapt Over sea-grass and sea-rock, alighting as one from a citadel crept That his foemen beleaguer, descending by darkness and stealth, at the last Peers under, and all is as hollow to hellward, agape and aghast. But afloat and afar in the darkness a tremulous colour subsides [Ant. 8. From the crimson high crest of the purple-peaked roof to the soft-coloured sides That brighten as ever they widen till downward the level is won Of the soundless and colourless water that knows not the sense of the sun: From the crown of the culminant arch to the floor of the lakelet abloom, One infinite blossom of blossoms innumerable aflush through the gloom. All under the deeps of the darkness are glimmering; all over impends An immeasurable infinite flower of the dark that dilates and descends, That exults and expands in its breathless and blind efflorescence of heart As it broadens and bows to the wave-ward, and breathes not, and hearkens apart. As a beaker inverse at a feast on Olympus, exhausted of wine, But inlaid as with rose from the lips of Dione that left it divine: From the lips everliving of laughter and love everlasting, that leave In the cleft of his heart who shall kiss them a snake to corrode it and cleave. So glimmers the gloom into glory, the glory recoils into gloom, That the eye of the sun could not kindle, the lip not of Love could relume. So darkens reverted the cup that the kiss of her mouth set on fire: So blackens a brand in his eyeshot asmoulder awhile from the pyre. For the beam from beneath and without it refrangent again from the wave Strikes up through the portal a ghostly reverse on the dome of the cave, On the depth of the dome ever darkling and dim to the crown of its arc: That the sun-coloured tapestry, sunless for ever, may soften the dark. But within through the side-seen archway a glimmer again from the right Is the seal of the sea's tide set on the mouth of the mystery of night. And the seal on the seventh day breaks but a little, that man by its mean May behold what the sun hath not looked on, the stars of the night have not seen.
Even like that hollow-bosomed rose, inverse And infinite, the heaven of thy vast verse, Our Master, over all our souls impends, Imminent; we, with heart-enkindled eyes Upwondering, search the music-moulded skies Sphere by sweet sphere, concordant as it blends Light of bright sound, sound of clear light, in one, As all the stars found utterance through the sun. And all that heaven is like a rose in bloom, Flower-coloured, where its own sun's fires illume As from one central and imperious heart The whole sky's every part: But lightening still and darkling downward, lo The light and darkness of it, The leaping of the lamping levin afar Between the full moon and the sunset star, The war-song of the sounding skies aglow, That have the herald thunder for their prophet: From north to south the lyric lights that leap, The tragic sundawns reddening east and west As with bright blood from one Promethean breast, The peace of noon that strikes the sea to sleep, The wail over the world of all that weep, The peace of night when death brings life on rest.
Goddess who gatherest all the herded waves Into thy great sweet pastureless green fold, Even for our love of old, I pray thee by thy power that slays and saves, Take thou my song of this thy flower to keep Who hast my heart in hold; And from thine high place of thy garden-steep, Where one sheer terrace oversees thy deep From the utmost rock-reared height Down even to thy dear depths of night and light, Take my song's salutation; and on me Breathe back the benediction of thy sea.
Between two seas the sea-bird's wing makes halt, Wind-weary; while with lifting head he waits For breath to reinspire him from the gates That open still toward sunrise on the vault High-domed of morning, and in flight's default With spreading sense of spirit anticipates What new sea now may lure beyond the straits His wings exulting that her winds exalt And fill them full as sails to seaward spread, Fulfilled with fair speed's promise. Pass, my song, Forth to the haven of thy desire and dread, The presence of our lord, long loved and long Far off above beholden, who to thee Was as light kindling all a windy sea.
FOR THE ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL OF VICTOR HUGO, FEBRUARY 26, 1880
Spring, born in heaven ere many a springtime flown, [Strophe 1. Dead spring that sawest on earth A babe of deathless birth, A flower of rosier flowerage than thine own, A glory of goodlier godhead; even this day, That floods the mist of February with May, And strikes death dead with sunlight, and the breath Whereby the deadly doers are done to death, They that in day's despite Would crown the imperial night, 10 And in deep hate of insubmissive spring Rethrone the royal winter for a king, This day that casts the days of darkness down Low as a broken crown, We call thee from the gulf of deeds and days, Deathless and dead, to hear us whom we praise.
A light of many lights about thine head, [Antistrophe 1. Lights manifold and one, Stars molten in a sun, A sun of divers beams incorporated, 20 Compact of confluent aureoles, each more fair Than man, save only at highest of man, may wear, So didst thou rise, when this our grey-grown age Had trod two paces of his pilgrimage, Two paces through the gloom From his fierce father's tomb, Led by cross lights of lightnings, and the flame That burned in darkness round one darkling name; So didst thou rise, nor knewest thy glory, O thou Re-risen upon us now, 30 The glory given thee for a grace to give, And take the praise of all men's hearts that live.
First in the dewy ray [Epode 1. Ere dawn be slain of day The fresh crowned lilies of discrowned kings' prime Sprang splendid as of old With moonlight-coloured gold And rays refract from the oldworld heaven of time; Pale with proud light of stars decreased 39 In westward wane reluctant from the conquering east.
But even between their golden olden bloom [Str. 2. Strange flowers of wildwood glory, With frost and moonshine hoary, Thrust up the new growths of their green-leaved gloom, Red buds of ballad blossom, where the dew Blushed as with bloodlike passion, and its hue Was as the life and love of hearts on flame, And fire from forth of each live chalice came: Young sprays of elder song, Stem straight and petal strong, 50 Bright foliage with dark frondage overlaid, And light the lovelier for its lordlier shade; And morn and even made loud in woodland lone With cheer of clarions blown, And through the tournay's clash and clarion's cheer Laugh to laugh echoing, tear washed off by tear.
Then eastward far past northland lea and lawn Beneath a heavier light [Ant. 2. Of stormier day and night Began the music of the heaven of dawn; 60 Bright sound of battle along the Grecian waves, Loud light of thunder above the Median graves, New strife, new song on AEschylean seas, Canaris risen above Themistocles; Old glory of warrior ghosts Shed fresh on filial hosts, With dewfall redder than the dews of day, And earth-born lightnings out of bloodbright spray; Then through the flushed grey gloom on shadowy sheaves Low flights of falling leaves; 70 And choirs of birds transfiguring as they throng All the world's twilight and the soul's to song.
Voices more dimly deep [Ep. 2. Than the inmost heart of sleep, And tenderer than the rose-mouthed morning's lips; And midmost of them heard The viewless water's word, The sea's breath in the wind's wing and the ship's, That bids one swell and sound and smite 79 And rend that other in sunder as with fangs by night.
But ah! the glory of shadow and mingling ray, [Str. 3. The story of morn and even Whose tale was writ in heaven And had for scroll the night, for scribe the day! For scribe the prophet of the morning, far Exalted over twilight and her star; For scroll beneath his Apollonian hand The dim twin wastes of sea and glimmering land. Hark, on the hill-wind, clear For all men's hearts to hear 90 Sound like a stream at nightfall from the steep That all time's depths might answer, deep to deep, With trumpet-measures of triumphal wail From windy vale to vale, The crying of one for love that strayed and sinned Whose brain took madness of the mountain wind.
Between the birds of brighter and duskier wing, [Ant. 3. What mightier-moulded forms Girt with red clouds and storms Mix their strong hearts with theirs that soar and sing? 100 Before the storm-blast blown of death's dark horn The marriage moonlight withers, that the morn For two made one may find three made by death One ruin at the blasting of its breath: Clothed with heart's flame renewed And strange new maidenhood, Faith lightens on the lips that bloomed for hire Pure as the lightning of love's first-born fire: Wide-eyed and patient ever, till the curse Find where to fall and pierce, 110 Keen expiation whets with edge more dread A father's wrong to smite a father's head.
Borgia, supreme from birth [Ep. 3. As loveliest born on earth Since earth bore ever women that were fair; Scarce known of her own house If daughter or sister or spouse; Who holds men's hearts yet helpless with her hair; The direst of divine things made, Bows down her amorous aureole half suffused with shade. 120
As red the fire-scathed royal northland bloom, [Str. 4. That left our story a name Dyed through with blood and flame Ere her life shrivelled from a fierier doom Than theirs her priests bade pass from earth in fire To slake the thirst of God their Lord's desire: As keen the blast of love-enkindled fate That burst the Paduan tyrant's guarded gate: As sad the softer moan Made one with music's own 130 For one whose feet made music as they fell On ways by loveless love made hot from hell: But higher than these and all the song thereof The perfect heart of love, The heart by fraud and hate once crucified, That, dying, gave thanks, and in thanksgiving died.
Above the windy walls that rule the Rhine [Ant. 4. A noise of eagles' wings And wintry war-time rings, With roar of ravage trampling corn and vine 140 And storm of wrathful wassail dashed with song, And under these the watch of wreakless wrong, With fire of eyes anhungered; and above These, the light of the stricken eyes of love, The faint sweet eyes that follow The wind-outwinging swallow, And face athirst with young wan yearning mouth Turned after toward the unseen all-golden south, Hopeless to see the birds back ere life wane, Or the leaves born again; 150 And still the might and music mastering fate Of life more strong than death and love than hate.
In spectral strength biform [Ep. 4. Stand the twin sons of storm Transfigured by transmission of one hand That gives the new-born time Their semblance more sublime Than once it lightened over each man's land; There Freedom's winged and wide-mouthed hound, 159 And here our high Dictator, in his son discrowned.
What strong-limbed shapes of kindred throng round these [Str. 5. Before, between, behind, Sons born of one man's mind, Fed at his hands and fostered round his knees? Fear takes the spirit in thraldom at his nod, And pity makes it as the spirit of God, As his own soul that from her throne above Sheds on all souls of men her showers of love, On all earth's evil and pain Pours mercy forth as rain 170 And comfort as the dewfall on dry land; And feeds with pity from a faultless hand All by their own fault stricken, all cast out By all men's scorn or doubt, Or with their own hands wounded, or by fate Brought into bondage of men's fear or hate.
In violence of strange visions north and south Confronted, east and west, [Ant. 5. With frozen or fiery breast, Eyes fixed or fevered, pale or bloodred mouth, 180 Kept watch about his dawn-enkindled dreams; But ere high noon a light of nearer beams Made his young heaven of manhood more benign, And love made soft his lips with spiritual wine, And left them fired, and fed With sacramental bread, And sweet with honey of tenderer words than tears To feed men's hopes and fortify men's fears, And strong to silence with benignant breath The lips that doom to death, 190 And swift with speech like fire in fiery lands To melt the steel's edge in the headsman's hands.
Higher than they rose of old, [Ep. 5. New builded now, behold, The live great likeness of Our Lady's towers; And round them like a dove Wounded, and sick with love, One fair ghost moving, crowned with fateful flowers, Watched yet with eyes of bloodred lust 199 And eyes of love's heart broken and unbroken trust.
But sadder always under shadowier skies, [Str. 6. More pale and sad and clear Waxed always, drawn more near, The face of Duty lit with Love's own eyes; Till the awful hands that culled in rosier hours From fairy-footed fields of wild old flowers And sorcerous woods of Rhineland, green and hoary, Young children's chaplets of enchanted story, The great kind hands that showed Exile its homeward road, 210 And, as man's helper made his foeman God, Of pity and mercy wrought themselves a rod, And opened for Napoleon's wandering kin France, and bade enter in, And threw for all the doors of refuge wide, Took to them lightning in the thunder-tide.
For storm on earth above had risen from under, Out of the hollow of hell, [Ant. 6. Such storm as never fell From darkest deeps of heaven distract with thunder; A cloud of cursing, past all shape of thought, 221 More foul than foulest dreams, and overfraught With all obscene things and obscure of birth That ever made infection of man's earth; Having all hell for cloak Wrapped round it as a smoke And in its womb such offspring so defiled As earth bare never for her loathliest child, Rose, brooded, reddened, broke, and with its breath Put France to poisonous death; 230 Yea, far as heaven's red labouring eye could glance, France was not, save in men cast forth of France.
Then,—while the plague-sore grew [Ep. 6. Two darkling decades through, And rankled in the festering flesh of time,— Where darkness binds and frees The wildest of wild seas In fierce mutations of the unslumbering clime, There, sleepless too, o'er shuddering wrong One hand appointed shook the reddening scourge of song. 240
And through the lightnings of the apparent word Dividing shame's dense night [Str. 7. Sounds lovelier than the light And light more sweet than song from night's own bird Mixed each their hearts with other, till the gloom Was glorious as with all the stars in bloom, Sonorous as with all the spheres in chime Heard far through flowering heaven: the sea, sublime Once only with its own Old winds' and waters' tone, 250 Sad only or glad with its own glory, and crowned With its own light, and thrilled with its own sound, Learnt now their song, more sweet than heaven's may be, Who pass away by sea; The song that takes of old love's land farewell, With pulse of plangent water like a knell.
And louder ever and louder and yet more loud Till night be shamed of morn [Ant. 7. Rings the Black Huntsman's horn Through darkening deeps beneath the covering cloud, 260 Till all the wild beasts of the darkness hear; Till the Czar quake, till Austria cower for fear, Till the king breathe not, till the priest wax pale, Till spies and slayers on seats of judgment quail, Till mitre and cowl bow down And crumble as a crown, Till Caesar driven to lair and hounded Pope Reel breathless and drop heartless out of hope, And one the uncleanest kinless beast of all Lower than his fortune fall; 270 The wolfish waif of casual empire, born To turn all hate and horror cold with scorn.
Yea, even at night's full noon [Ep. 7. Light's birth-song brake in tune, Spake, witnessing that with us one must be, God; naming so by name That priests have brought to shame The strength whose scourge sounds on the smitten sea; The mystery manifold of might Which bids the wind give back to night the things of night. 280
Even God, the unknown of all time; force or thought, [Str. 8. Nature or fate or will, Clothed round with good and ill, Veiled and revealed of all things and of nought, Hooded and helmed with mystery, girt and shod With light and darkness, unapparent God. Him the high prophet o'er his wild work bent Found indivisible ever and immanent At hidden heart of truth, In forms of age and youth 290 Transformed and transient ever; masked and crowned, From all bonds loosened and with all bonds bound, Diverse and one with all things; love and hate, Earth, and the starry state Of heaven immeasurable, and years that flee As clouds and winds and rays across the sea.
But higher than stars and deeper than the waves Of day and night and morrow [Ant. 8. That roll for all time, sorrow Keeps ageless watch over perpetual graves. 300 From dawn to morning of the soul in flower, Through toils and dreams and visions, to that hour When all the deeps were opened, and one doom Took two sweet lives to embrace them and entomb, The strong song plies its wing That makes the darkness ring And the deep light reverberate sound as deep; Song soft as flowers or grass more soft than sleep, Song bright as heaven above the mounting bird, Song like a God's tears heard 310 Falling, fulfilled of life and death and light, And all the stars and all the shadow of night.
Till, when its flight hath past [Ep. 8. Time's loftiest mark and last, The goal where good kills evil with a kiss, And Darkness in God's sight Grows as his brother Light, And heaven and hell one heart whence all the abyss Throbs with love's music; from his trance Love waking leads it home to her who stayed in France. 320
But now from all the world-old winds of the air [Str. 9. One blast of record rings As from time's hidden springs With roar of rushing wings and fires that bear Toward north and south sonorous, east and west, Forth of the dark wherein its records rest, The story told of the ages, writ nor sung By man's hand ever nor by mortal tongue Till, godlike with desire, One tongue of man took fire, 330 One hand laid hold upon the lightning, one Rose up to bear time witness what the sun Had seen, and what the moon and stars of night Beholding lost not light: From dawn to dusk what ways man wandering trod Even through the twilight of the gods to God.
From dawn of man and woman twain and one [Ant. 9. When the earliest dews impearled The front of all the world Ringed with aurorean aureole of the sun, 340 To days that saw Christ's tears and hallowing breath Put life for love's sake in the lips of death, And years as waves whose brine was fire, whose foam Blood, and the ravage of Neronian Rome; And the eastern crescent's horn Mightier awhile than morn; And knights whose lives were flights of eagles' wings, And lives like snakes' lives of engendering kings; And all the ravin of all the swords that reap Lives cast as sheaves on heap 350 From all the billowing harvest-fields of fight; And sounds of love-songs lovelier than the light.
The grim dim thrones of the east [Ep. 9. Set for death's riotous feast Round the bright board where darkling centuries wait, And servile slaughter, mute, Feeds power with fresh red fruit, Glitter and groan with mortal food of fate; And throne and cup and lamp's bright breath Bear witness to their lord of only night and death. 360
Dead freedom by live empire lies defiled, [Str. 10. And murder at his feet Plies lust with wine and meat, With offering of an old man and a child, With holy body and blood, inexpiable Communion in the sacrament of hell, Till, reeking from their monstrous eucharist, The lips wax cold that murdered where they kissed, And empire in mid feast Fall as a slaughtered beast 370 Headless, and ease men's hungering hearts of fear Lest God were none in heaven, to see nor hear, And purge his own pollution with the flood Poured of his black base blood So first found healing, poisonous as it poured; And on the clouds the archangel cleanse his sword.
As at the word unutterable that made [Ant. 10. Of day and night division, From vision on to vision, 379 From dream to dream, from darkness into shade, From sunshine into sunlight, moves and lives The steersman's eye, the helming hand that gives Life to the wheels and wings that whirl along The immeasurable impulse of the sphere of song Through all the eternal years, Beyond all stars and spheres, Beyond the washing of the waves of time, Beyond all heights where no thought else may climb, Beyond the darkling dust of suns that were, Past height and depth of air; 390 And in the abyss whence all things move that are Finds only living Love, the sovereign star.
Nor less the weight and worth [Ep. 10. Found even of love on earth To wash all stain of tears and sins away, On dying lips alit That living knew not it, In the winged shape of song with death to play: To warm young children with its wings, And try with fire the heart elect for godlike things. 400
For all worst wants of all most miserable [Str. 11. With divine hands to deal All balms and herbs that heal, Among all woes whereunder poor men dwell Our Master sent his servant Love, to be On earth his witness; but the strange deep sea, Mother of life and death inextricate, What work should Love do there, to war with fate? Yet there must Love too keep At heart of the eyeless deep 410 Watch, and wage war wide-eyed with all its wonders, Lower than the lightnings of its waves, and thunders Of seas less monstrous than the births they bred; Keep high there heart and head, And conquer: then for prize of all toils past Feel the sea close them in again at last.
A day of direr doom arisen thereafter [Ant. 11. With cloud and fire in strife Lightens and darkens life Round one by man's hand masked with living laughter, 420 A man by men bemonstered, but by love, Watched with blind eyes as of a wakeful dove, And wooed by lust, that in her rosy den As fire on flesh feeds on the souls of men, To take the intense impure Burnt-offering of her lure, Divine and dark and bright and naked, strange With ravenous thirst of life reversed and change, As though the very heaven should shrivel and swell With hunger after hell, 430 Run mad for dear damnation, and desire To feel its light thrilled through with stings of fire.
Above a windier sea, [Ep. 11. The glory of Ninety-three Fills heaven with blood-red and with rose-red beams That earth beholding grows Herself one burning rose Flagrant and fragrant with strange deeds and dreams, Dreams dyed as love's own flower, and deeds Stained as with love's own life-blood, that for love's sake bleeds. 440
And deeper than all deeps of seas and skies [Str. 12. Wherein the shadows are Called sun and moon and star That rapt conjecture metes with mounting eyes, Loud with strange waves and lustrous with new spheres, Shines, masked at once and manifest of years, Shakespeare, a heaven of heavenly eyes beholden; And forward years as backward years grow golden With light of deeds and words And flight of God's fleet birds, 450 Angels of wrath and love and truth and pity; And higher on exiled eyes their natural city Dawns down the depths of vision, more sublime Than all truths born of time; And eyes that wept above two dear sons dead Grow saving stars to guard one hopeless head.
Bright round the brows of banished age had shone [Ant. 12. In vision flushed with truth The rosy glory of youth 459 On streets and woodlands where in days long gone Sweet love sang light and loud and deep and dear: And far the trumpets of the dreadful year Had pealed and wailed in darkness: last arose The song of children, kindling as a rose At breath of sunrise, born Of the red flower of morn Whose face perfumes deep heaven with odorous light And thrills all through the wings of souls in flight Close as the press of children at His knee Whom if the high priest see, 470 Dreaming, as homeless on dark earth he trod, The lips that praise him shall not know for God.
O sovereign spirit, above [Ep. 12. All offering but man's love, All praise and prayer and incense undefiled! The one thing stronger found Than towers with iron bound; The one thing lovelier than a little child, And deeper than the seas are deep, 479 And tenderer than such tears of love as angels weep.
Dante, the seer of all things evil and good, [Str. 13. Beheld two ladies, Beauty And high life-hallowing Duty, That strove for sway upon his mind and mood And held him in alternating accord Fast bound at feet of either: but our lord, The seer and singer of righteousness and wrong Who stands now master of all the keys of song, Sees both as dewdrops run Together in the sun, 490 For him not twain but one thing twice divine; Even as his speech and song are bread and wine For all souls hungering and all hearts athirst At best of days and worst, And both one sacrament of Love's great giving To feed the spirit and sense of all souls living.
The seventh day in the wind's month, ten years gone [Ant. 13. Since heaven-espousing earth Gave the Republic birth, The mightiest soul put mortal raiment on 500 That came forth singing ever in man's ears Of all souls with us, and through all these years Rings yet the lordliest, waxen yet more strong, That on our souls hath shed itself in song, Poured forth itself like rain On souls like springing grain That with its procreant beams and showers were fed For living wine and sacramental bread; Given all itself as air gives life and light, Utterly, as of right; 510 The goodliest gift our age hath given, to be Ours, while the sun gives glory to the sea.
Our Father and Master and Lord, [Ep. 13. Who hast thy song for sword, For staff thy spirit, and our hearts for throne: As in past years of wrong, Take now my subject song, To no crowned head made humble but thine own; That on thy day of worldly birth Gives thanks for all thou hast given past thanks of all on earth. 520
* * * * *
v. 33. Odes et Ballades, 1822-1824.
57. Les Orientales, 1829.
69. Les Feuilles d'Automne, 1831.
71. Les Chants du Crepuscule, 1835.
73. Les Voix Interieures, 1837.
81. Les Rayons et les Ombres, 1840.
101. Hernani, 1830.
105. Marion de Lorme, 1831.
109. Le Roi s'amuse, 1832.
113. Lucrece Borgia, 1833.
121. Marie Tudor, 1835.
127. Angelo, Tyran de Padoue, 1835.
129. La Esmeralda, 1836.
133. Ruy Blas, 1838.
137. Les Burgraves, 1842.
153. Cromwell, 1827: Etude sur Mirabeau, 1834 (Litterature et Philosophie melees, 1819-1834).
177. Han d'Islande, 1823. Bug-Jargal, 1826.
182. Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamne, 1829: Claude Gueux, 1834.
193. Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831.
205. Le Rhin, 1845.
216. Napoleon le Petit, 1852. Chatiments, 1853. Histoire d'un Crime, 1877. In this place I must take occasion to relieve my conscience from a sense of duty unfulfilled so long as I for one have not uttered my own poor private protest—worthless and weightless though it may seem, if cast as a grain into the scale of public opinion—against a projected insult at once to contemporary France and to the present only less than to past generations of Englishmen.
On the proposed desecration of Westminster Abbey by the erection of a monument to the son of Napoleon III
"Let us go hence." From the inmost shrine of grace Where England holds the elect of all her dead There comes a word like one of old time said By gods of old cast out. Here is no place At once for these and one of poisonous race. Let each rise up from his dishallowed bed And pass forth silent. Each divine veiled head Shall speak in silence with averted face. "Scorn everlasting and eternal shame Eat out the rotting record of his name Who had the glory of all these graves in trust And turned it to a hissing. His offence Makes havoc of their desecrated dust Whose place is here no more. Let us go hence."
Feb. 25, 1880.
297. Les Contemplations, 1856.
321. La Legende des Siecles. Premiere serie, 1859; nouvelle serie, 1877.
392. Les Miserables, 1862.
409. Les Travailleurs de la Mer, 1866.
417. L'Homme qui Rit, 1869.
433. Quatre-vingt-treize, 1874.
441. William Shakespeare, 1864.
448. Actes et Paroles; Avant l'Exil, 1841-1851; Pendant l'Exil, 1852-1870; Depuis l'Exil, 1870-1876.
452. Paris, 1867.
455. Mes Fils, 1875.
456. Pour un Soldat, 1875.
457. Les Chansons des Rues et des Bois, 1865.
462. L'Annee Terrible, 1872.
464. L'Art d'etre Grandpere, 1877.
470. Le Pape, 1878.
497. "Septidi ventose an X de la Republique (26 fevrier 1802)." Victor Hugo raconte par un temoin de sa vie, 1863, tome 1, p. 28.
At the end of such a list, so incomparable as to seem incredible, of one great man's good works, we may be forgiven the alteration of a word even in a verse from AEschylus which we cannot choose but apply once more to this leader in the advance of men made perfect through doom of trial and long wayfaring, whose progress he furthers by example and stimulates by song:—
[Greek: kurios esti throein hodion kratos aision andron ekteleon; eti gar theothen katapneiei peitho molpan alkai sumphutos aion.]
AEsch. Agam. 104-8.