[Transcriber's Note: Greek words in this text have been transliterated and placed between marks. The word "Phoebus" was rendered with an oe ligature in the original.]
Athens: An Ode The Statue of Victor Hugo Euthanatos First and Last Lines on the Death of Edward John Trelawny Adieux a Marie Stuart Herse Twins The Salt of the Earth Seven Years Old Eight Years Old Comparisons What is Death? A Child's Pity A Child's Laughter A Child's Thanks A Child's Battles A Child's Future Sunrise
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Taken from The Collected Poetical Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne—Vol V
THE COLLECTED POETICAL WORKS OF ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE
STUDIES IN SONG: A CENTURY OF ROUNDELS: SONNETS ON ENGLISH DRAMATIC POETS: THE HEPTALOGIA: ETC.
SWINBURNE'S POETICAL WORKS
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
STUDIES IN SONG: A CENTURY OF ROUNDELS: SONNETS ON ENGLISH DRAMATIC POETS: THE HEPTALOGIA: ETC.
Algernon Charles Swinburne
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
First printed (Chatto), 1904
Reprinted 1904, '09, '10, '12
London: William Heinemann, 1917
PAGE ATHENS: AN ODE 194
THE STATUE OF VICTOR HUGO 215
FIRST AND LAST 255
LINES ON THE DEATH OF EDWARD JOHN TRELAWNY 257
ADIEUX A MARIE STUART 259
THE SALT OF THE EARTH 272
SEVEN YEARS OLD 273
EIGHT YEARS OLD 275
WHAT IS DEATH? 280
A CHILD'S PITY 281
A CHILD'S LAUGHTER 283
A CHILD'S THANKS 285
A CHILD'S BATTLES 287
A CHILD'S FUTURE 293
ATHENS: AN ODE
Ere from under earth again like fire the violet kindle, [Str. 1. Ere the holy buds and hoar on olive-branches bloom, Ere the crescent of the last pale month of winter dwindle, Shrink, and fall as falls a dead leaf on the dead month's tomb, Round the hills whose heights the first-born olive-blossom brightened, Round the city brow-bound once with violets like a bride, Up from under earth again a light that long since lightened Breaks, whence all the world took comfort as all time takes pride. Pride have all men in their fathers that were free before them, In the warriors that begat us free-born pride have we: But the fathers of their spirits, how may men adore them, With what rapture may we praise, who bade our souls be free? Sons of Athens born in spirit and truth are all born free men; Most of all, we, nurtured where the north wind holds his reign: Children all we sea-folk of the Salaminian seamen, Sons of them that beat back Persia they that beat back Spain. Since the songs of Greece fell silent, none like ours have risen; Since the sails of Greece fell slack, no ships have sailed like ours; How should we lament not, if her spirit sit in prison? How should we rejoice not, if her wreaths renew their flowers? All the world is sweeter, if the Athenian violet quicken: All the world is brighter, if the Athenian sun return: All things foul on earth wax fainter, by that sun's light stricken: All ill growths are withered, where those fragrant flower-lights burn. All the wandering waves of seas with all their warring waters Roll the record on for ever of the sea-fight there, When the capes were battle's lists, and all the straits were slaughter's, And the myriad Medes as foam-flakes on the scattering air. Ours the lightning was that cleared the north and lit the nations, But the light that gave the whole world light of old was she: Ours an age or twain, but hers are endless generations: All the world is hers at heart, and most of all are we.
Ye that bear the name about you of her glory, [Ant. 1. Men that wear the sign of Greeks upon you sealed, Yours is yet the choice to write yourselves in story Sons of them that fought the Marathonian field. Slaves of no man were ye, said your warrior poet, Neither subject unto man as underlings: Yours is now the season here wherein to show it, If the seed ye be of them that knew not kings. If ye be not, swords nor words alike found brittle From the dust of death to raise you shall prevail: Subject swords and dead men's words may stead you little, If their old king-hating heart within you fail. If your spirit of old, and not your bonds, be broken, If the kingless heart be molten in your breasts, By what signs and wonders, by what word or token, Shall ye drive the vultures from your eagles' nests? All the gains of tyrants Freedom counts for losses; Nought of all the work done holds she worth the work, When the slaves whose faith is set on crowns and crosses Drive the Cossack bear against the tiger Turk. Neither cross nor crown nor crescent shall ye bow to, Nought of Araby nor Jewry, priest nor king: As your watchword was of old, so be it now too: As from lips long stilled, from yours let healing spring. Through the fights of old, your battle-cry was healing, And the Saviour that ye called on was the Sun: Dawn by dawn behold in heaven your God, revealing Light from darkness as when Marathon was won. Gods were yours yet strange to Turk or Galilean, Light and Wisdom only then as gods adored: Pallas was your shield, your comforter was Paean, From your bright world's navel spake the Sun your Lord.
Though the names be lost, and changed the signs of Light and Wisdom be, [Ep. 1. By these only shall men conquer, by these only be set free: When the whole world's eye was Athens, these were yours, and theirs were ye. Light was given you of your wisdom, light ye gave the world again: As the sun whose godhead lightened on her soul was Hellas then: Yea, the least of all her children as the chosen of other men. Change your hearts not with your garments, nor your faith with creeds that change: Truth was yours, the truth which time and chance transform not nor estrange: Purer truth nor higher abides not in the reach of time's whole range. Gods are they in all men's memories and for all time's periods, They that hurled the host back seaward which had scourged the sea with rods: Gods for us are all your fathers, even the least of these as gods. In the dark of days the thought of them is with us, strong to save, They that had no lord, and made the Great King lesser than a slave; They that rolled all Asia back on Asia, broken like a wave. No man's men were they, no master's and no God's but these their own: Gods not loved in vain nor served amiss, nor all yet overthrown: Love of country, Freedom, Wisdom, Light, and none save these alone. King by king came up against them, sire and son, and turned to flee: Host on host roared westward, mightier each than each, if more might be: Field to field made answer, clamorous like as wave to wave at sea. Strife to strife responded, loud as rocks to clangorous rocks respond Where the deep rings wreck to seamen held in tempest's thrall and bond, Till when war's bright work was perfect peace as radiant rose beyond: Peace made bright with fruit of battle, stronger made for storm gone down, With the flower of song held heavenward for the violet of her crown Woven about the fragrant forehead of the fostress maiden's town. Gods arose alive on earth from under stroke of human hands: As the hands that wrought them, these are dead, and mixed with time's dead sands: But the godhead of supernal song, though these now stand not, stands. Pallas is not, Phoebus breathes no more in breathing brass or gold: Clytaemnestra towers, Cassandra wails, for ever: Time is bold, But nor heart nor hand hath he to unwrite the scriptures writ of old. Dead the great chryselephantine God, as dew last evening shed: Dust of earth or foam of ocean is the symbol of his head: Earth and ocean shall be shadows when Prometheus shall be dead.
Fame around her warriors living rang through Greece and lightened, [Str. 2. Moving equal with their stature, stately with their strength: Thebes and Lacedaemon at their breathing presence brightened, Sense or sound of them filled all the live land's breadth and length. All the lesser tribes put on the pure Athenian fashion, One Hellenic heart was from the mountains to the sea: Sparta's bitter self grew sweet with high half-human passion, And her dry thorns flushed aflower in strait Thermopylae. Fruitless yet the flowers had fallen, and all the deeds died fruitless, Save that tongues of after men, the children of her peace, Took the tale up of her glories, transient else and rootless, And in ears and hearts of all men left the praise of Greece. Fair the war-time was when still, as beacon answering beacon, Sea to land flashed fight, and thundered note of wrath or cheer; But the strength of noonday night hath power to waste and weaken, Nor may light be passed from hand to hand of year to year If the dying deed be saved not, ere it die for ever, By the hands and lips of men more wise than years are strong; If the soul of man take heed not that the deed die never, Clothed about with purple and gold of story, crowned with song. Still the burning heart of boy and man alike rejoices, Hearing words which made it seem of old for all who sang That their heaven of heavens waxed happier when from free men's voices Well-beloved Harmodius and Aristogeiton rang. Never fell such fragrance from the flower-month's rose-red kirtle As from chaplets on the bright friends' brows who slew their lord: Greener grew the leaf and balmier blew the flower of myrtle When its blossom sheathed the sheer tyrannicidal sword. None so glorious garland crowned the feast Panathenaean As this wreath too frail to fetter fast the Cyprian dove: None so fiery song sprang sunwards annual as the paean Praising perfect love of friends and perfect country's love.
Higher than highest of all those heavens wherefrom the starry [Ant. 2. Song of Homer shone above the rolling fight, Gleams like spring's green bloom on boughs all gaunt and gnarry Soft live splendour as of flowers of foam in flight, Glows a glory of mild-winged maidens upward mounting Sheer through air made shrill with strokes of smooth swift wings Round the rocks beyond foot's reach, past eyesight's counting, Up the cleft where iron wind of winter rings Round a God fast clenched in iron jaws of fetters, Him who culled for man the fruitful flower of fire, Bared the darkling scriptures writ in dazzling letters, Taught the truth of dreams deceiving men's desire, Gave their water-wandering chariot-seats of ocean Wings, and bade the rage of war-steeds champ the rein, Showed the symbols of the wild birds' wheeling motion, Waged for man's sake war with God and all his train. Earth, whose name was also Righteousness, a mother Many-named and single-natured, gave him breath Whence God's wrath could wring but this word and none other— He may smite me, yet he shall not do to death. Him the tongue that sang triumphant while tormented Sang as loud the sevenfold storm that roared erewhile Round the towers of Thebes till wrath might rest contented: Sang the flight from smooth soft-sanded banks of Nile, When like mateless doves that fly from snare or tether Came the suppliants landwards trembling as they trod, And the prayer took wing from all their tongues together— King of kings, most holy of holies, blessed God. But what mouth may chant again, what heart may know it, All the rapture that all hearts of men put on When of Salamis the time-transcending poet Sang, whose hand had chased the Mede at Marathon?
Darker dawned the song with stormier wings above the watch-fire spread [Ep. 2. Whence from Ida toward the hill of Hermes leapt the light that said Troy was fallen, a torch funereal for the king's triumphal head. Dire indeed the birth of Leda's womb that had God's self to sire Bloomed, a flower of love that stung the soul with fangs that gnaw like fire: But the twin-born human-fathered sister-flower bore fruit more dire. Scarce the cry that called on airy heaven and all swift winds on wing, Wells of river-heads, and countless laugh of waves past reckoning, Earth which brought forth all, and the orbed sun that looks on everything, Scarce that cry fills yet men's hearts more full of heart-devouring dread Than the murderous word said mocking, how the child whose blood he shed Might clasp fast and kiss her father where the dead salute the dead. But the latter note of anguish from the lips that mocked her lord, When her son's hand bared against the breast that suckled him his sword, How might man endure, O AEschylus, to hear it and record? How might man endure, being mortal yet, O thou most highest, to hear? How record, being born of woman? Surely not thy Furies near, Surely this beheld, this only, blasted hearts to death with fear. Not the hissing hair, nor flakes of blood that oozed from eyes of fire, Nor the snort of savage sleep that snuffed the hungering heart's desire Where the hunted prey found hardly space and harbour to respire; She whose likeness called them—"Sleep ye, ho? what need of you that sleep?" (Ah, what need indeed, where she was, of all shapes that night may keep Hidden dark as death and deeper than men's dreams of hell are deep?) She the murderess of her husband, she the huntress of her son, More than ye was she, the shadow that no God withstands but one, Wisdom equal-eyed and stronger and more splendid than the sun. Yea, no God may stand betwixt us and the shadows of our deeds, Nor the light of dreams that lighten darkness, nor the prayer that pleads, But the wisdom equal-souled with heaven, the light alone that leads. Light whose law bids home those childless children of eternal night, Soothed and reconciled and mastered and transmuted in men's sight Who behold their own souls, clothed with darkness once, now clothed with light. King of kings and father crowned of all our fathers crowned of yore, Lord of all the lords of song, whose head all heads bow down before, Glory be to thee from all thy sons in all tongues evermore.
Rose and vine and olive and deep ivy-bloom entwining [Str. 3. Close the goodliest grave that e'er they closeliest might entwine Keep the wind from wasting and the sun from too strong shining Where the sound and light of sweetest songs still float and shine. Here the music seems to illume the shade, the light to whisper Song, the flowers to put not odours only forth, but words Sweeter far than fragrance: here the wandering wreaths twine crisper Far, and louder far exults the note of all wild birds. Thoughts that change us, joys that crown and sorrows that enthrone us, Passions that enrobe us with a clearer air than ours, Move and breathe as living things beheld round white Colonus, Audibler than melodies and visibler than flowers. Love, in fight unconquered, Love, with spoils of great men laden, Never sang so sweet from throat of woman or of dove: Love, whose bed by night is in the soft cheeks of a maiden, And his march is over seas, and low roofs lack not Love; Nor may one of all that live, ephemeral or eternal, Fly nor hide from Love; but whoso clasps him fast goes mad. Never since the first-born year with flowers first-born grew vernal Such a song made listening hearts of lovers glad or sad. Never sounded note so radiant at the rayless portal Opening wide on the all-concealing lowland of the dead As the music mingling, when her doomsday marked her mortal, From her own and old men's voices round the bride's way shed, Round the grave her bride-house, hewn for endless habitation, Where, shut out from sunshine, with no bridegroom by, she slept; But beloved of all her dark and fateful generation, But with all time's tears and praise besprinkled and bewept: Well-beloved of outcast father and self-slaughtered mother, Born, yet unpolluted, of their blind incestuous bed; Best-beloved of him for whose dead sake she died, her brother, Hallowing by her own life's gift her own born brother's head;
Not with wine or oil nor any less libation [Ant. 3. Hallowed, nor made sweet with humbler perfume's breath; Not with only these redeemed from desecration, But with blood and spirit of life poured forth to death; Blood unspotted, spirit unsullied, life devoted, Sister too supreme to make the bride's hope good, Daughter too divine as woman to be noted, Spouse of only death in mateless maidenhood. Yea, in her was all the prayer fulfilled, the saying All accomplished—Would that fate would let me wear Hallowed innocence of words and all deeds, weighing Well the laws thereof, begot on holier air, Far on high sublimely stablished, whereof only Heaven is father; nor did birth of mortal mould Bring them forth, nor shall oblivion lull to lonely Slumber. Great in these is God, and grows not old. Therefore even that inner darkness where she perished Surely seems as holy and lovely, seen aright, As desirable and as dearly to be cherished, As the haunt closed in with laurels from the light, Deep inwound with olive and wild vine inwoven, Where a godhead known and unknown makes men pale, But the darkness of the twilight noon is cloven Still with shrill sweet moan of many a nightingale. Closer clustering there they make sweet noise together, Where the fearful gods look gentler than our fear, And the grove thronged through with birds of holiest feather Grows nor pale nor dumb with sense of dark things near. There her father, called upon with signs of wonder, Passed with tenderest words away by ways unknown, Not by sea-storm stricken down, nor touched of thunder, To the dark benign deep underworld, alone.
Third of three that ruled in Athens, kings with sceptral song for staff, [Ep. 3. Gladdest heart that God gave ever milk and wine of thought to quaff, Clearest eye that lightened ever to the broad lip's lordliest laugh, Praise be thine as theirs whose tragic brows the loftier leaf engirds For the live and lyric lightning of thy honey-hearted words, Soft like sunny dewy wings of clouds and bright as crying of birds; Full of all sweet rays and notes that make of earth and air and sea One great light and sound of laughter from one great God's heart, to be Sign and semblance of the gladness of man's life where men breathe free. With no Loxian sound obscure God uttered once, and all time heard, All the soul of Athens, all the soul of England, in that word: Rome arose the second child of freedom: northward rose the third. Ere her Boreal dawn came kindling seas afoam and fields of snow, Yet again, while Europe groaned and grovelled, shone like suns aglow Doria splendid over Genoa, Venice bright with Dandolo. Dead was Hellas, but Ausonia by the light of dead men's deeds Rose and walked awhile alive, though mocked as whom the fen-fire leads By the creed-wrought faith of faithless souls that mock their doubts with creeds. Dead are these, and man is risen again: and haply now the three Yet coequal and triune may stand in story, marked as free By the token of the washing of the waters of the sea. Athens first of all earth's kindred many-tongued and many-kinned Had the sea to friend and comfort, and for kinsman had the wind: She that bare Columbus next: then she that made her spoil of Ind. She that hears not what man's rage but only what the sea-wind saith: She that turned Spain's ships to cloud-wrack at the blasting of her breath, By her strengths of strong-souled children and of strong winds done to death. North and south the Great King's galleons went in Persian wise: and here She, with AEschylean music on her lips that laughed back fear, In the face of Time's grey godhead shook the splendour of her spear. Fair as Athens then with foot upon her foeman's front, and strong Even as Athens for redemption of the world from sovereign wrong, Like as Athens crowned she stood before the sun with crowning song. All the world is theirs with whom is freedom: first of all the free, Blest are they whom song has crowned and clothed with blessing: these as we, These alone have part in spirit with the sun that crowns the sea.
THE STATUE OF VICTOR HUGO
Since in Athens God stood plain for adoration, Since the sun beheld his likeness reared in stone, Since the bronze or gold of human consecration Gave to Greece her guardian's form and feature shown, Never hand of sculptor, never heart of nation, Found so glorious aim in all these ages flown As is theirs who rear for all time's acclamation Here the likeness of our mightiest and their own.
Theirs and ours and all men's living who behold him Crowned with garlands multiform and manifold; Praise and thanksgiving of all mankind enfold him Who for all men casts abroad his gifts of gold. With the gods of song have all men's tongues enrolled him, With the helpful gods have all men's hearts enrolled: Ours he is who love him, ours whose hearts' hearts hold him Fast as his the trust that hearts like his may hold.
He, the heart most high, the spirit on earth most blameless, Takes in charge all spirits, holds all hearts in trust: As the sea-wind's on the sea his ways are tameless, As the laws that steer the world his works are just. All most noble feel him nobler, all most shameless Feel his wrath and scorn make pale their pride and lust: All most poor and lowliest, all whose wrongs were nameless, Feel his word of comfort raise them from the dust.
Pride of place and lust of empire bloody-fruited Knew the blasting of his breath on leaf and fruit: Now the hand that smote the death-tree now disrooted Plants the refuge-tree that has man's hope for root. Ah, but we by whom his darkness was saluted, How shall now all we that see his day salute? How should love not seem by love's own speech confuted, Song before the sovereign singer not be mute?
With what worship, by what blessing, in what measure, May we sing of him, salute him, or adore, With what hymn for praise, what thanksgiving for pleasure, Who had given us more than heaven, and gives us more? Heaven's whole treasury, filled up full with night's whole treasure, Holds not so divine or deep a starry store As the soul supreme that deals forth worlds at leisure Clothed with light and darkness, dense with flower and ore.
Song had touched the bourn: fresh verses overflow it, Loud and radiant, waves on waves on waves that throng; Still the tide grows, and the sea-mark still below it Sinks and shifts and rises, changed and swept along. Rose it like a rock? the waters overthrow it, And another stands beyond them sheer and strong: Goal by goal pays down its prize, and yields its poet Tribute claimed of triumph, palm achieved of song.
Since his hand that holds the keys of fear and wonder Opened on the high priest's dreaming eyes a door Whence the lights of heaven and hell above and under Shone, and smote the face that men bow down before, Thrice again one singer's note had cloven in sunder Night, who blows again not one blast now but four, And the fourfold heaven is kindled with his thunder, And the stars about his forehead are fourscore.
From the deep soul's depths where alway love abounded First had risen a song with healing on its wings Whence the dews of mercy raining balms unbounded Shed their last compassion even on sceptred things. Even on heads that like a curse the crown surrounded Fell his crowning pity, soft as cleansing springs; And the sweet last note his wrath relenting sounded Bade men's hearts be melted not for slaves but kings.
Next, that faith might strengthen fear and love embolden, On the creeds of priests a scourge of sunbeams fell: And its flash made bare the deeps of heaven, beholden Not of men that cry, Lord, Lord, from church or cell. Hope as young as dawn from night obscure and olden Rose again, such power abides in truth's one spell: Night, if dawn it be that touches her, grows golden; Tears, if such as angels weep, extinguish hell.
Through the blind loud mills of barren blear-eyed learning Where in dust and darkness children's foreheads bow, While men's labour, vain as wind or water turning Wheels and sails of dreams, makes life a leafless bough, Fell the light of scorn and pity touched with yearning, Next, from words that shone as heaven's own kindling brow. Stars were these as watch-fires on the world's waste burning, Stars that fade not in the fourfold sunrise now.
Now the voice that faints not till all wrongs be wroken Sounds as might the sun's song from the morning's breast, All the seals of silence sealed of night are broken, All the winds that bear the fourfold word are blest. All the keen fierce east flames forth one fiery token; All the north is loud with life that knows not rest, All the south with song as though the stars had spoken; All the judgment-fire of sunset scathes the west.
Sound of paean, roll of chanted panegyric, Though by Pindar's mouth song's trumpet spake forth praise, March of warrior songs in Pythian mood or Pyrrhic, Though the blast were blown by lips of ancient days,
Ring not clearer than the clarion of satiric Song whose breath sweeps bare the plague-infected ways Till the world be pure as heaven is for the lyric Sun to rise up clothed with radiant sounds as rays.
Clear across the cloud-rack fluctuant and erratic As the strong star smiles that lets no mourner mourn, Hymned alike from lips of Lesbian choirs or Attic Once at evensong and morning newly born, Clear and sure above the changes of dramatic Tide and current, soft with love and keen with scorn, Smiles the strong sweet soul of maidenhood, ecstatic And inviolate as the red glad mouth of morn.
Pure and passionate as dawn, whose apparition Thrills with fire from heaven the wheels of hours that whirl, Rose and passed her radiance in serene transition From his eyes who sought a grain and found a pearl. But the food by cunning hope for vain fruition Lightly stolen away from keeping of a churl Left the bitterness of death and hope's perdition On the lip that scorn was wont for shame to curl.
Over waves that darken round the wave-worn rover Rang his clarion higher than winds cried round the ship, Rose a pageant of set suns and storms blown over, Hands that held life's guerdons fast or let them slip. But no tongue may tell, no thanksgiving discover, Half the heaven of blessing, soft with clouds that drip, Keen with beams that kindle, dear as love to lover, Opening by the spell's strength on his lyric lip.
By that spell the soul transfigured and dilated Puts forth wings that widen, breathes a brightening air, Feeds on light and drinks of music, whence elated All her sense grows godlike, seeing all depths made bare, All the mists wherein before she sat belated Shrink, till now the sunlight knows not if they were; All this earth transformed is Eden recreated, With the breath of heaven remurmuring in her hair.
Sweeter far than aught of sweet that April nurses Deep in dew-dropt woodland folded fast and furled Breathes the fragrant song whose burning dawn disperses Darkness, like the surge of armies backward hurled, Even as though the touch of spring's own hand, that pierces Earth with life's delight, had hidden in the impearled Golden bells and buds and petals of his verses All the breath of all the flowers in all the world.
But the soul therein, the light that our souls follow, Fires and fills the song with more of prophet's pride, More of life than all the gulfs of death may swallow, More of flame than all the might of night may hide. Though the whole dark age were loud and void and hollow, Strength of trust were here, and help for all souls tried, And a token from the flight of that strange swallow Whose migration still is toward the wintry side.
Never came such token for divine solution From the oraculous live darkness whence of yore Ancient faith sought word of help and retribution, Truth to lighten doubt, a sign to go before. Never so baptismal waters of ablution Bathed the brows of exile on so stern a shore, Where the lightnings of the sea of revolution Flashed across them ere its thunders yet might roar.
By the lightning's light of present revelation Shown, with epic thunder as from skies that frown, Clothed in darkness as of darkling expiation, Rose a vision of dead, stars and suns gone down, Whence of old fierce fire devoured the star-struck nation, Till its wrath and woe lit red the raging town, Now made glorious with his statue's crowning station, Where may never gleam again a viler crown.
King, with time for throne and all the years for pages, He shall reign though all thrones else be overhurled, Served of souls that have his living words for wages, Crowned of heaven each dawn that leaves his brows impearled; Girt about with robes unrent of storm that rages, Robes not wrought with hands, from no loom's weft unfurled; All the praise of all earth's tongues in all earth's ages, All the love of all men's hearts in all the world.
Yet what hand shall carve the soul or cast the spirit, Mould the face of fame, bid glory's feature glow? Who bequeath for eyes of ages hence to inherit Him, the Master, whom love knows not if it know? Scarcely perfect praise of men man's work might merit, Scarcely bid such aim to perfect stature grow, Were his hand the hand of Phidias who shall rear it, And his soul the very soul of Angelo.
Michael, awful angel of the world's last session, Once on earth, like him, with fire of suffering tried, Thine it were, if man's it were, without transgression, Thine alone, to take this toil upon thy pride. Thine, whose heart was great against the world's oppression, Even as his whose word is lamp and staff and guide: Advocate for man, untired of intercession, Pleads his voice for slaves whose lords his voice defied.
Earth, with all the kings and thralls on earth, below it, Heaven alone, with all the worlds in heaven, above, Let his likeness rise for suns and stars to know it, High for men to worship, plain for men to love: Brow that braved the tides which fain would overflow it, Lip that gave the challenge, hand that flung the glove; Comforter and prophet, Paraclete and poet, Soul whose emblems are an eagle and a dove.
Sun, that hast not seen a loftier head wax hoary, Earth, which hast not shown the sun a nobler birth, Time, that hast not on thy scroll defiled and gory One man's name writ brighter in its whole wide girth, Witness, till the final years fulfil their story, Till the stars break off the music of their mirth, What among the sons of men was this man's glory, What the vesture of his soul revealed on earth.
 La Pitie Supreme. 1879.
 Religions et Religion. 1880.
 L'Ane. 1880.
 Les Quatre Vents de l'Esprit. I. Le Livre satirique. II. Le Livre dramatique. III. Le Livre lyrique. IV. Le Livre epique. 1881.
 Les Deux Trouvailles de Gallus. I. Margarita, comedie. II. Esca, drame.
Je suis une hirondelle etrange, car j'emigre Du cote de l'hiver.
Le Livre Lyrique, liii.
IN MEMORY OF MRS. THELLUSSON
Forth of our ways and woes, Forth of the winds and snows, A white soul soaring goes, Winged like a dove: So sweet, so pure, so clear, So heavenly tempered here, Love need not hope or fear her changed above:
Ere dawned her day to die, So heavenly, that on high Change could not glorify Nor death refine her: Pure gold of perfect love, On earth like heaven's own dove, She cannot wear, above, a smile diviner.
Her voice in heaven's own quire Can sound no heavenlier lyre Than here: no purer fire Her soul can soar: No sweeter stars her eyes In unimagined skies Beyond our sight can rise than here before.
Hardly long years had shed Their shadows on her head: Hardly we think her dead, Who hardly thought her Old: hardly can believe The grief our hearts receive And wonder while they grieve, as wrong were wrought her.
But though strong grief be strong No word or thought of wrong May stain the trembling song, Wring the bruised heart, That sounds or sighs its faint Low note of love, nor taint Grief for so sweet a saint, when such depart.
A saint whose perfect soul, With perfect love for goal, Faith hardly might control, Creeds might not harden: A flower more splendid far Than the most radiant star Seen here of all that are in God's own garden.
Surely the stars we see Rise and relapse as we, And change and set, may be But shadows too: But spirits that man's lot Could neither mar nor spot Like these false lights are not, being heavenly true.
Not like these dying lights Of worlds whose glory smites The passage of the nights Through heaven's blind prison: Not like their souls who see, If thought fly far and free, No heavenlier heaven to be for souls rerisen.
A soul wherein love shone Even like the sun, alone, With fervour of its own And splendour fed, Made by no creeds less kind Toward souls by none confined, Could Death's self quench or blind, Love's self were dead.
February 4, 1881.
FIRST AND LAST
Upon the borderlands of being, Where life draws hardly breath Between the lights and shadows fleeing Fast as a word one saith, Two flowers rejoice our eyesight, seeing The dawns of birth and death.
Behind the babe his dawn is lying Half risen with notes of mirth From all the winds about it flying Through new-born heaven and earth: Before bright age his day for dying Dawns equal-eyed with birth.
Equal the dews of even and dawn, Equal the sun's eye seen A hand's breadth risen and half withdrawn: But no bright hour between Brings aught so bright by stream or lawn To noonday growths of green.
Which flower of life may smell the sweeter To love's insensual sense, Which fragrance move with offering meeter His soothed omnipotence, Being chosen as fairer or as fleeter, Borne hither or borne hence, Love's foiled omniscience knows not: this Were more than all he knows With all his lore of bale and bliss, The choice of rose and rose, One red as lips that touch with his, One white as moonlit snows.
No hope is half so sweet and good, No dream of saint or sage So fair as these are: no dark mood But these might best assuage; The sweet red rose of babyhood, The white sweet rose of age.
LINES ON THE DEATH OF EDWARD JOHN TRELAWNY
Last high star of the years whose thunder Still men's listening remembrance hears, Last light left of our fathers' years, Watched with honour and hailed with wonder Thee too then have the years borne under, Thou too then hast regained thy peers.
Wings that warred with the winds of morning, Storm-winds rocking the red great dawn, Close at last, and a film is drawn Over the eyes of the storm-bird, scorning Now no longer the loud wind's warning, Waves that threaten or waves that fawn.
Peers were none of thee left us living, Peers of theirs we shall see no more. Eight years over the full fourscore Knew thee: now shalt thou sleep, forgiving All griefs past of the wild world's giving, Moored at last on the stormless shore.
Worldwide liberty's lifelong lover, Lover no less of the strength of song, Sea-king, swordsman, hater of wrong, Over thy dust that the dust shall cover Comes my song as a bird to hover, Borne of its will as of wings along.
Cherished of thee were this brief song's brothers Now that follows them, cherishing thee. Over the tides and the tideless sea Soft as a smile of the earth our mother's Flies it faster than all those others, First of the troop at thy tomb to be.
Memories of Greece and the mountain's hollow Guarded alone of thy loyal sword Hold thy name for our hearts in ward: Yet more fain are our hearts to follow One way now with the southward swallow Back to the grave of the man their lord.
Heart of hearts, art thou moved not, hearing Surely, if hearts of the dead may hear, Whose true heart it is now draws near? Surely the sense of it thrills thee, cheering Darkness and death with the news now nearing— Shelley, Trelawny rejoins thee here.
ADIEUX A MARIE STUART
Queen, for whose house my fathers fought, With hopes that rose and fell, Red star of boyhood's fiery thought, Farewell.
They gave their lives, and I, my queen, Have given you of my life, Seeing your brave star burn high between Men's strife.
The strife that lightened round their spears Long since fell still: so long Hardly may hope to last in years My song.
But still through strife of time and thought Your light on me too fell: Queen, in whose name we sang or fought, Farewell.
There beats no heart on either border Wherethrough the north blasts blow But keeps your memory as a warder His beacon-fire aglow.
Long since it fired with love and wonder Mine, for whose April age Blithe midsummer made banquet under The shade of Hermitage.
Soft sang the burn's blithe notes, that gather Strength to ring true: And air and trees and sun and heather Remembered you.
Old border ghosts of fight or fairy Or love or teen, These they forgot, remembering Mary The Queen.
Queen once of Scots and ever of ours Whose sires brought forth for you Their lives to strew your way like flowers. Adieu.
Dead is full many a dead man's name Who died for you this long Time past: shall this too fare the same, My song?
But surely, though it die or live, Your face was worth All that a man may think to give On earth.
No darkness cast of years between Can darken you: Man's love will never bid my queen Adieu.
Love hangs like light about your name As music round the shell: No heart can take of you a tame Farewell.
Yet, when your very face was seen, Ill gifts were yours for giving: Love gat strange guerdons of my queen When living.
O diamond heart unflawed and clear, The whole world's crowning jewel! Was ever heart so deadly dear So cruel?
Yet none for you of all that bled Grudged once one drop that fell: Not one to life reluctant said Farewell.
Strange love they have given you, love disloyal, Who mock with praise your name, To leave a head so rare and royal Too low for praise or blame.
You could not love nor hate, they tell us, You had nor sense nor sting: In God's name, then, what plague befell us To fight for such a thing?
"Some faults the gods will give," to fetter Man's highest intent: But surely you were something better Than innocent!
No maid that strays with steps unwary Through snares unseen, But one to live and die for; Mary, The Queen.
Forgive them all their praise, who blot Your fame with praise of you: Then love may say, and falter not, Adieu.
Yet some you hardly would forgive Who did you much less wrong Once: but resentment should not live Too long.
They never saw your lip's bright bow, Your swordbright eyes, The bluest of heavenly things below The skies.
Clear eyes that love's self finds most like A swordblade's blue, A swordblade's ever keen to strike, Adieu.
Though all things breathe or sound of fight That yet make up your spell, To bid you were to bid the light Farewell.
Farewell the song says only, being A star whose race is run: Farewell the soul says never, seeing The sun.
Yet, wellnigh as with flash of tears, The song must say but so That took your praise up twenty years Ago.
More bright than stars or moons that vary, Sun kindling heaven and hell, Here, after all these years, Queen Mary, Farewell.
When grace is given us ever to behold A child some sweet months old, Love, laying across our lips his finger, saith, Smiling, with bated breath, Hush! for the holiest thing that lives is here, And heaven's own heart how near! How dare we, that may gaze not on the sun, Gaze on this verier one? Heart, hold thy peace; eyes, be cast down for shame; Lips, breathe not yet its name. In heaven they know what name to call it; we, How should we know? For, see! The adorable sweet living marvellous Strange light that lightens us Who gaze, desertless of such glorious grace, Full in a babe's warm face! All roses that the morning rears are nought, All stars not worth a thought, Set this one star against them, or suppose As rival this one rose. What price could pay with earth's whole weight of gold One least flushed roseleaf's fold Of all this dimpling store of smiles that shine From each warm curve and line, Each charm of flower-sweet flesh, to reillume The dappled rose-red bloom Of all its dainty body, honey-sweet Clenched hands and curled-up feet, That on the roses of the dawn have trod As they came down from God, And keep the flush and colour that the sky Takes when the sun comes nigh, And keep the likeness of the smile their grace Evoked on God's own face When, seeing this work of his most heavenly mood, He saw that it was good? For all its warm sweet body seems one smile, And mere men's love too vile To meet it, or with eyes that worship dims Read o'er the little limbs, Read all the book of all their beauties o'er, Rejoice, revere, adore, Bow down and worship each delight in turn, Laugh, wonder, yield, and yearn. But when our trembling kisses dare, yet dread, Even to draw nigh its head, And touch, and scarce with touch or breath surprise Its mild miraculous eyes Out of their viewless vision—O, what then, What may be said of men? What speech may name a new-born child? what word Earth ever spake or heard? The best men's tongue that ever glory knew Called that a drop of dew Which from the breathing creature's kindly womb Came forth in blameless bloom. We have no word, as had those men most high, To call a baby by. Rose, ruby, lily, pearl of stormless seas— A better word than these, A better sign it was than flower or gem That love revealed to them: They knew that whence comes light or quickening flame, Thence only this thing came, And only might be likened of our love To somewhat born above, Not even to sweetest things dropped else on earth, Only to dew's own birth. Nor doubt we but their sense was heavenly true, Babe, when we gaze on you, A dew-drop out of heaven whose colours are More bright than sun or star, As now, ere watching love dare fear or hope, Lips, hands, and eyelids ope, And all your life is mixed with earthly leaven. O child, what news from heaven?
AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED TO W. M. R. AND L. R.
April, on whose wings Ride all gracious things, Like the star that brings All things good to man, Ere his light, that yet Makes the month shine, set, And fair May forget Whence her birth began,
Brings, as heart would choose, Sound of golden news, Bright as kindling dews When the dawn begins; Tidings clear as mirth, Sweet as air and earth Now that hail the birth, Twice thus blest, of twins.
In the lovely land Where with hand in hand Lovers wedded stand Other joys before Made your mixed life sweet: Now, as Time sees meet, Three glad blossoms greet Two glad blossoms more.
Fed with sun and dew, While your joys were new, First arose and grew One bright olive-shoot: Then a fair and fine Slip of warm-haired pine Felt the sweet sun shine On its leaf and fruit.
And it wore for mark Graven on the dark Beauty of its bark That the noblest name Worn in song of old By the king whose bold Hand had fast in hold All the flower of fame.
Then, with southern skies Flattered in her eyes, Which, in lovelier wise Yet, reflect their blue Brightened more, being bright Here with life's delight, And with love's live light Glorified anew,
Came, as fair as came One who bore her name (She that broke as flame From the swan-shell white), Crowned with tender hair Only, but more fair Than all queens that were Themes of oldworld fight,
Of your flowers the third Bud, or new-fledged bird In your hearts' nest heard Murmuring like a dove Bright as those that drew Over waves where blew No loud wind the blue Heaven-hued car of love.
Not the glorious grace Even of that one face Potent to displace All the towers of Troy Surely shone more clear Once with childlike cheer Than this child's face here Now with living joy.
After these again Here in April's train Breaks the bloom of twain Blossoms in one birth For a crown of May On the front of day When he takes his way Over heaven and earth.
Half a heavenly thing Given from heaven to Spring By the sun her king, Half a tender toy, Seems a child of curl Yet too soft to twirl; Seems the flower-sweet girl By the flower-bright boy.
All the kind gods' grace, All their love, embrace Ever either face, Ever brood above them: All soft wings of hours Screen them as with flowers From all beams and showers: All life's seasons love them.
When the dews of sleep Falling lightliest keep Eyes too close to peep Forth and laugh off rest, Joy from face to feet Fill them, as is meet: Life to them be sweet As their mother's breast.
When those dews are dry, And in day's bright eye Looking full they lie Bright as rose and pearl, All returns of joy Pure of time's alloy Bless the rose-red boy, Guard the rose-white girl.
Friends, if I could take Half a note from Blake Or but one verse make Of the Conqueror's mine, Better than my best Song above your nest I would sing: the quest Now seems too divine.
April 28, 1881.
THE SALT OF THE EARTH
If childhood were not in the world, But only men and women grown; No baby-locks in tendrils curled, No baby-blossoms blown;
Though men were stronger, women fairer, And nearer all delights in reach, And verse and music uttered rarer Tones of more godlike speech;
Though the utmost life of life's best hours Found, as it cannot now find, words; Though desert sands were sweet as flowers And flowers could sing like birds,
But children never heard them, never They felt a child's foot leap and run This were a drearier star than ever Yet looked upon the sun.
SEVEN YEARS OLD
Seven white roses on one tree, Seven white loaves of blameless leaven, Seven white sails on one soft sea, Seven white swans on one lake's lee, Seven white flowerlike stars in heaven, All are types unmeet to be For a birthday's crown of seven.
Not the radiance of the roses, Not the blessing of the bread, Not the breeze that ere day grows is Fresh for sails and swans, and closes Wings above the sun's grave spread, When the starshine on the snows is Sweet as sleep on sorrow shed.
Nothing sweetest, nothing best, Holds so good and sweet a treasure As the love wherewith once blest Joy grows holy, grief takes rest, Life, half tired with hours to measure, Fills his eyes and lips and breast With most light and breath of pleasure;
As the rapture unpolluted, As the passion undefiled, By whose force all pains heart-rooted Are transfigured and transmuted, Recompensed and reconciled, Through the imperial, undisputed, Present godhead of a child.
Brown bright eyes and fair bright head, Worth a worthier crown than this is, Worth a worthier song instead, Sweet grave wise round mouth, full fed With the joy of love, whose bliss is More than mortal wine and bread, Lips whose words are sweet as kisses,
Little hands so glad of giving, Little heart so glad of love, Little soul so glad of living, While the strong swift hours are weaving Light with darkness woven above, Time for mirth and time for grieving, Plume of raven and plume of dove,
I can give you but a word Warm with love therein for leaven, But a song that falls unheard Yet on ears of sense unstirred Yet by song so far from heaven, Whence you came the brightest bird, Seven years since, of seven times seven.
EIGHT YEARS OLD
Sun, whom the faltering snow-cloud fears, Rise, let the time of year be May, Speak now the word that April hears, Let March have all his royal way; Bid all spring raise in winter's ears All tunes her children hear or play, Because the crown of eight glad years On one bright head is set to-day.
What matters cloud or sun to-day To him who wears the wreath of years So many, and all like flowers at play With wind and sunshine, while his ears Hear only song on every way? More sweet than spring triumphant hears Ring through the revel-rout of May Are these, the notes that winter fears.
Strong-hearted winter knows and fears The music made of love at play, Or haply loves the tune he hears From hearts fulfilled with flowering May, Whose molten music thaws his ears Late frozen, deaf but yesterday To sounds of dying and dawning years, Now quickened on his deathward way.
For deathward now lies winter's way Down the green vestibule of years That each year brightens day by day With flower and shower till hope scarce fears And fear grows wholly hope of May. But we—the music in our ears Made of love's pulses as they play The heart alone that makes it hears.
The heart it is that plays and hears High salutation of to-day. Tongue falters, hand shrinks back, song fears Its own unworthiness to play Fit music for those eight sweet years, Or sing their blithe accomplished way. No song quite worth a young child's ears Broke ever even from birds in May.
There beats not in the heart of May, When summer hopes and springtide fears, There falls not from the height of day, When sunlight speaks and silence hears, So sweet a psalm as children play And sing, each hour of all their years, Each moment of their lovely way, And know not how it thrills our ears.
Ah child, what are we, that our ears Should hear you singing on your way, Should have this happiness? The years Whose hurrying wings about us play Are not like yours, whose flower-time fears Nought worse than sunlit showers in May, Being sinless as the spring, that hears Her own heart praise her every day.
Yet we too triumph in the day That bare, to entrance our eyes and ears, To lighten daylight, and to play Such notes as darkness knows and fears, The child whose face illumes our way, Whose voice lifts up the heart that hears, Whose hand is as the hand of May To bring us flowers from eight full years.
February 4, 1882.
Child, when they say that others Have been or are like you, Babes fit to be your brothers, Sweet human drops of dew, Bright fruit of mortal mothers, What should one say or do?
We know the thought is treason, We feel the dream absurd; A claim rebuked of reason, That withers at a word: For never shone the season That bore so blithe a bird.
Some smiles may seem as merry, Some glances gleam as wise, From lips as like a cherry And scarce less gracious eyes; Eyes browner than a berry, Lips red as morning's rise.
But never yet rang laughter So sweet in gladdened ears Through wall and floor and rafter As all this household hears And rings response thereafter Till cloudiest weather clears.
When those your chosen of all men, Whose honey never cloys, Two lights whose smiles enthrall men, Were called at your age boys, Those mighty men, while small men, Could make no merrier noise.
Our Shakespeare, surely, daffed not More lightly pain aside From radiant lips that quaffed not Of forethought's tragic tide: Our Dickens, doubtless, laughed not More loud with life's first pride.
The dawn were not more cheerless With neither light nor dew Than we without the fearless Clear laugh that thrills us through: If ever child stood peerless, Love knows that child is you.
WHAT IS DEATH?
Looking on a page where stood Graven of old on old-world wood Death, and by the grave's edge grim, Pale, the young man facing him, Asked my well-beloved of me Once what strange thing; this might be, Gaunt and great of limb.
Death, I told him: and, surprise Deepening more his wildwood eyes (Like some sweet fleet thing's whose breath Speaks all spring though nought it saith), Up he turned his rosebright face Glorious with its seven years' grace, Asking—What is death?
A CHILD'S PITY
No sweeter thing than children's ways and wiles, Surely, we say, can gladden eyes and ears: Yet sometime sweeter than their words or smiles Are even their tears.
To one for once a piteous tale was read, How, when the murderous mother crocodile Was slain, her fierce brood famished, and lay dead, Starved, by the Nile.
In vast green reed-beds on the vast grey slime Those monsters motherless and helpless lay, Perishing only for the parent's crime Whose seed were they.
Hours after, toward the dusk, our blithe small bird Of Paradise, who has our hearts in keeping, Was heard or seen, but hardly seen or heard, For pity weeping.
He was so sorry, sitting still apart, For the poor little crocodiles, he said. Six years had given him, for an angel's heart, A child's instead.
Feigned tears the false beasts shed for murderous ends, We know from travellers' tales of crocodiles: But these tears wept upon them of my friend's Outshine his smiles.
What heavenliest angels of what heavenly city Could match the heavenly heart in children here? The heart that hallowing all things with its pity Casts out all fear?
So lovely, so divine, so dear their laughter Seems to us, we know not what could be more dear: But lovelier yet we see the sign thereafter Of such a tear.
With sense of love half laughing and half weeping We met your tears, our small sweet-spirited friend: Let your love have us in its heavenly keeping To life's last end.
A CHILD'S LAUGHTER
All the bells of heaven may ring, All the birds of heaven may sing, All the wells on earth may spring, All the winds on earth may bring All sweet sounds together; Sweeter far than all things heard, Hand of harper, tone of bird, Sound of woods at sundawn stirred, Welling water's winsome word, Wind in warm wan weather,
One thing yet there is, that none Hearing ere its chime be done Knows not well the sweetest one Heard of man beneath the sun, Hoped in heaven hereafter; Soft and strong and loud and light, Very sound of very light Heard from morning's rosiest height, When the soul of all delight Fills a child's clear laughter.
Golden bells of welcome rolled Never forth such notes, nor told Hours so blithe in tones so bold, As the radiant mouth of gold Here that rings forth heaven. If the golden-crested wren Were a nightingale—why, then, Something seen and heard of men Might be half as sweet as when Laughs a child of seven.
A CHILD'S THANKS
How low soe'er men rank us, How high soe'er we win, The children far above us Dwell, and they deign to love us, With lovelier love than ours, And smiles more sweet than flowers; As though the sun should thank us For letting light come in.
With too divine complaisance, Whose grace misleads them thus, Being gods, in heavenly blindness They call our worship kindness, Our pebble-gift a gem: They think us good to them, Whose glance, whose breath, whose presence, Are gifts too good for us.
The poet high and hoary Of meres that mountains bind Felt his great heart more often Yearn, and its proud strength soften From stern to tenderer mood, At thought of gratitude Shown than of song or story He heard of hearts unkind.
But with what words for token And what adoring tears Of reverence risen to passion, In what glad prostrate fashion Of spirit and soul subdued, May man show gratitude For thanks of children spoken That hover in his ears?
The angels laugh, your brothers, Child, hearing you thank me, With eyes whence night grows sunny, And touch of lips like honey, And words like honey-dew: But how shall I thank you? For gifts above all others What guerdon-gift may be?
What wealth of words caressing, What choice of songs found best, Would seem not as derision, Found vain beside the vision And glory from above Shown in a child's heart's love? His part in life is blessing; Ours, only to be blest.
A CHILD'S BATTLES
pyx aretan heuron.—PINDAR.
Praise of the knights of old May sleep: their tale is told, And no man cares: The praise which fires our lips is A knight's whose fame eclipses All of theirs.
The ruddiest light in heaven Blazed as his birth-star seven Long years ago: All glory crown that old year Which brought our stout small soldier With the snow!
Each baby born has one Star, for his friends a sun, The first of stars: And we, the more we scan it, The more grow sure your planet, Child, was Mars.
For each one flower, perchance, Blooms as his cognizance: The snowdrop chill, The violet unbeholden, For some: for you the golden Daffodil.
Erect, a fighting flower, It breasts the breeziest hour That ever blew. And bent or broke things brittle Or frail, unlike a little Knight like you.
Its flower is firm and fresh And stout like sturdiest flesh Of children: all The strenuous blast that parches Spring hurts it not till March is Near his fall.
If winds that prate and fret Remark, rebuke, regret, Lament, or blame The brave plant's martial passion, It keeps its own free fashion All the same.
We that would fain seem wise Assume grave mouths and eyes Whose looks reprove Too much delight in battle: But your great heart our prattle Cannot move.
We say, small children should Be placid, mildly good And blandly meek: Whereat the broad smile rushes Full on your lips, and flushes All your cheek.
If all the stars that are Laughed out, and every star Could here be heard, Such peals of golden laughter We should not hear, as after Such a word.
For all the storm saith, still, Stout stands the daffodil: For all we say, Howe'er he look demurely, Our martialist will surely Have his way.
We may not bind with bands Those large and liberal hands, Nor stay from fight, Nor hold them back from giving: No lean mean laws of living Bind a knight.
And always here of old Such gentle hearts and bold Our land has bred: How durst her eye rest else on The glory shed from Nelson Quick and dead?
Shame were it, if but one Such once were born her son, That one to have borne, And brought him ne'er a brother: His praise should bring his mother Shame and scorn.
A child high-souled as he Whose manhood shook the sea Smiles haply here: His face, where love lies basking, With bright shut mouth seems asking, What is fear?
The sunshine-coloured fists Beyond his dimpling wrists Were never closed For saving or for sparing— For only deeds of daring Predisposed.
Unclenched, the gracious hands Let slip their gifts like sands Made rich with ore That tongues of beggars ravish From small stout hands so lavish Of their store.
Sweet hardy kindly hands Like these were his that stands With heel on gorge Seen trampling down the dragon On sign or flask or flagon, Sweet Saint George.
Some tournament, perchance, Of hands that couch no lance, Might mark this spot Your lists, if here some pleasant Small Guenevere were present, Launcelot.
My brave bright flower, you need No foolish song, nor heed It more than spring The sighs of winter stricken Dead when your haunts requicken Here, my king.
Yet O, how hardly may The wheels of singing stay That whirl along Bright paths whence echo raises The phantom of your praises, Child, my song!
Beyond all other things That give my words fleet wings, Fleet wings and strong, You set their jesses ringing Till hardly can I, singing, Stint my song.
But all things better, friend, And worse must find an end: And, right or wrong, 'Tis time, lest rhyme should baffle, I doubt, to put a snaffle On my song.
And never may your ear Aught harsher hear or fear, Nor wolfish night Nor dog-toothed winter snarling Behind your steps, my darling My delight!
For all the gifts you give Me, dear, each day you live, Of thanks above All thanks that could be spoken Take not my song in token, Take my love.
A CHILD'S FUTURE
What will it please you, my darling, hereafter to be? Fame upon land will you look for, or glory by sea? Gallant your life will be always, and all of it free.
Free as the wind when the heart of the twilight is stirred Eastward, and sounds from the springs of the sunrise are heard: Free—and we know not another as infinite word.
Darkness or twilight or sunlight may compass us round, Hate may arise up against us, or hope may confound; Love may forsake us; yet may not the spirit be bound.
Free in oppression of grief as in ardour of joy Still may the soul be, and each to her strength as a toy: Free in the glance of the man as the smile of the boy.
Freedom alone is the salt and the spirit that gives Life, and without her is nothing that verily lives: Death cannot slay her: she laughs upon death and forgives.
Brightest and hardiest of roses anear and afar Glitters the blithe little face of you, round as a star: Liberty bless you and keep you to be as you are.
England and liberty bless you and keep you to be Worthy the name of their child and the sight of their sea: Fear not at all; for a slave, if he fears not, is free.
If the wind and the sunlight of April and August had mingled the past and hereafter In a single adorable season whose life were a rapture of love and of laughter, And the blithest of singers were back with a song; if again from his tomb as from prison, If again from the night or the twilight of ages Aristophanes had arisen, With the gold-feathered wings of a bird that were also a god upon earth at his shoulders, And the gold-flowing laugh of the manhood of old at his lips, for a joy to beholders, He alone unrebuked of presumption were able to set to some adequate measure The delight of our eyes in the dawn that restores them the sun of their sense and the pleasure. For the days of the darkness of spirit are over for all of us here, and the season When desire was a longing, and absence a thorn, and rejoicing a word without reason. For the roof overhead of the pines is astir with delight as of jubilant voices, And the floor underfoot of the bracken and heather alive as a heart that rejoices. For the house that was childless awhile, and the light of it darkened, the pulse of it dwindled, Rings radiant again with a child's bright feet, with the light of his face is rekindled. And the ways of the meadows that knew him, the sweep of the down that the sky's belt closes, Grow gladder at heart than the soft wind made them whose feet were but fragrant with roses, Though the fall of the year be upon us, who trusted in June and by June were defrauded, And the summer that brought us not back the desire of our eyes be gone hence unapplauded. For July came joyless among us, and August went out from us arid and sterile, And the hope of our hearts, as it seemed, was no more than a flower that the seasons imperil, And the joy of our hearts, as it seemed, than a thought which regret had not heart to remember, Till four dark months overpast were atoned for, and summer began in September. Hark, April again as a bird in the house with a child's voice hither and thither: See, May in the garden again with a child's face cheering the woods ere they wither. June laughs in the light of his eyes, and July on the sunbright cheeks of him slumbers, And August glows in a smile more sweet than the cadence of gold-mouthed numbers. In the morning the sight of him brightens the sun, and the noon with delight in him flushes, And the silence of nightfall is music about him as soft as the sleep that it hushes. We awake with a sense of a sunrise that is not a gift of the sundawn's giving, And a voice that salutes us is sweeter than all sounds else in the world of the living, And a presence that warms us is brighter than all in the world of our visions beholden, Though the dreams of our sleep were as those that the light of a world without grief makes golden. For the best that the best of us ever devised as a likeness of heaven and its glory, What was it of old, or what is it and will be for ever, in song or in story, Or in shape or in colour of carven or painted resemblance, adored of all ages, But a vision recorded of children alive in the pictures of old or the pages? Where children are not, heaven is not, and heaven if they come not again shall be never: But the face and the voice of a child are assurance of heaven and its promise for ever.