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SWINBURNE, Algernon Charles

A Leave-Taking

Let us go hence, my songs; she will not hear.

Let us go hence together without fear;

Keep silence now, for singing-time is over,

And over all old things and all things dear.

She loves not you nor me as all we love her.

Yea, though we sang as angels in her ear,

She would not hear.

Let us rise up and part; she will not know.

Let us go seaward as the great winds go,

Full of blown sand and foam; what help is here?

There is no help, for all these things are so,

And all the world is bitter as a tear.

And how these things are, though ye strove to show,

She would not know.

Let us go home and hence; she will not weep.

We gave love many dreams and days to keep,

Flowers without scent, and fruits that would not grow,

Saying 'If thou wilt, thrust in thy sickle and reap.'

All is reaped now; no grass is left to mow;

And we that sowed, though all we fell on sleep,

She would not weep.

Let us go hence and rest; she will not love.

She shall not hear us if we sing hereof,

Nor see love's ways, how sore they are and steep.

Come hence, let be, lie still; it is enough.

Love is a barren sea, bitter and deep;

And though she saw all heaven in flower above,

She would not love.

Let us give up, go down; she will not care.

Though all the stars made gold of all the air,

And the sea moving saw before it move

One moon-flower making all the foam-flowers fair;

Though all those waves went over us, and drove

Deep down the stifling lips and drowning hair,

She would not care.

Let us go hence, go hence; she will not see.

Sing all once more together; surely she,

She too, remembering days and words that were,

Will turn a little toward us, sighing; but we,

We are hence, we are gone, as though we had not been there.

Nay, and though all men seeing had pity on me,

She would not see.


Cold eyelids that hide like a jewel

Hard eyes that grow soft for an hour;

The heavy white limbs, and the cruel

Red mouth like a venomous flower;

When these are gone by with their glories,

What shall rest of thee then, what remain,

O mystic and sombre Dolores,

Our Lady of Pain?

O garment not golden but gilded,

O garden where all men may dwell,

O tower not of ivory, but builded

By hands that reach heaven from hell;

O mystical rose of the mire,

O house not of gold but of gain,

O house of unquenchable fire,

Our Lady of Pain!…..

O lips full of lust and of laughter,

Curled snakes that are fed from my breast,

Bite hard, lest remembrance come after

And press with new lips where you pressed.

For my heart too springs up at the pressure,

Mine eyelids too moisten and burn;

Ah, feed me and fill me with pleasure,

Ere pain come in turn.
Could you hurt me, sweet lips, though I hurt you?

Men touch them, and change in a trice

The lilies and languors of virtue

For the raptures and roses of vice;

Those lie where thy foot on the floor is,

These crown and caress thee and chain,

O splendid and sterile Dolores,

Our Lady of Pain.
Ah beautiful passionate body

That never has ached with a heart!

On thy mouth though the kisses are bloody,

Though they sting till it shudder and smart,

More kind than the love we adore is,

They hurt not the heart or the brain,

O bitter and tender Dolores,

Our Lady of Pain.

Tristram of Lyonesse

Prelude: Tristram and Iseult

LOVE, that is first and last of all things made,

The light that has the living world for shade,

The spirit that for temporal veil has on

The souls of all men woven in unison,

One fiery raiment with all lives inwrought

And lights of sunny and starry deed and thought,

And always through new act and passion new

Shines the divine same body and beauty through,

The body spiritual of fire and light

That is to worldly noon as noon to light;

Love, that is flesh upon the spirit of man

And spirit within the flesh whence breath began;

Love, that keeps all the choir of lives in chime;

Love, that is blood within the veins of time;

That wrought the whole world without stroke of hand,

Shaping the breadth of sea, the length of land,

And with the pulse and motion of his breath

Through the great heart of the earth strikes life and death,

The sweet twain chords that make the sweet tune live

Through day and night of things alternative,

Through silence and through sound of stress and strife,

And ebb and flow of dying death and life;

Love, that sounds loud or light in all men’s ears,

Whence all men’s eyes take fire from sparks of tears,

That binds on all men’s feet or chains or wings;

Love, that is root and fruit of terrene things;

Love, that the whole world’s waters shall not drown,

The whole world’s fiery forces not burn down;

Love, that what time his own hands guard his head

The whole world’s wrath and strength shall not strike dead;

Love, that if once his own hands make his grave

The whole world’s pity and sorrow shall not save;

Love, that for very life shall not be sold,

Nor bought nor bound with iron nor with gold;

So strong that heaven, could love bid heaven farewell,

Would turn to fruitless and unflowering hell;

So sweet that hell, to hell could love be given,

Would turn to splendid and sonorous heaven;

Love that is fire within three and light above,

And lives by grace of nothing but of love;

Through many and lovely thoughts and much desire

Led these twain to the life of tears and fire;

Through many and lovely days and much delight

Led these twain to the lifeless life of night.

from Anactoria

after Sappho

Yea, thou shalt be forgotten like spilt wine,

Except these kisses of my lips on thine

Brand them with immortality; but me –

Men shall not see bright fire nor hear the sea,

Nor mix their hearts with music, nor behold

Cast forth of heaven, with feet of awful gold

And plumeless wings that make the bright air blind,

Lightning, with thunder for a hound behind

Hunting through fields unfurrowed and unsown,

But in the light and laughter, in the moan

And music, and in grasp of lip and hand

And shudder of water that makes felt on land

The immeasurable tremor of all the sea,

Memories shall mix and metaphors of me.

Atalanta in Calydon: From The Triumph of Time

THERE lived a singer in France of old

By the tideless dolorous midland sea.

In a land of sand and ruin and gold

There shone one woman, and none but she.

And finding life for her love’s sake fail,

Being fain to see her, he bade set sail,

Touched land, and saw her as life grew cold,

And praised God, seeing; and so died he.

Died, praising God for his gift and grace:

For she bowed down to him weeping, and said

“Live;” and her tears were shed on his face

Or ever the life in his face was shed.

The sharp tears fell through her hair, and stung

Once, and her close lips touched him and clung

Once, and grew one with his lips for a space;

And so drew back, and the man was dead.

O brother, the gods were good to you.

Sleep, and be glad while the world endures.

Be well content as the years wear through;

Give thanks for life, and the loves and lures;

Give thanks for life, O brother, and death,

For the sweet last sound of her feet, her breath,

For gifts she gave you, gracious and few,

Tears and kisses, that lady of yours.

Rest, and be glad of the gods; but I,

How shall I praise them, or how take rest?

There is not room under all the sky

For me that know not of worst or best,

Dream or desire of the days before,

Sweet things or bitterness, any more.

Love will not come to me now though I die,

As love came close to you, breast to breast.

I shall never be friends again with roses;

I shall loathe sweet tunes, where a note grown strong

Relents and recoils, and climbs and closes,

As a wave of the sea turned back by song.

There are sounds where the soul’s delight takes fire,

Face to face with its own desire;

A delight that rebels, a desire that reposes;

I shall hate sweet music my whole life long.

The pulse of war and passion of wonder,

The heavens that murmur, the sounds that shine,

The stars that sing and the loves that thunder,

The music burning at heart like wine,

An armed archangel whose hands raise up

All senses mixed in the spirit’s cup

Till flesh and spirit are molten in sunder—

These things are over, and no more mine.

These were a part of the playing I heard

Once, ere my love and my heart were at strife;

Love that sings and hath wings as a bird,

Balm of the wound and heft of the knife.

Fairer than earth is the sea, and sleep

Than overwatching of eyes that weep,

Now time has done with his one sweet word,

The wine and leaven of lovely life.

I shall go my ways, tread out my measure,

Fill the days of my daily breath

With fugitive things not good to treasure,

Do as the world doth, say as it saith;

But if we had loved each other—O sweet,

Had you felt, lying under the palms of your feet,

The heart of my heart, beating harder with pleasure

To feel you tread it to dust and death—

Ah, had I not taken my life up and given

All that life gives and the years let go,

The wine and honey, the balm and leaven,

The dreams reared high and the hopes brought low?

Come life, come death, not a word be said;

Should I lose you living, and vex you dead?

I never shall tell you on earth; and in heaven,

If I cry to you then, will you hear or know?

The Garden of Proserpine :
Here, where the world is quiet;

Here, where all trouble seems

Dead winds' and spent waves' riot

In doubtful dreams of dreams;

I watch the green field growing

For reaping folk and sowing,

For harvest-time and mowing,

A sleepy world of streams.

I am tired of tears and laughter,

And men that laugh and weep;

Of what may come hereafter

For men that sow to reap:

I am weary of days and hours,

Blown buds of barren flowers,

Desires and dreams and powers

And everything but sleep.

Here life has death for neighbour,

And far from eye or ear

Wan waves and wet winds labour,

Weak ships and spirits steer;

They drive adrift, and whither

They wot not who make thither;

But no such winds blow hither,

And no such things grow here.

No growth of moor or coppice,

No heather-flower or vine,

But bloomless buds of poppies,

Green grapes of Proserpine,

Pale beds of blowing rushes

Where no leaf blooms or blushes

Save this whereout she crushes

For dead men deadly wine.

Pale, without name or number,

In fruitless fields of corn,

They bow themselves and slumber

All night till light is born;

And like a soul belated,

In hell and heaven unmated,

By cloud and mist abated

Comes out of darkness morn.

Though one were strong as seven,

He too with death shall dwell,

Nor wake with wings in heaven,

Nor weep for pains in hell;

Though one were fair as roses,

His beauty clouds and closes;

And well though love reposes,

In the end it is not well.

Pale, beyond porch and portal,

Crowned with calm leaves, she stands

Who gathers all things mortal

With cold immortal hands;

Her languid lips are sweeter

Than love's who fears to greet her

To men that mix and meet her

From many times and lands.

She waits for each and other,

She waits for all men born;

Forgets the earth her mother,

The life of fruits and corn;

And spring and seed and swallow

Take wing for her and follow

Where summer song rings hollow

And flowers are put to scorn.

There go the loves that wither,

The old loves with wearier wings;

And all dead years draw thither,

And all disastrous things;

Dead dreams of days forsaken,

Blind buds that snows have shaken,

Wild leaves that winds have taken,

Red strays of ruined springs.

We are not sure of sorrow,

And joy was never sure;

To-day will die to-morrow;

Time stoops to no man's lure;

And love, grown faint and fretful,

With lips but half regretful

Sighs, and with eyes forgetful

Weeps that no loves endure.

From too much love of living,

From hope and fear set free,

We thank with brief thanksgiving

Whatever gods may be

That no life lives for ever;

That dead men rise up never;

That even the weariest river

Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Then star nor sun shall waken,

Nor any change of light:

Nor sound of waters shaken,

Nor any sound or sight:

Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,

Nor days nor things diurnal;

Only the sleep eternal

In an eternal night.

The Sea

(from The Triumph of Time )
I will go back to the great sweet mother,

Mother and lover of men, the sea.

I will go down to her, I and none other,

Close with her, kiss her, and mix her with me;

Cling to her, strive with her, hold her fast.

O fair white mother, in days long past

Born without sister, born without brother,

Set free my soul as thy soul is free.

O fair green-girdled mother of mine,

Sea, that art clothed with the sun and the rain,

Thy sweet hard kisses are strong like wine,

Thy large embraces are keen like pain.

Save me and hide me with all thy waves,

Find me one grave of thy thousand graves,

Those pure cold populous graves of thine

Wrought without hand in a world without stain.

I shall sleep, and move with the moving ships,

Change as the winds change, veer in the tide;

My lips will feast on the foam of thy lips,

I shall rise with thy rising, with thee subside;

Sleep, and not know if she be, if she were,

Filled full with life to the eyes and hair,

As a rose is fulfillled to the roseleaf tips

With splendid summer and perfume and pride.

This woven raiment of nights and days,

Were it once cast off and unwound from me,

Naked and glad would I walk in thy ways,

Alive and aware of thy ways and thee;

Clear of the whole world, hidden at home,

Clothed with the green and crowned with the foam,

A pulse of the life of thy straits and bays,

A vein in the heart of the streams of the sea.

Madonna Mia

UNDER green apple-boughs

That never a storm will rouse,

My lady hath her house

Between two bowers;

In either of the twain

Red roses full of rain;

She hath for bondwomen

All kind of flowers.

She hath no handmaid fair

To draw her curled gold hair

Through rings of gold that bear

Her whole hair’s weight;

She hath no maids to stand

Gold-clothed on either hand;

In all the great green land

None is so great.

She hath no more to wear

But one white hood of vair

Drawn over eyes and hair,

Wrought with strange gold,

Made for some great queen’s head,

Some fair great queen since dead;

And one strait gown of red

Against the cold.

Beneath her eyelids deep

Love lying seems asleep,

Love, swift to wake, to weep,

To laugh, to gaze;

Her breasts are like white birds,

And all her gracious words

As water-grass to herds

In the June-days.

To her all dews that fall

And rains are musical;

Her flowers are fed from all,

Her joy from these;

In the deep-feathered firs

Their gift of joy is hers,

In the least breath that stirs

Across the trees.

She grows with greenest leaves,

Ripens with reddest sheaves,

Forgets, remembers, grieves,

And is not sad;

The quiet lands and skies

Leave light upon her eyes;

None knows her, weak or wise,

Or tired or glad.

None knows, none understands,

What flowers are like her hands;

Though you should search all lands

Wherein time grows,

What snows are like her feet,

Though his eyes burn with heat

Through gazing on my sweet,

Yet no man knows.

Only this thing is said;

That white and gold and red,

God’s three chief words, man’s bread

And oil and wine,

Were given her for dowers,

And kingdom of all hours,

And grace of goodly flowers

And various vine.

This is my lady’s praise:

God after many days

Wrought her in unknown ways,

In sunset lands;

This was my lady’s birth;

God gave her might and mirth

And laid his whole sweet earth

Between her hands.

Under deep apple-boughs

My lady hath her house;

She wears upon her brows

The flower thereof;

All saying but what God saith

To her is as vain breath;

She is more strong than death,

Being strong as love.

A Forsaken Garden

In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland,

At the sea-down's edge between windward and lee,

Walled round with rocks as an inland island,

The ghost of a garden fronts the sea.

A girdle of brushwood and thorn encloses

The steep square slope of the blossomless bed

Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of its roses

Now lie dead.

The fields fall southward, abrupt and broken,

To the low last edge of the long lone land.

If a step should sound or a word be spoken,

Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest's hand?

So long have the grey bare walks lain guestless,

Through branches and briars if a man make way,

He shall find no life but the sea-wind's, restless

Night and day.

The dense hard passage is blind and stifled

That crawls by a track none turn to climb

To the strait waste place that the years have rifled

Of all but the thorns that are touched not of time.

The thorns he spares when the rose is taken;

The rocks are left when he wastes the plain.

The wind that wanders, the weeds wind-shaken,

These remain.

Not a flower to be pressed of the foot that falls not;

As the heart of a dead man the seed-plots are dry;

From the thicket of thorns whence the nightingale calls not,

Could she call, there were never a rose to reply.

Over the meadows that blossom and wither

Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song;

Only the sun and the rain come hither

All year long.

The sun burns sere and the rain dishevels

One gaunt bleak blossom of scentless breath.

Only the wind here hovers and revels

In a round where life seems barren as death.

Here there was laughing of old, there was weeping,

Haply, of lovers none ever will know,

Whose eyes went seaward a hundred sleeping

Years ago.

Heart handfast in heart as they stood, "Look thither,"

Did he whisper? "look forth from the flowers to the sea;

For the foam-flowers endure when the rose-blossoms wither,

And men that love lightly may die—but we?"

And the same wind sang and the same waves whitened,

And or ever the garden's last petals were shed,

In the lips that had whispered, the eyes that had lightened,

Love was dead.

Or they loved their life through, and then went whither?

And were one to the end—but what end who knows?

Love deep as the sea as a rose must wither,

As the rose-red seaweed that mocks the rose.

Shall the dead take thought for the dead to love them?

What love was ever as deep as a grave?

They are loveless now as the grass above them

Or the wave.

All are at one now, roses and lovers,

Not known of the cliffs and the fields and the sea.

Not a breath of the time that has been hovers

In the air now soft with a summer to be.

Not a breath shall there sweeten the seasons hereafter

Of the flowers or the lovers that laugh now or weep,

When as they that are free now of weeping and laughter

We shall sleep.

Here death may deal not again for ever;

Here change may come not till all change end.

From the graves they have made they shall rise up never,

Who have left nought living to ravage and rend.

Earth, stones, and thorns of the wild ground growing,

While the sun and the rain live, these shall be;

Till a last wind's breath upon all these blowing

Roll the sea.

Till the slow sea rise and the sheer cliff crumble,

Till terrace and meadow the deep gulfs drink,

Till the strength of the waves of the high tides humble

The fields that lessen, the rocks that shrink,

Here now in his triumph where all things falter,

Stretched out on the spoils that his own hand spread,

As a god self-slain on his own strange altar,

Death lies dead.