Infomotions, Inc.Studies in Song, A Century of Roundels, Sonnets on English Dramatic Poets, The Heptalogia, Etc From Swinburne's Poems Volume V. / Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 1837-1909



Author: Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 1837-1909
Title: Studies in Song, A Century of Roundels, Sonnets on English Dramatic Poets, The Heptalogia, Etc From Swinburne's Poems Volume V.
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): song; sweet
Contributor(s): Houghton, Louise Seymour, 1838-1920 [Translator]
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Title: Studies in Song, A Century of Roundels, Sonnets on English Dramatic Poets, The Heptalogia, Etc
       From Swinburne's Poems Volume V.

Author: Algernon Charles Swinburne

Release Date: July 8, 2006 [EBook #18782]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK STUDIES IN SONG ***




Produced by Paul Murray, Lisa Reigel, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net





[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.]




Various Poems:

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


By

Algernon Charles Swinburne

Taken from The Collected Poetical Works of Algernon Charles
Swinburne--Vol V




THE COLLECTED POETICAL WORKS OF ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE

VOL. V

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.

By

Algernon Charles Swinburne


1917

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN


_First printed_ (_Chatto_), 1904

_Reprinted_ 1904, '09, '10, '12

(_Heinemann_), 1917


_London: William Heinemann_, 1917




                                                   PAGE
ATHENS: AN ODE                                      194

THE STATUE OF VICTOR HUGO                           215

EUTHANATOS                                          252

FIRST AND LAST                                      255

LINES ON THE DEATH OF EDWARD JOHN TRELAWNY          257

ADIEUX A MARIE STUART                               259

HERSE                                               264

TWINS                                               267

THE SALT OF THE EARTH                               272

SEVEN YEARS OLD                                     273

EIGHT YEARS OLD                                     275

COMPARISONS                                         278

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

SUNRISE                                             368




     ATHENS: AN ODE




     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.

     _April 1881._




     THE STATUE OF VICTOR HUGO


     1

     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.


     2

     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.


     3

     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.


     4

     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?


     5

     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.


     6

     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.


     7

     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.


     8

     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.[1]
     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.


     9

     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.[2]
     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.


     10

     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.[3]
     Stars were these as watch-fires on the world's waste burning,
       Stars that fade not in the fourfold sunrise now.[4]


     11

     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.


     12

     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.


     13

     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.


     14

     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.[5]


     15

     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.


     16

     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.


     17

     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.


     18

     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[6]
       Whose migration still is toward the wintry side.


     19

     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.


     20

     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.


     21

     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.


     22

     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.


     23

     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.


     24

     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.


     25

     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.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] _La Pitie Supreme._ 1879.

[2] _Religions et Religion._ 1880.

[3] _L'Ane._ 1880.

[4] _Les Quatre Vents de l'Esprit._ I. _Le Livre satirique._ II. _Le
Livre dramatique._ III. _Le Livre lyrique._ IV. _Le Livre epique._ 1881.

[5] _Les Deux Trouvailles de Gallus._ I. _Margarita, comedie._ II.
_Esca, drame._

[6]

     Je suis une hirondelle etrange, car j'emigre
           Du cote de l'hiver.

                        _Le Livre Lyrique_, liii.




     EUTHANATOS

     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


     I

     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.


     II

     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.


     III

     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.


     IV

     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.


     V

     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.


     VI

     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.


     VII

     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.




     HERSE


     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?




     TWINS

     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.


     POSTSCRIPT

     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


     I

     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.


     II

     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.


     III

     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;

     IV

     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.


     V

     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,


     VI

     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,


     VII

     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


     I

     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.


     II

     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.


     III

     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.


     IV

     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.


     V

     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.


     VI

     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.


     VII

     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.


     VIII

     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._




     COMPARISONS


     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.




     SUNRISE


     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.






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