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A Channel Passage and Other Poems - Taken from The Collected Poetical Works of Algernon Charles - Swinburne—Vol VI
by Algernon Charles Swinburne
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November 1, 1899.



THE TURNING OF THE TIDE

Storm, strong with all the bitter heart of hate, Smote England, now nineteen dark years ago, As when the tide's full wrath in seaward flow Smites and bears back the swimmer. Fraud and fate Were leagued against her: fear was fain to prate Of honour in dishonour, pride brought low, And humbleness whence holiness must grow, And greatness born of shame to be so great.

The winter day that withered hope and pride Shines now triumphal on the turning tide That sets once more our trust in freedom free, That leaves a ruthless and a truthless foe And all base hopes that hailed his cause laid low, And England's name a light on land and sea.

February 27, 1900.



ON THE DEATH OF COLONEL BENSON

Northumberland, so proud and sad to-day, Weep and rejoice, our mother, whom no son More glorious than this dead and deathless one Brought ever fame whereon no time shall prey. Nor heed we more than he what liars dare say Of mercy's holiest duties left undone Toward whelps and dams of murderous foes, whom none Save we had spared or feared to starve and slay.

Alone as Milton and as Wordsworth found And hailed their England, when from all around Howled all the recreant hate of envious knaves, Sublime she stands: while, stifled in the sound, Each lie that falls from German boors and slaves Falls but as filth dropt in the wandering waves.

November 4, 1901.



ASTRAEA VICTRIX

England, elect of time, By freedom sealed sublime, And constant as the sun that saw thy dawn Outshine upon the sea His own in heaven, to be A light that night nor day should see withdrawn, If song may speak not now thy praise, Fame writes it higher than song may soar or faith may gaze.

Dark months of months beheld Hope thwarted, crossed, and quelled, And heard the heartless hounds of hatred bay Aloud against thee, glad As now their souls are sad Who see their hope in hatred pass away And wither into shame and fear And shudder down to darkness, loth to see or hear.

Nought now they hear or see That speaks or shows not thee Triumphant; not as empires reared of yore, The imperial commonweal That bears thy sovereign seal And signs thine orient as thy natural shore Free, as no sons but thine may stand, Steers lifeward ever, guided of thy pilot hand.

Fear, masked and veiled by fraud, Found shameful time to applaud Shame, and bow down thy banner towards the dust, And call on godly shame To desecrate thy name And bid false penitence abjure thy trust: Till England's heart took thought at last, And felt her future kindle from her fiery past.

Then sprang the sunbright fire High as the sun, and higher Than strange men's eyes might watch it undismayed: But winds athwart it blew Storm, and the twilight grew Darkness awhile, an unenduring shade: And all base birds and beasts of night Saw no more England now to fear, no loathsome light.

All knaves and slaves at heart Who, knowing thee what thou art, Abhor thee, seeing what none save here may see, Strong freedom, taintless truth, Supreme in ageless youth, Howled all their hate and hope aloud at thee While yet the wavering wind of strife Bore hard against her sail whose freight is hope and life.

And now the quickening tide That brings back power and pride To faith and love whose ensign is thy name Bears down the recreant lie That doomed thy name to die, Sons, friends, and foes behold thy star the same As when it stood in heaven a sun And Europe saw no glory left her sky save one.

And now, as then she saw, She sees with shamefast awe How all unlike all slaves and tyrants born Where bondmen champ the bit And anarchs foam and flit, And day mocks day, and year puts year to scorn, Our mother bore us, English men, Ashamed of shame and strong in mercy, now as then.

We loosed not on these knaves Their scourge-tormented slaves: We held the hand that fain had risen to smite The torturer fast, and made Justice awhile afraid, And righteousness forego her ruthless right: We warred not even with these as they; We bade not them they preyed on make of them their prey.

All murderous fraud that lurks In hearts where hell's craft works Fought, crawled, and slew in darkness: they that died Dreamed not of foes too base For scorn to grant them grace: Men wounded, women, children at their side, Had found what faith in fiends may live: And yet we gave not back what righteous doom would give.

No false white flag that fawns On faith till murder dawns Blood-red from hell-black treason's heart of hate Left ever shame's foul brand Seared on an English hand: And yet our pride vouchsafes them grace too great For other pride to dream of: scorn Strikes retribution silent as the stars at morn.

And now the living breath Whose life puts death to death, Freedom, whose name is England, stirs and thrills The burning darkness through Whence fraud and slavery grew, We scarce may mourn our dead whose fame fulfils The record where her foes have read That earth shall see none like her born ere earth be dead.



THE FIRST OF JUNE

Peace and war are one in proof of England's deathless praise. One divine day saw her foemen scattered on the sea Far and fast as storm could speed: the same strong day of days Sees the imperial commonweal set friends and foemen free. Save where freedom reigns, whose name is England, fraud and fear Grind and blind the face of men who look on her and lie: Now may truth and pride in truth, whose seat of old was here, See them shamed and stricken blind and dumb as worms that die. Even before our hallowed hawthorn-blossom pass and cease, Even as England shines and smiles at last upon the sun, Comes the word that means for England more than passing peace, Peace with honour, peace with pride in righteous work well done. Crowned with flowers the first of all the world and all the year, Peace, whose name is one with honour born of war, is here.



ROUNDEL

FROM THE FRENCH OF VILLON

Death, I would plead against thy wrong, Who hast reft me of my love, my wife, And art not satiate yet with strife, But needs wilt hold me lingering long. No strength since then has kept me strong: But what could hurt thee in her life, Death?

Twain we were, and our hearts one song, One heart: if that be dead, thy knife Hath cut me off alive from life, Dead as the carver's figured throng, Death!



A ROUNDEL OF RABELAIS

Theleme is afar on the waters, adrift and afar, Afar and afloat on the waters that flicker and gleam, And we feel but her fragrance and see but the shadows that mar Theleme.

In the sun-coloured mists of the sunrise and sunset that steam As incense from urns of the twilight, her portals ajar Let pass as a shadow the light of the sound of a dream.

But the laughter that rings from her cloisters that know not a bar So kindles delight in desire that the souls in us deem He erred not, the seer who discerned on the seas as a star Theleme.



LUCIFER

Ecrasez l'infame.—VOLTAIRE

Les pretres ont raison de l'appeler Lucifer.—VICTOR HUGO

Voltaire, our England's lover, man divine Beyond all Gods that ever fear adored By right and might, by sceptre and by sword, By godlike love of sunlike truth, made thine Through godlike hate of falsehood's marshlight shine And all the fume of creeds and deeds abhorred Whose light was darkness, till the dawn-star soared, Truth, reason, mercy, justice, keep thy shrine Sacred in memory's temple, seeing that none Of all souls born to strive before the sun Loved ever good or hated evil more. The snake that felt thy heel upon her head, Night's first-born, writhes as though she were not dead, But strikes not, stings not, slays not as before.



THE CENTENARY OF ALEXANDRE DUMAS

Sound of trumpets blowing down the merriest winds of morn, Flash of hurtless lightnings, laugh of thunders loud and glad, Here should hail the summer day whereon a light was born Whence the sun grew brighter, seeing the world less dark and sad. Man of men by right divine of boyhood everlasting, France incarnate, France immortal in her deathless boy, Brighter birthday never shone than thine on earth, forecasting More of strenuous mirth in manhood, more of manful joy. Child of warriors, friend of warriors, Garibaldi's friend, Even thy name is as the splendour of a sunbright sword: While the boy's heart beats in man, thy fame shall find not end: Time and dark oblivion bow before thee as their lord. Youth acclaims thee gladdest of the gods that gild his days: Age gives thanks for thee, and death lacks heart to quench thy praise.



AT A DOG'S GRAVE

I

Good night, we say, when comes the time to win The daily death divine that shuts up sight, Sleep, that assures for all who dwell therein Good night.

The shadow shed round those we love shines bright As love's own face, when death, sleep's gentler twin, From them divides us even as night from light.

Shall friends born lower in life, though pure of sin, Though clothed with love and faith to usward plight, Perish and pass unbidden of us, their kin, Good night?

II

To die a dog's death once was held for shame. Not all men so beloved and mourned shall lie As many of these, whose time untimely came To die.

His years were full: his years were joyous: why Must love be sorrow, when his gracious name Recalls his lovely life of limb and eye?

If aught of blameless life on earth may claim Life higher than death, though death's dark wave rise high, Such life as this among us never came To die.

III

White violets, there by hands more sweet than they Planted, shall sweeten April's flowerful air About a grave that shows to night and day White violets there.

A child's light hands, whose touch makes flowers more fair, Keep fair as these for many a March and May The light of days that are because they were.

It shall not like a blossom pass away; It broods and brightens with the days that bear Fresh fruits of love, but leave, as love might pray, White violets there.



THREE WEEKS OLD

Three weeks since there was no such rose in being; Now may eyes made dim with deep delight See how fair it is, laugh with love, and seeing Praise the chance that bids us bless the sight.

Three weeks old, and a very rose of roses, Bright and sweet as love is sweet and bright. Heaven and earth, till a man's life wanes and closes, Show not life or love a lovelier sight.

Three weeks past have renewed the rosebright creature Day by day with life, and night by night. Love, though fain of its every faultless feature, Finds not words to match the silent sight.



A CLASP OF HANDS

I

Soft, small, and sweet as sunniest flowers That bask in heavenly heat When bud by bud breaks, breathes, and cowers, Soft, small, and sweet.

A babe's hands open as to greet The tender touch of ours And mock with motion faint and fleet

The minutes of the new strange hours That earth, not heaven, must mete; Buds fragrant still from heaven's own bowers, Soft, small, and sweet.

II

A velvet vice with springs of steel That fasten in a trice And clench the fingers fast that feel A velvet vice—

What man would risk the danger twice, Nor quake from head to heel? Whom would not one such test suffice?

Well may we tremble as we kneel In sight of Paradise, If both a babe's closed fists conceal A velvet vice.

III

Two flower-soft fists of conquering clutch, Two creased and dimpled wrists, That match, if mottled overmuch, Two flower-soft fists—

What heart of man dare hold the lists Against such odds and such Sweet vantage as no strength resists?

Our strength is all a broken crutch, Our eyes are dim with mists, Our hearts are prisoners as we touch Two flower-soft fists.



PROLOGUE TO DOCTOR FAUSTUS

Light, as when dawn takes wing and smites the sea, Smote England when his day bade Marlowe be. No fire so keen had thrilled the clouds of time Since Dante's breath made Italy sublime. Earth, bright with flowers whose dew shone soft as tears, Through Chaucer cast her charm on eyes and ears: The lustrous laughter of the love-lit earth Rang, leapt, and lightened in his might of mirth. Deep moonlight, hallowing all the breathless air, Made earth and heaven for Spenser faint and fair. But song might bid not heaven and earth be one Till Marlowe's voice gave warning of the sun. Thought quailed and fluttered as a wounded bird Till passion fledged the wing of Marlowe's word. Faith born of fear bade hope and doubt be dumb Till Marlowe's pride bade light or darkness come. Then first our speech was thunder: then our song Shot lightning through the clouds that wrought us wrong. Blind fear, whose faith feeds hell with fire, became A moth self-shrivelled in its own blind flame. We heard, in tune with even our seas that roll, The speech of storm, the thunders of the soul. Men's passions, clothed with all the woes they wrought, Shone through the fire of man's transfiguring thought. The thirst of knowledge, quenchless at her springs, Ambition, fire that clasps the thrones of kings, Love, light that makes of life one lustrous hour, And song, the soul's chief crown and throne of power, The hungering heart of greed and ravenous hate, Made music high as heaven and deep as fate. Strange pity, scarce half scornful of her tear, In Berkeley's vaults bowed down on Edward's bier. But higher in forceful flight of song than all The soul of man, its own imperious thrall, Rose, when his royal spirit of fierce desire Made life and death for man one flame of fire. Incarnate man, fast bound as earth and sea, Spake, when his pride would fain set Faustus free. Eternal beauty, strong as day and night, Shone, when his word bade Helen back to sight. Fear, when he bowed the soul before her spell, Thundered and lightened through the vaults of hell. The music known of all men's tongues that sing, When Marlowe sang, bade love make heaven of spring; The music none but English tongues may make, Our own sole song, spake first when Marlowe spake; And on his grave, though there no stone may stand, The flower it shows was laid by Shakespeare's hand.



PROLOGUE TO ARDEN OF FEVERSHAM

Love dark as death and fierce as fire on wing Sustains in sin the soul that feels it cling Like flame whose tongues are serpents: hope and fear Die when a love more dire than hate draws near, And stings to death the heart it cleaves in twain, And leaves in ashes all but fear and pain. Our lustrous England rose to life and light From Rome's and hell's immitigable night, And music laughed and quickened from her breath, When first her sons acclaimed Elizabeth. Her soul became a lyre that all men heard Who felt their souls give back her lyric word. Yet now not all at once her perfect power Spake: man's deep heart abode awhile its hour, Abode its hour of utterance; not to wake Till Marlowe's thought in thunderous music spake. But yet not yet was passion's tragic breath Thrilled through with sense of instant life and death, Life actual even as theirs who watched the strife, Death dark and keen and terrible as life. Here first was truth in song made perfect: here Woke first the war of love and hate and fear. A man too vile for thought's or shame's control Holds empire on a woman's loftier soul, And withers it to wickedness: in vain Shame quickens thought with penitential pain: In vain dark chance's fitful providence Withholds the crime, and chills the spirit of sense: It wakes again in fire that burns away Repentance, weak as night devoured of day. Remorse, and ravenous thirst of sin and crime, Rend and consume the soul in strife sublime, And passion cries on pity till it hear And tremble as with love that casts out fear. Dark as the deed and doom he gave to fame For ever lies the sovereign singer's name. Sovereign and regent on the soul he lives While thought gives thanks for aught remembrance gives, And mystery sees the imperial shadow stand By Marlowe's side alone at Shakespeare's hand.



PROLOGUE TO OLD FORTUNATUS

The golden bells of fairyland, that ring Perpetual chime for childhood's flower-sweet spring, Sang soft memorial music in his ear Whose answering music shines about us here. Soft laughter as of light that stirs the sea With darkling sense of dawn ere dawn may be, Kind sorrow, pity touched with gentler scorn, Keen wit whose shafts were sunshafts of the morn, Love winged with fancy, fancy thrilled with love, An eagle's aim and ardour in a dove, A man's delight and passion in a child, Inform it as when first they wept and smiled. Life, soiled and rent and ringed about with pain Whose touch lent action less of spur than chain, Left half the happiness his birth designed, And half the power, unquenched in heart and mind. Comrade and comforter, sublime in shame, A poor man bound in prison whence he came Poor, and took up the burden of his life Smiling, and strong to strive with sorrow and strife, He spake in England's ear the poor man's word, Manful and mournful, deathless and unheard. His kind great heart was fire, and love's own fire, Compassion, strong as flesh may feel desire, To enkindle pity and mercy toward a soul Sunk down in shame too deep for shame's control. His kind keen eye was light to lighten hope Where no man else might see life's darkness ope And pity's touch bring forth from evil good, Sweet as forgiveness, strong as fatherhood. Names higher than his outshine it and outsoar, But none save one should memory cherish more: Praise and thanksgiving crown the names above, But him we give the gift he gave us, love.



PROLOGUE TO THE DUCHESS OF MALFY

When Shakespeare soared from life to death, above All praise, all adoration, save of love, As here on earth above all men he stood That were or are or shall be—great, and good, Past thank or thought of England or of man— Light from the sunset quickened as it ran. His word, who sang as never man may sing And spake as never voice of man may ring, Not fruitless fell, as seed on sterile ways, But brought forth increase even to Shakespeare's praise. Our skies were thrilled and filled, from sea to sea, With stars outshining all their suns to be. No later light of tragic song they knew Like his whose lightning clove the sunset through. Half Shakespeare's glory, when his hand sublime Bade all the change of tragic life and time Live, and outlive all date of quick and dead, Fell, rested, and shall rest on Webster's head. Round him the shadows cast on earth by light Rose, changed, and shone, transfiguring death and night. Where evil only crawled and hissed and slew On ways where nought save shame and bloodshed grew, He bade the loyal light of honour live, And love, when stricken through the heart, forgive. Deep down the midnight of the soul of sin He lit the star of mercy throned therein. High up the darkness of sublime despair He set the sun of love to triumph there. Things foul or frail his touch made strong and pure, And bade things transient like to stars endure. Terror, on wings whose flight made night in heaven, Pity, with hands whence life took love for leaven, Breathed round him music whence his mortal breath Drew life that bade forgetfulness and death Die: life that bids his light of fiery fame Endure with England's, yea, with Shakespeare's name.



PROLOGUE TO THE REVENGER'S TRAGEDY

Fire, and behind the breathless flight of fire Thunder that quickens fear and quells desire, Make bright and loud the terror of the night Wherein the soul sees only wrath for light. Wrath winged by love and sheathed by grief in steel Sets on the front of crime death's withering seal. The heaving horror of the storms of sin Brings forth in fear the lightning hid therein, And flashes back to darkness: truth, found pure And perfect, asks not heaven if shame endure. What life and death were his whose raging song Bore heaven such witness of the wild world's wrong, What hand was this that grasped such thunder, none Knows: night and storm seclude him from the sun. By daytime none discerns the fire of Mars: Deep darkness bares to sight the sterner stars, The lights whose dawn seems doomsday. None may tell Whence rose a world so lit from heaven and hell. Life-wasting love, hate born of raging lust, Fierce retribution, fed with death's own dust And sorrow's pampering poison, cross and meet, And wind the world in passion's winding-sheet. So, when dark faith in faith's dark ages heard Falsehood, and drank the poison of the Word, Two shades misshapen came to monstrous birth, A father fiend in heaven, a thrall on earth: Man, meanest born of beasts that press the sod, And die: the vilest of his creatures, God. A judge unjust, a slave that praised his name, Made life and death one fire of sin and shame. And thence reverberate even on Shakespeare's age A light like darkness crossed his sunbright stage. Music, sublime as storm or sorrow, sang Before it: tempest like a harpstring rang. The fiery shadow of a name unknown Rose, and in song's high heaven abides alone.



PROLOGUE TO THE BROKEN HEART

The mightiest choir of song that memory hears Gave England voice for fifty lustrous years. Sunrise and thunder fired and shook the skies That saw the sun-god Marlowe's opening eyes. The morn's own music, answered of the sea, Spake, when his living lips bade Shakespeare be, And England, made by Shakespeare's quickening breath Divine and deathless even till life be death, Brought forth to time such godlike sons of men That shamefaced love grows pride, and now seems then. Shame that their day so shone, so sang, so died, Remembering, finds remembrance one with pride. That day was clouding toward a stormlit close When Ford's red sphere upon the twilight rose. Sublime with stars and sunset fire, the sky Glowed as though day, nigh dead, should never die. Sorrow supreme and strange as chance or doom Shone, spake, and shuddered through the lustrous gloom. Tears lit with love made all the darkening air Bright as though death's dim sunrise thrilled it there And life re-risen took comfort. Stern and still As hours and years that change and anguish fill, The strong secluded spirit, ere it woke, Dwelt dumb till power possessed it, and it spoke. Strange, calm, and sure as sense of beast or bird, Came forth from night the thought that breathed the word; That chilled and thrilled with passion-stricken breath Halls where Calantha trod the dance of death. A strength of soul too passionately pure To change for aught that horror bids endure, To quail and wail and weep faint life away Ere sovereign sorrow smite, relent, and slay, Sustained her silent, till her bridal bloom Changed, smiled, and waned in rapture toward the tomb. Terror twin-born with pity kissed and thrilled The lips that Shakespeare's word or Webster's filled: Here both, cast out, fell silent: pity shrank, Rebuked, and terror, spirit-stricken, sank: The soul assailed arose afar above All reach of all but only death and love.



PROLOGUE TO A VERY WOMAN

Swift music made of passion's changeful power, Sweet as the change that leaves the world in flower When spring laughs winter down to deathward, rang From grave and gracious lips that smiled and sang When Massinger, too wise for kings to hear And learn of him truth, wisdom, faith, or fear, Gave all his gentler heart to love's light lore, That grief might brood and scorn breed wrath no more. Soft, bright, fierce, tender, fitful, truthful, sweet, A shrine where faith and change might smile and meet, A soul whose music could but shift its tune As when the lustrous year turns May to June And spring subsides in summer, so makes good Its perfect claim to very womanhood. The heart that hate of wrong made fire, the hand Whose touch was fire as keen as shame's own brand When fraud and treason, swift to smile and sting, Crowned and discrowned a tyrant, knave or king, False each and ravenous as the fitful sea, Grew gently glad as love that fear sets free. Like eddying ripples that the wind restrains, The bright words whisper music ere it wanes. Ere fades the sovereign sound of song that rang As though the sun to match the sea's tune sang, When noon from dawn took life and light, and time Shone, seeing how Shakespeare made the world sublime, Ere sinks the wind whose breath was heaven's and day's, The sunset's witness gives the sundawn praise.



PROLOGUE TO THE SPANISH GIPSY

The wind that brings us from the springtide south Strange music as from love's or life's own mouth Blew hither, when the blast of battle ceased That swept back southward Spanish prince and priest, A sound more sweet than April's flower-sweet rain, And bade bright England smile on pardoned Spain. The land that cast out Philip and his God Grew gladly subject where Cervantes trod. Even he whose name above all names on earth Crowns England queen by grace of Shakespeare's birth Might scarce have scorned to smile in God's wise down And gild with praise from heaven an earthlier crown. And he whose hand bade live down lengthening years Quixote, a name lit up with smiles and tears, Gave the glad watchword of the gipsies' life, Where fear took hope and grief took joy to wife. Times change, and fame is fitful as the sea: But sunset bids not darkness always be, And still some light from Shakespeare and the sun Burns back the cloud that masks not Middleton. With strong swift strokes of love and wrath he drew Shakespearean London's loud and lusty crew: No plainer might the likeness rise and stand When Hogarth took his living world in hand. No surer then his fire-fledged shafts could hit, Winged with as forceful and as faithful wit: No truer a tragic depth and heat of heart Glowed through the painter's than the poet's art. He lit and hung in heaven the wan fierce moon Whose glance kept time with witchcraft's air-struck tune: He watched the doors where loveless love let in The pageant hailed and crowned by death and sin: He bared the souls where love, twin-born with hate, Made wide the way for passion-fostered fate. All English-hearted, all his heart arose To scourge with scorn his England's cowering foes: And Rome and Spain, who bade their scorner be Their prisoner, left his heart as England's free. Now give we all we may of all his due To one long since thus tried and found thus true.



PROLOGUE TO THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN

Sweet as the dewfall, splendid as the south, Love touched with speech Boccaccio's golden mouth, Joy thrilled and filled its utterance full with song, And sorrow smiled on doom that wrought no wrong. A starrier lustre of lordlier music rose Beyond the sundering bar of seas and snows When Chaucer's thought took life and light from his And England's crown was one with Italy's. Loftiest and last, by grace of Shakespeare's word, Arose above their quiring spheres a third, Arose, and flashed, and faltered: song's deep sky Saw Shakespeare pass in light, in music die. No light like his, no music, man might give To bid the darkened sphere, left songless, live. Soft though the sound of Fletcher's rose and rang And lit the lunar darkness as it sang, Below the singing stars the cloud-crossed moon Gave back the sunken sun's a trembling tune. As when at highest high tide the sovereign sea Pauses, and patience doubts if passion be, Till gradual ripples ebb, recede, recoil, Shine, smile, and whisper, laughing as they toil, Stark silence fell, at turn of fate's high tide, Upon his broken song when Shakespeare died, Till Fletcher's light sweet speech took heart to say What evening, should it speak for morning, may. And fourfold now the gradual glory shines That shows once more in heaven two twinborn signs, Two brethren stars whose light no cloud may fret, No soul whereon their story dawns forget.



THE AFTERGLOW OF SHAKESPEARE

Let there be light, said Time: and England heard: And manhood grew to godhead at the word. No light had shone, since earth arose from sleep, So far; no fire of thought had cloven so deep. A day beyond all days bade life acclaim Shakespeare: and man put on his crowning name. All secrets once through darkling ages kept Shone, sang, and smiled to think how long they slept. Man rose past fear of lies whereon he trod: And Dante's ghost saw hell devour his God. Bright Marlowe, brave as winds that brave the sea When sundawn bids their bliss in battle be, Lit England first along the ways whereon Song brighter far than sunlight soared and shone. He died ere half his life had earned his right To lighten time with song's triumphant light. Hope shrank, and felt the stroke at heart: but one She knew not rose, a man to match the sun. And England's hope and time's and man's became Joy, deep as music's heart and keen as flame. Not long, for heaven on earth may live not long, Light sang, and darkness died before the song. He passed, the man above all men, whose breath Transfigured life with speech that lightens death. He passed: but yet for many a lustrous year His light of song bade England shine and hear. As plague and fire and faith in falsehood spread, So from the man of men, divine and dead, Contagious godhead, seen, unknown, and heard, Fulfilled and quickened England; thought and word, When men would fain set life to music, grew More sweet than years which knew not Shakespeare knew. The simplest soul that set itself to song Sang, and may fear not time's or change's wrong. The lightest eye that glanced on life could see Through grief and joy the God that man might be. All passion whence the living soul takes fire Till death fulfil despair and quench desire, All love that lightens through the cloud of chance, All hate that lurks in hope and smites askance, All holiness of sorrow, all divine Pity, whose tears are stars that save and shine, All sunbright strength of laughter like the sea's When spring and autumn loose their lustrous breeze, All sweet, all strange, all sad, all glorious things, Lived on his lips, and hailed him king of kings. All thought, all strife, all anguish, all delight, Spake all he bade, and speak till day be night. No soul that heard, no spirit that beheld, Knew not the God that lured them and compelled. On Beaumont's brow the sun arisen afar Shed fire which lit through heaven the younger star That sank before the sunset: one dark spring Slew first the kinglike subject, then the king. The glory left above their graves made strong The heart of Fletcher, till the flower-sweet song That Shakespeare culled from Chaucer's field, and died, Found ending on his lips that smiled and sighed. From Dekker's eyes the light of tear-touched mirth Shone as from Shakespeare's, mingling heaven and earth. Wild witchcraft's lure and England's love made one With Shakespeare's heart the heart of Middleton. Harsh, homely, true, and tragic, Rowley told His heart's debt down in rough and radiant gold. The skies that Tourneur's lightning clove and rent Flamed through the clouds where Shakespeare's thunder went. Wise Massinger bade kings be wise in vain Ere war bade song, storm-stricken, cower and wane. Kind Heywood, simple-souled and single-eyed, Found voice for England's home-born praise and pride. Strange grief, strange love, strange terror, bared the sword That smote the soul by grace and will of Ford. The stern grim strength of Chapman's thought found speech Loud as when storm at ebb-tide rends the beach: And all the honey brewed from flowers in May Made sweet the lips and bright the dreams of Day. But even as Shakespeare caught from Marlowe's word Fire, so from his the thunder-bearing third, Webster, took light and might whence none but he Hath since made song that sounded so the sea Whose waves are lives of men—whose tidestream rolls From year to darkening year the freight of souls. Alone above it, sweet, supreme, sublime, Shakespeare attunes the jarring chords of time; Alone of all whose doom is death and birth, Shakespeare is lord of souls alive on earth.



CLEOPATRA

"Her beauty might outface the jealous hours, Turn shame to love and pain to a tender sleep, And the strong nerve of hate to sloth and tears; Make spring rebellious in the sides of frost, Thrust out lank winter with hot August growths, Compel sweet blood into the husks of death, And from strange beasts enforce harsh courtesy."

T. HAYMAN, Fall of Antony, 1655.



CLEOPATRA

I

Her mouth is fragrant as a vine, A vine with birds in all its boughs; Serpent and scarab for a sign Between the beauty of her brows And the amorous deep lids divine.

II

Her great curled hair makes luminous Her cheeks, her lifted throat and chin Shall she not have the hearts of us To shatter, and the loves therein To shred between her fingers thus?

III

Small ruined broken strays of light, Pearl after pearl she shreds them through Her long sweet sleepy fingers, white As any pearl's heart veined with blue, And soft as dew on a soft night.

IV

As if the very eyes of love Shone through her shutting lids, and stole The slow looks of a snake or dove; As if her lips absorbed the whole Of love, her soul the soul thereof.

V

Lost, all the lordly pearls that were Wrung from the sea's heart, from the green Coasts of the Indian gulf-river; Lost, all the loves of the world—so keen Towards this queen for love of her.

VI

You see against her throat the small Sharp glittering shadows of them shake; And through her hair the imperial Curled likeness of the river snake, Whose bite shall make an end of all.

VII

Through the scales sheathing him like wings, Through hieroglyphs of gold and gem, The strong sense of her beauty stings, Like a keen pulse of love in them, A running flame through all his rings.

VIII

Under those low large lids of hers She hath the histories of all time; The fruit of foliage-stricken years; The old seasons with their heavy chime That leaves its rhyme in the world's ears.

IX

She sees the hand of death made bare, The ravelled riddle of the skies, The faces faded that were fair, The mouths made speechless that were wise, The hollow eyes and dusty hair;

X

The shape and shadow of mystic things, Things that fate fashions or forbids; The staff of time-forgotten Kings Whose name falls off the Pyramids, Their coffin-lids and grave-clothings;

XI

Dank dregs, the scum of pool or clod, God-spawn of lizard-footed clans, And those dog-headed hulks that trod Swart necks of the old Egyptians, Raw draughts of man's beginning God;

XII

The poised hawk, quivering ere he smote, With plume-like gems on breast and back; The asps and water-worms afloat Between the rush-flowers moist and slack; The cat's warm black bright rising throat.

XIII

The purple days of drouth expand Like a scroll opened out again; The molten heaven drier than sand, The hot red heaven without rain, Sheds iron pain on the empty land.

XIV

All Egypt aches in the sun's sight; The lips of men are harsh for drouth, The fierce air leaves their cheeks burnt white, Charred by the bitter blowing south, Whose dusty mouth is sharp to bite.

XV

All this she dreams of, and her eyes Are wrought after the sense hereof. There is no heart in her for sighs; The face of her is more than love— A name above the Ptolemies.

XVI

Her great grave beauty covers her As that sleek spoil beneath her feet Clothed once the anointed soothsayer; The hallowing is gone forth from it Now, made unmeet for priests to wear.

XVII

She treads on gods and god-like things, On fate and fear and life and death, On hate that cleaves and love that clings, All that is brought forth of man's breath And perisheth with what it brings.

XVIII

She holds her future close, her lips Hold fast the face of things to be; Actium, and sound of war that dips Down the blown valleys of the sea, Far sails that flee, and storms of ships;

XIX

The laughing red sweet mouth of wine At ending of life's festival; That spice of cerecloths, and the fine White bitter dust funereal Sprinkled on all things for a sign;

XX

His face, who was and was not he, In whom, alive, her life abode; The end, when she gained heart to see Those ways of death wherein she trod, Goddess by god, with Antony.



DEDICATION



DEDICATION

The sea that is life everlasting And death everlasting as life Abides not a pilot's forecasting, Foretells not of peace or of strife. The might of the night that was hidden Arises and darkens the day, A glory rebuked and forbidden, Time's crown, and his prey.

No sweeter, no kindlier, no fairer, No lovelier a soul from its birth Wore ever a brighter and rarer Life's raiment for life upon earth Than his who enkindled and cherished Art's vestal and luminous flame, That dies not when kingdoms have perished In storm or in shame.

No braver, no trustier, no purer, No stronger and clearer a soul Bore witness more splendid and surer For manhood found perfect and whole Since man was a warrior and dreamer Than his who in hatred of wrong Would fain have arisen a redeemer By sword or by song.

Twin brethren in spirit, immortal As art and as love, which were one For you from the birthday whose portal First gave you to sight of the sun, To-day nor to-night nor to-morrow May bring you again from above, Drawn down by the spell of the sorrow Whose anguish is love.

No light rearising hereafter Shall lighten us here as of old When seasons were lustrous as laughter Of waves that are snowshine and gold. The dawn that imbues and enkindles Life's fluctuant and fugitive sea Dies down as the starshine that dwindles And cares not to be.

Men, mightier than death which divides us, Friends, dearer than sorrow can say, The light that is darkness and hides us Awhile from each other away Abides but awhile and endures not, We know, though the day be as night, For souls that forgetfulness lures not Till sleep be in sight.

The sleep that enfolds you, the slumber Supreme and eternal on earth, Whence ages of numberless number Shall bring us not back into birth, We know not indeed if it be not What no man hath known if it be, Life, quickened with light that we see not If spirits may see.

The love that would see and would know it Is even as the love of a child. But the fire of the fame of the poet Who gazed on the past, and it smiled, But the light of the fame of the painter Whose hand was as morning's in May, Death bids not be darker or fainter, Time casts not away.

We, left of them loveless and lonely, Who lived in the light of their love, Whose darkness desires it, we only, Who see them afar and above, So far, if we die not, above us, So lately no dearer than near, May know not of death if they love us, Of night if they hear.

We, stricken and darkling and living, Who loved them and love them, abide A day, and the gift of its giving, An hour, and the turn of its tide, When twilight and midnight and morrow Shall pass from the sight of the sun, And death be forgotten, and sorrow Discrowned and undone.

For us as for these will the breathless Brief minute arise and pass by: And if death be not utterly deathless, If love do not utterly die, From the life that is quenched as an ember The soul that aspires as a flame Can choose not but wholly remember Love, lovelier than fame.

Though sure be the seal of their glory And fairer no fame upon earth, Though never a leaf shall grow hoary Of the crowns that were given them at birth, While time as a vassal doth duty To names that he towers not above, More perfect in price and in beauty For ever is love.

The night is upon us, and anguish Of longing that yearns for the dead. But mourners that faint not or languish, That veil not and bow not the head, Take comfort to heart if a token Be given them of comfort to be: While darkness on earth is unbroken, Light lives on the sea.

PRINTED BY SPOTTISWOODE, BALLANTYNE AND CO. LTD.

LONDON, COLCHESTER AND ETON

THE END

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