Algernon Charles Swinburne

Here you will find the Long Poem Christmas Antiphones of poet Algernon Charles Swinburne

Christmas Antiphones

I -- In Church

Thou whose birth on earth
 Angels sang to men,
While thy stars made mirth,
Saviour, at thy birth,
 This day born again;

As this night was bright
 With thy cradle-ray,
Very light of light,
Turn the wild world's night
 To thy perfect day.

God whose feet made sweet
 Those wild ways they trod,
From thy fragrant feet
Staining field and street
 With the blood of God;

God whose breast is rest
 In the time of strife,
In thy secret breast
Sheltering souls opprest
 From the heat of life;

God whose eyes are skies
 Love-lit as with spheres
By the lights that rise
To thy watching eyes,
 Orbed lights of tears;

God whose heart hath part
 In all grief that is,
Was not man's the dart
That went through thine heart,
 And the wound not his?

Where the pale souls wail,
 Held in bonds of death,
Where all spirits quail,
Came thy Godhead pale
 Still from human breath -

Pale from life and strife,
 Wan with manhood, came
Forth of mortal life,
Pierced as with a knife,
 Scarred as with a flame.

Thou the Word and Lord
 In all time and space
Heard, beheld, adored,
With all ages poured
 Forth before thy face,

Lord, what worth in earth
 Drew thee down to die?
What therein was worth,
Lord, thy death and birth?
 What beneath thy sky?

Light above all love
 By thy love was lit,
And brought down the Dove
Feathered from above
 With the wings of it.

From the height of night,
 Was not thine the star
That led forth with might
By no worldly light
 Wise men from afar?

Yet the wise men's eyes
 Saw thee not more clear
Than they saw thee rise
Who in shepherd's guise
 Drew as poor men near.

Yet thy poor endure,
 And are with us yet;
Be thy name a sure
Refuge for thy poor
 Whom men's eyes forget.

Thou whose ways we praised,
 Clear alike and dark,
Keep our works and ways
This and all thy days
 Safe inside thine ark.

Who shall keep thy sheep,
 Lord, and lose not one?
Who save one shall keep,
Lest the shepherds sleep?
 Who beside the Son?

From the grave-deep wave,
 From the sword and flame,
Thou, even thou, shalt save
Souls of king and slave
 Only by thy Name.

Light not born with morn
 Or her fires above,
Jesus virgin-born,
Held of men in scorn,
 Turn their scorn to love.

Thou whose face gives grace
 As the sun's doth heat,
Let thy sunbright face
Lighten time and space
 Here beneath thy feet.

Bid our peace increase,
 Thou that madest morn;
Bid oppressions cease;
Bid the night be peace;
 Bid the day be born.


We whose days and ways
 All the night makes dark,
What day shall we praise
Of these weary days
 That our life-drops mark?

We whose mind is blind,
 Fed with hope of nought;
Wastes of worn mankind,
Without heart or mind,
 Without meat or thought;

We with strife of life
 Worn till all life cease,
Want, a whetted knife,
Sharpening strife on strife,
 How should we love peace?

Ye whose meat is sweet
 And your wine-cup red,
Us beneath your feet
Hunger grinds as wheat,
 Grinds to make you bread.

Ye whose night is bright
 With soft rest and heat,
Clothed like day with light,
Us the naked night
 Slays from street to street.

Hath your God no rod,
 That ye tread so light?
Man on us as God,
God as man hath trod,
 Trod us down with might.

We that one by one
 Bleed from either's rod.
What for us hath done
Man beneath the sun,
 What for us hath God?

We whose blood is food
 Given your wealth to feed,
From the Christless rood
Red with no God's blood,
 But with man's indeed;

How shall we that see
 Nightlong overhead
Life, the flowerless tree,
Nailed whereon as we
 Were our fathers dead -

We whose ear can hear,
 Not whose tongue can name,
Famine, ignorance, fear,
Bleeding tear by tear
 Year by year of shame,

Till the dry life die
 Out of bloodless breast,
Out of beamless eye,
Out of mouths that cry
 Till death feed with rest -

How shall we as ye,
 Though ye bid us, pray?
Though ye call, can we
Hear you call, or see,
 Though ye show us day?

We whose name is shame,
 We whose souls walk bare,
Shall we call the same
God as ye by name,
 Teach our lips your prayer?

God, forgive and give,
 For His sake who died?
Nay, for ours who live,
How shall we forgive
 Thee, then, on our side?

We whose right to light
 Heaven's high noon denies,
Whom the blind beams smite
That for you shine bright,
 And but burn our eyes,

With what dreams of beams
 Shall we build up day,
At what sourceles