Algernon Charles Swinburne

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


Between the wave-ridge and the strand
I let you forth in sight of land,
 Songs that with storm-crossed wings and eyes
 Strain eastward till the darkness dies;
Let signs and beacons fall or stand,
 And stars and balefires set and rise;
Ye, till some lordlier lyric hand
 Weave the beloved brows their crown,
 At the beloved feet lie down.

O, whatsoever of life or light
Love hath to give you, what of might
 Or heart or hope is yours to live,
 I charge you take in trust to give
For very love's sake, in whose sight,
 Through poise of hours alternative
And seasons plumed with light or night,
 Ye live and move and have your breath
 To sing with on the ridge of death.

I charge you faint not all night through
For love's sake that was breathed on you
 To be to you as wings and feet
 For travel, and as blood to heat
And sense of spirit to renew
 And bloom of fragrance to keep sweet
And fire of purpose to keep true
 The life, if life in such things be,
 That I would give you forth of me.

Out where the breath of war may bear,
Out in the rank moist reddened air
 That sounds and smells of death, and hath
 No light but death's upon its path
Seen through the black wind's tangled hair,
 I send you past the wild time's wrath
To find his face who bade you bear
 Fruit of his seed to faith and love,
 That he may take the heart thereof.

By day or night, by sea or street,
Fly till ye find and clasp his feet
 And kiss as worshippers who bring
 Too much love on their lips to sing,
But with hushed heads accept and greet
 The presence of some heavenlier thing
In the near air; so may ye meet
 His eyes, and droop not utterly
 For shame's sake at the light you see.

Not utterly struck spiritless
For shame's sake and unworthiness
 Of these poor forceless hands that come
 Empty, these lips that should be dumb,
This love whose seal can but impress
 These weak word-offerings wearisome
Whose blessings have not strength to bless
 Nor lightnings fire to burn up aught
 Nor smite with thunders of their thought.

One thought they have, even love; one light,
Truth, that keeps clear the sun by night;
 One chord, of faith as of a lyre;
 One heat, of hope as of a fire;
One heart, one music, and one might,
 One flame, one altar, and one choir;
And one man's living head in sight
 Who said, when all time's sea was foam,
 "Let there be Rome"--and there was Rome.

As a star set in space for token
Like a live word of God's mouth spoken,
 Visible sound, light audible,
 In the great darkness thick as hell
A stanchless flame of love unsloken,
 A sign to conquer and compel,
A law to stand in heaven unbroken
 Whereby the sun shines, and wherethrough
 Time's eldest empires are made new;

So rose up on our generations
That light of the most ancient nations,
 Law, life, and light, on the world's way,
 The very God of very day,
The sun-god; from their star-like stations
 Far down the night in disarray
Fled, crowned with fires of tribulations,
 The suns of sunless years, whose light
 And life and law were of the night.

The naked kingdoms quenched and stark
Drave with their dead things down the dark,
 Helmless; their whole world, throne by throne,
 Fell, and its whole heart turned to stone,
Hopeless; their hands that touched our ark
 Withered; and lo, aloft, alone,
On time's white waters man's one bark,
 Where the red sundawn's open eye
 Lit the soft gulf of low green sky.

So for a season piloted
It sailed the sunlight, and struck red
 With fire of dawn reverberate
 The wan face of incumbent fate
That paused half pitying overhead
 And almost had foregone the freight
Of those dark hours the next day bred
 For shame, and almost had forsworn
 Service of night for love of morn.

Then broke the whole night in one blow,
Thundering; then all hell with one throe
 Heaved, and brought forth beneath the stroke
 Death; and all dead things moved and woke
That the dawn's arrows had brought low,
 At the great sound of night that broke
Thundering, and all the old world-wide woe;
 And under night's loud-sounding dome
 Men sought her, and she was not Rome.

Still with blind hands and robes blood-wet
Night hangs on heaven, reluctant yet,
 With black blood dripping from her eyes
 On the soiled lintels of the skies,
With brows and lips that thirst and threat,
 Heart-sick with fear lest the sun rise,
And aching with her fires that set,
 And shuddering ere dawn bursts her bars,
 Burns out with all her beaten stars.

In this black wind of war they fly
Now, ere that hour be in the sky
 That brings back hope, and memory back,
 And light and law to lands that lack;
That spiritual sweet hour whe