Algernon Charles Swinburne

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

Laus Veneris

Asleep or waking is it? for her neck, 
Kissed over close, wears yet a purple speck 
Wherein the pained blood falters and goes out; 
Soft, and stung softly ? fairer for a fleck. 

But though my lips shut sucking on the place, 
There is no vein at work upon her face; 
Her eyelids are so peaceable, no doubt 
Deep sleep has warmed her blood through all its ways. 

Lo, this is she that was the world's delight; 
The old grey years were parcels of her might; 
The strewings of the ways wherein she trod 
Were the twain seasons of the day and night. 

Lo, she was thus when her clear limbs enticed 
All lips that now grow sad with kissing Christ, 
Stained with blood fallen from the feet of God, 
The feet and hands whereat our souls were priced. 

Alas, Lord, surely thou art great and fair. 
But lo her wonderfully woven hair! 
And thou didst heal us with thy piteous kiss; 
But see now, Lord; her mouth is lovelier. 

She is right fair; what hath she done to thee? 
Nay, fair Lord Christ, lift up thine eyes and see; 
Had now thy mother such a lip ? like this? 
Thou knowest how sweet a thing it is to me. 

Inside the Horsel here the air is hot; 
Right little peace one hath for it, God wot; 
The scented dusty daylight burns the air, 
And my heart chokes me till I hear it not. 

Behold, my Venus, my soul's body, lies 
With my love laid upon her garment-wise, 
Feeling my love in all her limbs and hair 
And shed between her eyelids through her eyes. 

She holds my heart in her sweet open hands 
Hanging asleep; hard by her head there stands, 
Crowned with gilt thorns and clothed with flesh like fire, 
Love, wan as foam blown up the salt burnt sands ? 

Hot as the brackish waifs of yellow spume 
That shift and steam ? loose clots of arid fume 
From the sea's panting mouth of dry desire; 
There stands he, like one labouring at a loom. 

The warp holds fast across; and every thread 
That makes the woof up has dry specks of red; 
Always the shuttle cleaves clean through, and he 
Weaves with the hair of many a ruined head. 

Love is not glad nor sorry, as I deem; 
Labouring he dreams, and labours in the dream, 
Till when the spool is finished, lo I see 
His web, reeled off, curls and goes out like steam. 

Night falls like fire; the heavy lights run low, 
And as they drop, my blood and body so 
Shake as the flame shakes, full of days and hours 
That sleep not neither weep they as they go. 

Ah yet would God this flesh of mine might be 
Where air might wash and long leaves cover me, 
Where tides of grass break into foam of flowers, 
Or where the wind's feet shine along the sea. 

Ah yet would God that stems and roots were bred 
Out of my weary body and my head, 
That sleep were sealed upon me with a seal, 
And I were as the least of all his dead. 

Would God my blood were dew to feed the grass, 
Mine ears made deaf and mine eyes blind as glass, 
My body broken as a turning wheel, 
And my mouth stricken ere it saith Alas! 

Ah God, that love were as a flower or flame, 
That life were as the naming of a name, 
That death were not more pitiful than desire, 
That these things were not one thing and the same! 

Behold now, surely somewhere there is death: 
For each man hath some space of years, he saith, 
A little space of time ere time expire, 
A little day, a little way of breath. 

And lo, between the sundawn and the sun, 
His day's work and his night's work are undone; 
And lo, between the nightfall and the light, 
He is not, and none knoweth of such an one. 

Ah God, that I were as all souls that be, 
As any herb or leaf of any tree, 
As men that toil through hours of labouring night, 
As bones of men under the deep sharp sea. 

Outside it must be winter among men; 
For at the gold bars of the gates again 
I heard all night and all the hours of it 
The wind's wet wings and fingers drip with rain. 

Knights gather, riding sharp for cold; I know 
The ways and woods are strangled with the snow; 
And with short song the maidens spin and sit 
Until Christ's birthnight, lily-like, arow. 

The scent and shadow shed about me make 
The very soul in all my senses ache; 
The hot hard night is fed upon my breath, 
And sleep beholds me from afar awake. 

Alas, but surely where the hills grow deep, 
Or where the wild ways of the sea are steep, 
Or in strange places somewhere there is death, 
And on death's face the scattered hair of sleep. 

There lover-like with lips and limbs that meet 
They lie, they pluck sweet fruit of life and eat; 
But me the hot and hungry days devour, 
And in my mou