List Of Contents | Contents of Songs before Sunrise, by Swinburne
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ph Mazzini
The Eve of Revolution
A watch in the Night
Super Flumina Babylonis
The halt before Rome
Mentana:  First Anniversary
Blessed among Women
The Litany of Nations
Before a crucifix
Hymn of man
The pilgrims
Armand Barbes
Quia Multum Amavit
To Walt Whitman in America
Christmas Antiphones
A New Year's Message
Mater Dolorosa
Mater Triumphalis
A Marching Song
Cor Cordium
In San Lorenzo
The Song of the Standard
On the Downs
Ode on the Insurrection in Candia
"Non Dolet"
An Appeal
Perinde ac Cadaver
The Oblation
A Year's Burden


Take, since you bade it should bear,
   These, of the seed of your sowing,
      Blossom or berry or weed.
Sweet though they be not, or fair,
   That the dew of your word kept growing,
      Sweet at least was the seed.

Men bring you love-offerings of tears,
   And sorrow the kiss that assuages,
      And slaves the hate-offering of wrongs,
And time the thanksgiving of years,
   And years the thanksgiving of ages;
      I bring you my handful of songs.

If a perfume be left, if a bloom,
   Let it live till Italia be risen,
      To be strewn in the dust of her car
When her voice shall awake from the tomb
   England, and France from her prison,
      Sisters, a star by a star.

I bring you the sword of a song,
   The sword of my spirit's desire,
      Feeble; but laid at your feet,
That which was weak shall be strong,
   That which was cold shall take fire,
      That which was bitter be sweet.

It was wrought not with hands to smite,
   Nor hewn after swordsmiths' fashion,
      Nor tempered on anvil of steel;
But with visions and dreams of the night,
   But with hope, and the patience of passion,
      And the signet of love for a seal.

Be it witness, till one more strong,
   Till a loftier lyre, till a rarer
      Lute praise her better than I,
Be it witness before you, my song,
   That I knew her, the world's banner-bearer,
      Who shall cry the republican cry.

Yea, even she as at first,
   Yea, she alone and none other,
      Shall cast down, shall build up, shall bring home;
Slake earth's hunger and thirst,
   Lighten, and lead as a mother;
      First name of the world's names, Rome.


Between the green bud and the red
Youth sat and sang by Time, and shed
   From eyes and tresses flowers and tears,
   From heart and spirit hopes and fears,
Upon the hollow stream whose bed
   Is channelled by the foamless years;
And with the white the gold-haired head
   Mixed running locks, and in Time's ears
Youth's dreams hung singing, and Time's truth
Was half not harsh in the ears of Youth.

Between the bud and the blown flower
Youth talked with joy and grief an hour,
   With footless joy and wingless grief
   And twin-born faith and disbelief
Who share the seasons to devour;
   And long ere these made up their sheaf
Felt the winds round him shake and shower
   The rose-red and the blood-red leaf,
Delight whose germ grew never grain,
And passion dyed in its own pain.

Then he stood up, and trod to dust
Fear and desire, mistrust and trust,
   And dreams of bitter sleep and sweet,
   And bound for sandals on his feet
Knowledge and patience of what must
   And what things may be, in the heat
And cold of years that rot and rust
   And alter; and his spirit's meat
Was freedom, and his staff was wrought
Of strength, and his cloak woven of thought.

For what has he whose will sees clear
To do with doubt and faith and fear,
   Swift hopes and slow despondencies?
   His heart is equal with the sea's
And with the sea-wind's, and his ear
   Is level to the speech of these,
And his soul communes and takes cheer
   With the actual earth's equalities,
Air, light, and night, hills, winds, and streams,
And seeks not strength from strengthless dreams.

His soul is even with the sun
Whose spirit and whose eye are one,
   Who seeks not stars by day, nor light
   And heavy heat of day by night.
Him can no God cast down, whom none
   Can lift in hope beyond the height
Of fate and nature and things done
   By the calm rule of might and right
That bids men be and bear and do,
And die beneath blind skies or blue.

To him the lights of even and morn
Speak no vain things of love or scorn,
   Fancies and passions miscreate
   By man in things dispassionate.
Nor holds he fellowship forlorn
   With souls that pray and hope and hate,
And doubt they had better not been born,
   And fain would lure or scare off fate
And charm their doomsman from their doom
And make fear dig its own false tomb.

He builds not half of doubts and half
Of dreams his own soul's cenotaph,
   Whence hopes and fears with helpless eyes,
   Wrapt loose in cast-off cerecloths, rise
And dance and wring their hands and laugh,
   And weep thin tears and sigh light sighs,
And without living lips would quaff
   The living spring in man that lies,
And drain his soul of faith and strength
It might have lived on a life's length.

He hath given himself and hath not sold
To God for heaven or man for gold,
   Or grief for comfort that it gives,
   Or joy for grief's restoratives.
He hath given himself to time, whose fold
   Shuts in the mortal flock that lives
On its plain pasture's heat and cold
   And the equal year's alternatives.
Earth, heaven, and time, death, life, and he,
Endure while they shall be to be.

"Yet between death and life are hours
To flush with love and hide in flowers;
   What profit save in these?" men cry:
   "Ah, see, between soft earth and sky,
What only good things here are ours!"
   They say, "what better wouldst thou try,
What sweeter sing of? or what powers
   Serve, that will give thee ere thou die
More joy to sing and be less sad,
More heart to play and grow more glad?"

Play then and sing; we too have played,
We likewise, in that subtle shade.
   We too have twisted through our hair
   Such tendrils as the wild Loves wear,
And heard what mirth the Maenads made,
   Till the wind blew our garlands bare
And left their roses disarrayed,
   And smote the summer with strange air,
And disengirdled and discrowned
The limbs and locks that vine-wreaths bound.

We too have tracked by star-proof trees
The tempest of the Thyiades
   Scare the loud night on hills that hid
   The blood-feasts of the Bassarid,
Heard their song's iron cadences
   Fright the wolf hungering from the kid,
Outroar the lion-throated seas,
   Outchide the north-wind if it chid,
And hush the torrent-tongued ravines
With thunders of their tambourines.

But the fierce flute whose notes acclaim
Dim goddesses of fiery fame,
   Cymbal and clamorous kettledrum,
   Timbrels and tabrets, all are dumb
That turned the high chill air to flame;
   The singing tongues of fire are numb
That called on Cotys by her name
   Edonian, till they felt her come
And maddened, and her mystic face
Lightened along the streams of Thrace.

For Pleasure slumberless and pale,
And Passion with rejected veil,
   Pass, and the tempest-footed throng
   Of hours that follow them with song
Till their feet flag and voices fail,
   And lips that were so loud so long
Learn silence, or a wearier wail;
   So keen is change, and time so strong,
To weave the robes of life and rend
And weave again till life have end.

But weak is change, but strengthless time,
To take the light from heaven, or climb
   The hills of heaven with wasting feet.
   Songs they can stop that earth found meet,
But the stars keep their ageless rhyme;
   Flowers they can slay that spring thought sweet,
But the stars keep their spring sublime;
   Passions and pleasures can defeat,
Actions and agonies control,
And life and death, but not the soul.

Because man's soul is man's God still,
What wind soever waft his will
   Across the waves of day and night
   To port or shipwreck, left or right,
By shores and shoals of good and ill;
   And still its flame at mainmast height
Through the rent air that foam-flakes fill
   Sustains the indomitable light
Whence only man hath strength to steer
Or helm to handle without fear.

Save his own soul's light overhead,
None leads him, and none ever led,
   Across birth's hidden harbour-bar,
   Past youth where shoreward shallows are,
Through age that drives on toward the red
   Vast void of sunset hailed from far,
To the equal waters of the dead;
   Save his own soul he hath no star,
And sinks, except his own soul guide,
Helmless in middle turn of tide.

No blast of air or fire of sun
Puts out the light whereby we run
   With girded loins our lamplit race,
   And each from each takes heart of grace
And spirit till his turn be done,
   And light of face from each man's face
In whom the light of trust is one;
   Since only souls that keep their place
By their own light, and watch things roll,
And stand, have light for any soul.

A little time we gain from time
To set our seasons in some chime,
   For harsh or sweet or loud or low,
   With seasons played out long ago
And souls that in their time and prime
   Took part with summer or with snow,
Lived abject lives out or sublime,
   And had their chance of seed to sow
For service or disservice done
To those days daed and this their son.

A little time that we may fill
Or with such good works or such ill
   As loose the bonds or make them strong
   Wherein all manhood suffers wrong.
By rose-hung river and light-foot rill
   There are who rest not; who think long
Till they discern as from a hill
   At the sun's hour of morning song,
Known of souls only, and those souls free,
The sacred spaces of the sea.



The trumpets of the four winds of the world
   From the ends of the earth blow battle; the night heaves,
With breasts palpitating and wings refurled,
   With passion of couched limbs, as one who grieves
Sleeping, and in her sleep she sees uncurled
   Dreams serpent-shapen, such as sickness weaves,
Down the wild wind of vision caught and whirled,
   Dead leaves of sleep, thicker than autumn leaves,
         Shadows of storm-shaped things,
         Flights of dim tribes of kings,
   The reaping men that reap men for their sheaves,
         And, without grain to yield,
         Their scythe-swept harvest-field
   Thronged thick with men pursuing and fugitives,
      Dead foliage of the tree of sleep,
Leaves blood-coloured and golden, blown from deep to deep.


I hear the midnight on the mountains cry
   With many tongues of thunders, and I hear
Sound and resound the hollow shield of sky
   With trumpet-throated winds that charge and cheer,
And through the roar of the hours that fighting fly,
   Through flight and fight and all the fluctuant fear,
A sound sublimer than the heavens are high,
   A voice more instant than the winds are clear,
         Say to my spirit, "Take
         Thy trumpet too, and make
   A rallying music in the void night's ear,
         Till the storm lose its track,
         And all the night go back;
   Till, as through sleep false life knows true life near,
      Thou know the morning through the night,
And through the thunder silence, and through darkness light."


I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
   The height of night is shaken, the skies break,
The winds and stars and waters come and go
   By fits of breath and light and sound, that wake
As out of sleep, and perish as the show
   Built up of sleep, when all her strengths forsake
The sense-compelling spirit; the depths glow,
   The heights flash, and the roots and summits shake
         Of earth in all her mountains,
         And the inner foamless fountains
   And wellsprings of her fast-bound forces quake;
         Yea, the whole air of life
         Is set on fire of strife,
   Till change unmake things made and love remake;
      Reason and love, whose names are one,
Seeing reason is the sunlight shed from love the sun.


The night is broken eastward; is it day,
   Or but the watchfires trembling here and there,
Like hopes on memory's devastated way,
   In moonless wastes of planet-stricken air?
O many-childed mother great and grey,
   O multitudinous bosom, and breasts that bare
Our fathers' generations, whereat lay
   The weanling peoples and the tribes that were,
         Whose new-born mouths long dead
         Those ninefold nipples fed,
   Dim face with deathless eyes and withered hair,
         Fostress of obscure lands,
         Whose multiplying hands
   Wove the world's web with divers races fair
      And cast it waif-wise on the stream,
The waters of the centuries, where thou sat'st to dream;


O many-minded mother and visionary,
   Asia, that sawest their westering waters sweep
With all the ships and spoils of time to carry
   And all the fears and hopes of life to keep,
Thy vesture wrought of ages legendary
   Hides usward thine impenetrable sleep,
And thy veiled head, night's oldest tributary,
   We know not if it speak or smile or weep.
         But where for us began
         The first live light of man
   And first-born fire of deeds to burn and leap,
         The first war fair as peace
         To shine and lighten Greece,
   And the first freedom moved upon the deep,
      God's breath upon the face of time
Moving, a present spirit, seen of men sublime;


There where our east looks always to thy west,
   Our mornings to thine evenings, Greece to thee,
These lights that catch the mountains crest by crest,
   Are they of stars or beacons that we see?
Taygetus takes here the winds abreast,
   And there the sun resumes Thermopylae;
The light is Athens where those remnants rest,
   And Salamis the sea-wall of that sea.
         The grass men tread upon
         Is very Marathon,
   The leaves are of that time-unstricken tree
         That storm nor sun can fret
         Nor wind, since she that set
   Made it her sign to men whose shield was she;
      Here, as dead time his deathless things,
Eurotas and Cephisus keep their sleepless springs.


O hills of Crete, are these things dead?  O waves,
   O many-mouthed streams, are these springs dry?
Earth, dost thou feed and hide now none but slaves?
   Heaven, hast thou heard of men that would not die?
Is the land thick with only such men's graves
   As were ashamed to look upon the sky?
Ye dead, whose name outfaces and outbraves
   Death, is the seed of such as you gone by?
         Sea, have thy ports not heard
         Some Marathonian word
   Rise up to landward and to Godward fly?
         No thunder, that the skies
         Sent not upon us, rise
   With fire and earthquake and a cleaving cry?
      Nay, light is here, and shall be light,
Though all the face of the hour be overborne with night.


I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
   The night is broken northward; the pale plains
And footless fields of sun-forgotten snow
   Feel through their creviced lips and iron veins
Such quick breath labour and such clean blood flow
   As summer-stricken spring feels in her pains

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