List Of Contents | Contents of Songs before Sunrise, by Swinburne
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We keep one watch for one same face
To rise in some short sacred space.


And all space midway is but nought
To keep true heart from faithful thought,
As under twilight stars we wait
By Time's shut gate
Till the slow soundless hinges turn,
And through the depth of years that yearn
The face of the Republic burn.



Citoyen, lui dit Enjoiras, ma mere, c'est la Republique.
Les Miserables.

Who is this that sits by the way, by the wild wayside,
In a rent stained raiment, the robe of a cast-off bride,
In the dust, in the rainfall sitting, with soiled feet bare,
With the night for a garment upon her, with torn wet hair?
She is fairer of face than the daughters of men, and her eyes,
Worn through with her tears, are deep as the depth of skies.

This is she for whose sake being fallen, for whose abject sake,
Earth groans in the blackness of darkness, and men's hearts break.
This is she for whose love, having seen her, the men that were
Poured life out as water, and shed their souls upon air.
This is she for whose glory their years were counted as foam;
Whose face was a light upon Greece, was a fire upon Rome.

Is it now not surely a vain thing, a foolish and vain,
To sit down by her, mourn to her, serve her, partake in the pain?
She is grey with the dust of time on his manifold ways,
Where her faint feet stumble and falter through year-long days.
Shall she help us at all, O fools, give fruit or give fame,
Who herself is a name despised, a rejected name?

We have not served her for guerdon.  If any do so,
That his mouth may be sweet with such honey, we care not to know.
We have drunk from a wine-unsweetened, a perilous cup,
A draught very bitter.  The kings of the earth stood up,
And the rulers took counsel together, to smite her and slay;
And the blood of her wounds is given us to drink today.

Can these bones live? or the leaves that are dead leaves bud?
Or the dead blood drawn from her veins be in your veins blood?
Will ye gather up water again that was drawn and shed?
In the blood is the life of the veins, and her veins are dead.
For the lives that are over are over, and past things past;
She had her day, and it is not; was first, and is last.

Is it nothing unto you then, all ye that pass by,
If her breath be left in her lips, if she live now or die?
Behold now, O people, and say if she be not fair,
Whom your fathers followed to find her, with praise and prayer,
And rejoiced, having found her, though roof they had none nor bread;
But ye care not; what is it to you if her day be dead?

It was well with our fathers; their sound was in all men's lands;
There was fire in their hearts, and the hunger of fight in their
Naked and strong they went forth in her strength like flame,
For her love's and her name's sake of old, her republican name.
But their children, by kings made quiet, by priests made wise,
Love better the heat of their hearths than the light of her eyes.

Are they children of these thy children indeed, who have sold,
O golden goddess, the light of thy face for gold?
Are they sons indeed of the sons of thy dayspring of hope,
Whose lives are in fief of an emperor, whose souls of a Pope?
Hide then thine head, O beloved; thy time is done;
Thy kingdom is broken in heaven, and blind thy sun.

What sleep is upon you, to dream she indeed shall rise,
When the hopes are dead in her heart as the tears in her eyes?
If ye sing of her dead, will she stir? if ye weep for her, weep?
Come away now, leave her; what hath she to do but sleep?
But ye that mourn are alive, and have years to be;
And life is good, and the world is wiser than we.

Yea, wise is the world and mighty, with years to give,
And years to promise; but how long now shall it live?
And foolish and poor is faith, and her ways are bare,
Till she find the way of the sun, and the morning air.
In that hour shall this dead face shine as the face of the sun,
And the soul of man and her soul and the world's be one.


Mother of man's time-travelling generations,
   Breath of his nostrils, heartblood of his heart,
God above all Gods worshipped of all nations,
   Light above light, law beyond law, thou art.

Thy face is as a sword smiting in sunder
   Shadows and chains and dreams and iron things;
The sea is dumb before thy face, the thunder
   Silent, the skies are narrower than thy wings.

Angels and Gods, spirit and sense, thou takest
   In thy right hand as drops of dust or dew;
The temples and the towers of time thou breakest,
   His thoughts and words and works, to make them new.

All we have wandered from thy ways, have hidden
   Eyes from thy glory and ears from calls they heard;
Called of thy trumpets vainly, called and chidden,
   Scourged of thy speech and wounded of thy word.

We have known thee and have not known thee; stood beside thee,
   Felt thy lips breathe, set foot where thy feet trod,
Loved and renounced and worshipped and denied thee,
   As though thou wert but as another God,

"One hour for sleep," we said, "and yet one other;
   All day we served her, and who shall serve by night?"
Not knowing of thee, thy face not knowing, O mother,
   O light wherethrough the darkness is as light.

Men that forsook thee hast thou not forsaken,
   Races of men that knew not hast thou known;
Nations that slept thou hast doubted not to waken,
   Worshippers of strange Gods to make thine own.

All old grey histories hiding thy clear features,
   O secret spirit and sovereign, all men's tales,
Creeds woven of men thy children and thy creatures,
   They have woven for vestures of thee and for veils.

Thine hands, without election or exemption,
   Feed all men fainting from false peace or strife,
O thou, the resurrection and redemption,
   The godhead and the manhood and the life.

Thy wings shadow the waters; thine eyes lighten
   The horror of the hollows of the night;
The depths of the earth and the dark places brighten
   Under thy feet, whiter than fire is white.

Death is subdued to thee, and hell's bands broken;
   Where thou art only is heaven; who hears not thee,
Time shall not hear him; when men's names are spoken,
   A nameless sign of death shall his name be.

Deathless shall be the death, the name be nameless;
   Sterile of stars his twilight time of breath;
With fire of hell shall shame consume him shameless,
   And dying, all the night darken his death.

The years are as thy garments, the world's ages
   As sandals bound and loosed from thy swift feet;
Time serves before thee, as one that hath for wages
   Praise or shame only, bitter words or sweet.

Thou sayest "Well done," and all a century kindles;
   Again thou sayest "Depart from sight of me,"
And all the light of face of all men dwindles,
   And the age is as the broken glass of thee.

The night is as a seal set on men's faces,
   On faces fallen of men that take no light,
Nor give light in the deeps of the dark places,
   Blind things, incorporate with the body of night.

Their souls are serpents winterbound and frozen,
   Their shame is as a tame beast, at their feet
Couched; their cold lips deride thee and thy chosen,
   Their lying lips made grey with dust for meat.

Then when their time is full and days run over,
   The splendour of thy sudden brow made bare
Darkens the morning; thy bared hands uncover
   The veils of light and night and the awful air.

And the world naked as a new-born maiden
   Stands virginal and splendid as at birth,
With all thine heaven of all its light unladen,
   Of all its love unburdened all thine earth.

For the utter earth and the utter air of heaven
   And the extreme depth is thine and the extreme height;
Shadows of things and veils of ages riven
   Are as men's kings unkingdomed in thy sight.

Through the iron years, the centuries brazen-gated,
   By the ages' barred impenetrable doors,
From the evening to the morning have we waited,
   Should thy foot haply sound on the awful floors.

The floors untrodden of the sun's feet glimmer,
   The star-unstricken pavements of the night;
Do the lights burn inside? the lights wax dimmer
   On festal faces withering out of sight.

The crowned heads lose the light on them; it may be
   Dawn is at hand to smite the loud feast dumb;
To blind the torch-lit centuries till the day be,
   The feasting kingdoms till thy kingdom come.

Shall it not come? deny they or dissemble,
   Is it not even as lightning from on high
Now? and though many a soul close eyes and tremble,
   How should they tremble at all who love thee as I?

I am thine harp between thine hands, O mother!
   All my strong chords are strained with love of thee.
We grapple in love and wrestle, as each with other
   Wrestle the wind and the unreluctant sea.

I am no courtier of thee sober-suited,
   Who loves a little for a little pay.
Me not thy winds and storms nor thrones disrooted
   Nor molten crowns nor thine own sins dismay.

Sinned hast thou sometime, therefore art thou sinless;
   Stained hast thou been, who art therefore without stain;
Even as man's soul is kin to thee, but kinless
   Thou, in whose womb Time sows the all-various grain.

I do not bid thee spare me, O dreadful mother!
   I pray thee that thou spare not, of thy grace.
How were it with me then, if ever another
   Should come to stand before thee in this my place?

I am the trumpet at thy lips, thy clarion
   Full of thy cry, sonorous with thy breath;
The graves of souls born worms and creeds grown carrion
   Thy blast of judgment fills with fires of death.

Thou art the player whose organ-keys are thunders,
   And I beneath thy foot the pedal prest;
Thou art the ray whereat the rent night sunders,
   And I the cloudlet borne upon thy breast.

I shall burn up before thee, pass and perish,
   As haze in sunrise on the red sea-line;
But thou from dawn to sunsetting shalt cherish
   The thoughts that led and souls that lighted mine.

Reared between night and noon and truth and error,
   Each twilight-travelling bird that trills and screams
Sickens at midday, nor can face for terror
   The imperious heaven's inevitable extremes.

I have no spirit of skill with equal fingers
   At sign to sharpen or to slacken strings;
I keep no time of song with gold-perched singers
   And chirp of linnets on the wrists of kings.

I am thy storm-thrush of the days that darken,
   Thy petrel in the foam that bears thy bark
To port through night and tempest; if thou hearken,
   My voice is in thy heaven before the lark.

My song is in the mist that hides thy morning,
   My cry is up before the day for thee;
I have heard thee and beheld thee and give warning,
   Before thy wheels divide the sky and sea.

Birds shall wake with thee voiced and feathered fairer,
   To see in summer what I see in spring;
I have eyes and heart to endure thee, O thunder-bearer,
   And they shall be who shall have tongues to sing.

I have love at least, and have not fear, and part not
   From thine unnavigable and wingless way;
Thou tarriest, and I have not said thou art not,
   Nor all thy night long have denied thy day.

Darkness to daylight shall lift up thy paean,
   Hill to hill thunder, vale cry back to vale,
With wind-notes as of eagles AEschylean,
   And Sappho singing in the nightingale.

Sung to by mighty sons of dawn and daughters,
   Of this night's songs thine ear shall keep but one;
That supreme song which shook the channelled waters,
   And called thee skyward as God calls the sun.

Come, though all heaven again be fire above thee;
   Though death before thee come to clear thy sky;
Let us but see in his thy face who love thee;
   Yea, though thou slay us, arise and let us die.


      We mix from many lands,
         We march for very far;
      In hearts and lips and hands
         Our staffs and weapons are;
The light we walk in darkens sun and moon and star.

      It doth not flame and wane
         With years and spheres that roll,
      Storm cannot shake nor stain
         The strength that makes it whole,
The fire that moulds and moves it of the sovereign soul.

      We are they that have to cope
         With time till time retire;
      We live on hopeless hope,
         We feed on tears and fire;
Time, foot by foot, gives back before our sheer desire.

      From the edge of harsh derision,
         From discord and defeat,
      From doubt and lame division,
         We pluck the fruit and eat;
And the mouth finds it bitter, and the spirit sweet.

      We strive with time at wrestling
         Till time be on our side
      And hope, our plumeless nestling,
         A full-fledged eaglet ride
Down the loud length of storm its windward wings divide.

      We are girt with our belief,
         Clothed with our will and crowned;
      Hope, fear, delight, and grief,
         Before our will give ground;
Their calls are in our ears as shadows of dead sound.

      All but the heart forsakes us,
         All fails us but the will;
      Keen treason tracks and takes us
         In pits for blood to fill;
Friend falls from friend, and faith for faith lays wait to kill.

      Out under moon and stars
         And shafts of the urgent sun
      Whose face on prison-bars
         And mountain-heads is one,
Our march is everlasting till time's march be done.

      Whither we know, and whence,
         And dare not care wherethrough.
      Desires that urge the sense,
         Fears changing old with new,
Perils and pains beset the ways we press into;

      Earth gives us thorns to tread,
         And all her thorns are trod;
      Through lands burnt black and red
         We pass with feet unshod;
Whence we would be man shall not keep us, nor man's God.

      Through the great desert beasts
         Howl at our backs by night,
      And thunder-forging priests
         Blow their dead bale-fires bright,
And on their broken anvils beat out bolts for fight.

      Inside their sacred smithies
         Though hot the hammer rings,
      Their steel links snap like withies,
         Their chains like twisted strings,
Their surest fetters are as plighted words of kings.

      O nations undivided,
         O single people and free,
      We dreamers, we derided,
         We mad blind men that see,
We bear you witness ere ye come that ye shall be.

      Ye sitting among tombs,
         Ye standing round the gate,
      Whom fire-mouthed war consumes,
         Or cold-lipped peace bids wait,
All tombs and bars shall open, every grave and grate.

      The locks shall burst in sunder,
         The hinges shrieking spin,
      When time, whose hand is thunder,
         Lays hand upon the pin,
And shoots the bolts reluctant, bidding all men in.

      These eyeless times and earless,
         Shall these not see and hear,
      And all their hearts burn fearless
         That were afrost for fear?
Is day not hard upon us, yea, not our day near?

      France! from its grey dejection
         Make manifest the red

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