List Of Contents | Contents of Songs before Sunrise, by Swinburne
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   The savour of heroic lives that were,
   Is it not mixed into thy common air?
The sense of them is shed about thee now:
   Feel not thy brows a wind blowing from far?
   Aches not thy forehead with a future star?

The light that thou may'st make out of thy name
   Is in the wind of this same hour that drives,
   Blown within reach but once of all men's lives;
And he that puts forth hand upon the flame
   Shall have it for a garland on his head
   To sign him for a king among the dead.

But these men that the lessening years behold,
   Who sit the most part without flame or crown,
   And brawl and sleep and wear their life-days down
With joys and griefs ignobler than of old,
   And care not if the better day shall be -
   Are these or art thou dead, Antigone?


As when one wakes out of a waning dream
   And sees with instant eyes the naked thought
   Whereof the vision as a web was wrought,
I saw beneath a heaven of cloud and gleam,
   Ere yet the heart of the young sun waxed brave,
   One like a prophet standing by a grave.

In the hoar heaven was hardly beam or breath,
   And all the coloured hills and fields were grey,
   And the wind wandered seeking for the day,
And wailed as though he had found her done to death
   And this grey hour had built to bury her
   The hollow twilight for a sepulchre.

But in my soul I saw as in a glass
   A pale and living body full of grace
   There lying, and over it the prophet's face
Fixed; and the face was not of Tiresias,
   For such a starry fire was in his eyes
   As though their light it was that made the skies.

Such eyes should God's have been when very love
   Looked forth of them and set the sun aflame,
   And such his lips that called the light by name
And bade the morning forth at sound thereof;
   His face was sad and masterful as fate,
   And like a star's his look compassionate.

Like a star's gazed on of sad eyes so long
   It seems to yearn with pity, and all its fire
   As a man's heart to tremble with desire
And heave as though the light would bring forth song;
   Yet from his face flashed lightning on the land,
   And like the thunder-bearer's was his hand.

The steepness of strange stairs had tired his feet,
   And his lips yet seemed sick of that salt bread
   Wherewith the lips of banishment are fed;
But nothing was there in the world so sweet
   As the most bitter love, like God's own grace,
   Wherewith he gazed on that fair buried face.

Grief and glad pride and passion and sharp shame,
   Wrath and remembrance, faith and hope and hate
   And pitiless pity of days degenerate,
Were in his eyes as an incorporate flame
   That burned about her, and the heart thereof
   And central flower was very fire of love.

But all about her grave wherein she slept
   Were noises of the wild wind-footed years
   Whose footprints flying were full of blood and tears,
Shrieks as of Maenads on their hills that leapt
   And yelled as beasts of ravin, and their meat
   Was the rent flesh of their own sons to eat:

And fiery shadows passing with strange cries,
   And Sphinx-like shapes about the ruined lands,
   And the red reek of parricidal hands
And intermixture of incestuous eyes,
   And light as of that self-divided flame
   Which made an end of the Cadmean name.

And I beheld again, and lo the grave,
   And the bright body laid therein as dead,
   And the same shadow across another head
That bowed down silent on that sleeping slave
   Who was the lady of empire from her birth
   And light of all the kingdoms of the earth.

Within the compass of the watcher's hand
   All strengths of other men and divers powers
   Were held at ease and gathered up as flowers;
His heart was as the heart of his whole land,
   And at his feet as natural servants lay
   Twilight and dawn and night and labouring day.

He was most awful of the sons of God.
   Even now men seeing seemed at his lips to see
   The trumpet of the judgment that should be,
And in his right hand terror for a rod,
   And in the breath that made the mountains bow
   The horned fire of Moses on his brow.

The strong wind of the coming of the Lord
   Had blown as flame upon him, and brought down
   On his bare head from heaven fire for a crown,
And fire was girt upon him as a sword
   To smite and lighten, and on what ways he trod
   There fell from him the shadow of a God.

Pale, with the whole world's judgment in his eyes,
   He stood and saw the grief and shame endure
   That he, though highest of angels might not cure,
And the same sins done under the same skies,
   And the same slaves to the same tyrants thrown,
   And fain he would have slept, and fain been stone.

But with unslumbering eyes he watched the sleep
   That sealed her sense whose eyes were suns of old;
   And the night shut and opened, and behold,
The same grave where those prophets came to weep,
   But she that lay therein had moved and stirred,
   And where those twain had watched her stood a third.

The tripled rhyme that closed in Paradise
   With Love's name sealing up its starry speech -
   The tripled might of hand that found in reach
All crowns beheld far off of all men's eyes,
   Song, colour, carven wonders of live stone -
   These were not, but the very soul alone.

The living spirit, the good gift of grace,
   The faith which takes of its own blood to give
   That the dead veins of buried hope may live,
Came on her sleeping, face to naked face,
   And from a soul more sweet than all the south
   Breathed love upon her sealed and breathless mouth.

Between her lips the breath was blown as fire,
   And through her flushed veins leapt the liquid life,
   And with sore passion and ambiguous strife
The new birth rent her and the new desire,
   The will to live, the competence to be,
   The sense to hearken and the soul to see.

And the third prophet standing by her grave
   Stretched forth his hand and touched her, and her eyes
   Opened as sudden suns in heaven might rise,
And her soul caught from his the faith to save;
   Faith above creeds, faith beyond records, born
   Of the pure, naked, fruitful, awful morn.

For in the daybreak now that night was dead
   The light, the shadow, the delight, the pain,
   The purpose and the passion of those twain,
Seemed gathered on that third prophetic head,
   And all their crowns were as one crown, and one
   His face with her face in the living sun.

For even with that communion of their eyes
   His whole soul passed into her and made her strong;
   And all the sounds and shows of shame and wrong,
The hand that slays, the lip that mocks and lies,
   Temples and thrones that yet men seem to see -
   Are these dead or art thou dead, Italy?


Maiden most beautiful, mother most bountiful, lady of lands,
Queen and republican, crowned of the centuries whose years are thy
See for thy sake what we bring to thee, Italy, here in our hands.

This is the banner thy gonfalon, fair in the front of thy fight,
Red from the hearts that were pierced for thee, white as thy
mountains are white,
Green as the spring of thy soul everlasting, whose life-blood is

Take to thy bosom thy banner, a fair bird fit for the nest,
Feathered for flight into sunrise or sunset, for eastward or west,
Fledged for the flight everlasting, but held yet warm to thy breast.

Gather it close to thee, song-bird or storm-bearer, eagle or dove,
Lift it to sunward, a beacon beneath to the beacon above,
Green as our hope in it, white as our faith in it, red as our love.

Thunder and splendour of lightning are hid in the folds of it furled;
Who shall unroll it but thou, as thy bolt to be handled and hurled,
Out of whose lips is the honey, whose bosom the milk of the world?

Out of thine hands hast thou fed us with pasture of colour and song;
Glory and beauty by birthright to thee as thy garments belong;
Out of thine hands thou shalt give us as surely deliverance from

Out of thine eyes thou hast shed on us love as a lamp in our night,
Wisdom a lodestar to ships, and remembrance a flame-coloured light;
Out of thine eyes thou shalt shew us as surely the sun-dawn of right.

Turn to us, speak to us, Italy, mother, but once and a word,
None shall not follow thee, none shall not serve thee, not one that
has heard;
Twice hast thou spoken a message, and time is athirst for the third.

Kingdom and empire of peoples thou hadst, and thy lordship made one
North sea and south sea and east men and west men that look on the
Spirit was in thee and counsel, when soul in the nations was none.

Banner and beacon thou wast to the centuries of storm-wind and foam,
Ages that clashed in the dark with each other, and years without
Empress and prophetess wast thou, and what wilt thou now be, O Rome?

Ah, by the faith and the hope and the love that have need of thee
Shines not thy face with the forethought of freedom, and burns not
thy brow?
Who is against her but all men? and who is beside her but thou?

Art thou not better than all men? and where shall she turn but to
Lo, not a breath, not a beam, not a beacon from midland to sea;
Freedom cries out for a sign among nations, and none will be free.

England in doubt of her, France in despair of her, all without heart
Stand on her side in the vanward of ages, and strike on her part!
Strike but one stroke for the love of her love of thee, sweet that
thou art!

Take in thy right hand thy banner, a strong staff fit for thine hand;
Forth at the light of it lifted shall foul things flock from the
Faster than stars from the sun shall they fly, being lighter than

Green thing to green in the summer makes answer, and rose-tree to
Lily by lily the year becomes perfect; and none of us knows
What thing is fairest of all things on earth as it brightens and

This thing is fairest in all time of all things, in all time is best
Freedom, that made thee, our mother, and suckled her sons at thy
Take to thy bosom the nations, and there shall the world come to


A faint sea without wind or sun;
A sky like flameless vapour dun;
   A valley like an unsealed grave
That no man cares to weep upon,
   Bare, without boon to crave,
      Or flower to save.

And on the lip's edge of the down,
Here where the bent-grass burns to brown
   In the dry sea-wind, and the heath
Crawls to the cliff-side and looks down,
   I watch, and hear beneath
      The low tide breathe.

Along the long lines of the cliff,
Down the flat sea-line without skiff
   Or sail or back-blown fume for mark,
Through wind-worn heads of heath and stiff
   Stems blossomless and stark
      With dry sprays dark,

I send mine eyes out as for news
Of comfort that all these refuse,
   Tidings of light or living air
From windward where the low clouds muse
   And the sea blind and bare
      Seems full of care.

So is it now as it was then,
And as men have been such are men.
   There as I stood I seem to stand,
Here sitting chambered, and again
   Feel spread on either hand
      Sky, sea, and land.

As a queen taken and stripped and bound
Sat earth, discoloured and discrowned;
   As a king's palace empty and dead
The sky was, without light or sound;
   And on the summer's head
      Were ashes shed.

Scarce wind enough was on the sea,
Scarce hope enough there moved in me,
   To sow with live blown flowers of white
The green plain's sad serenity,
   Or with stray thoughts of light
      Touch my soul's sight.

By footless ways and sterile went
My thought unsatisfied, and bent
   With blank unspeculative eyes
On the untracked sands of discontent
   Where, watched of helpless skies,
      Life hopeless lies.

East and west went my soul to find
Light, and the world was bare and blind
   And the soil herbless where she trod
And saw men laughing scourge mankind,
   Unsmitten by the rod
      Of any God.

Out of time's blind old eyes were shed
Tears that were mortal, and left dead
   The heart and spirit of the years,
And on mans fallen and helmless head
   Time's disanointing tears
      Fell cold as fears.

Hope flowering had but strength to bear
The fruitless fruitage of despair;
   Grief trod the grapes of joy for wine,
Whereof love drinking unaware
   Died as one undivine
      And made no sign.

And soul and body dwelt apart;
And weary wisdom without heart
   Stared on the dead round heaven and sighed,
"Is death too hollow as thou art,
   Or as man's living pride?"
      And saying so died.

And my soul heard the songs and groans
That are about and under thrones,
   And felt through all time's murmur thrill
Fate's old imperious semitones
   That made of good and ill
      One same tune still.

Then "Where is God? and where is aid?
Or what good end of these?" she said;
   "Is there no God or end at all,
Nor reason with unreason weighed,
   Nor force to disenthral
      Weak feet that fall?

"No light to lighten and no rod
To chasten men?  Is there no God?"
   So girt with anguish, iron-zoned,
Went my soul weeping as she trod
   Between the men enthroned
      And men that groaned.

O fool, that for brute cries of wrong
Heard not the grey glad mother's song
   Ring response from the hills and waves,
But heard harsh noises all day long
   Of spirits that were slaves
      And dwelt in graves.

The wise word of the secret earth
Who knows what life and death are worth,
   And how no help and no control
Can speed or stay things come to birth,
   Nor all worlds' wheels that roll
      Crush one born soul.

With all her tongues of life and death,
With all her bloom and blood and breath,
   From all years dead and all things done,
In the ear of man the mother saith,
   "There is no God, O son,
      If thou be none."

So my soul sick with watching heard
That day the wonder of that word,
   And as one springs out of a dream
Sprang, and the stagnant wells were stirred
   Whence flows through gloom and gleam
      Thought's soundless stream.

Out of pale cliff and sunburnt health,
Out of the low sea curled beneath
   In the land's bending arm embayed,
Out of all lives that thought hears breathe
   Life within life inlaid,
      Was answer made.

A multitudinous monotone
Of dust and flower and seed and stone,
   In the deep sea-rock's mid-sea sloth,
In the live water's trembling zone,
   In all men love and loathe,
      One God at growth.

One forceful nature uncreate
That feeds itself with death and fate,
   Evil and good, and change and time,
That within all men lies at wait
   Till the hour shall bid them climb
      And live sublime.

For all things come by fate to flower
At their unconquerable hour,
   And time brings truth, and truth makes free,
And freedom fills time's veins with power,
   As, brooding on that sea,
      My thought filled me.

And the sun smote the clouds and slew,
And from the sun the sea's breath blew,
   And white waves laughed and turned and fled
The long green heaving sea-field through,

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