List Of Contents | Contents of Songs before Sunrise, by Swinburne
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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 whereby
   The bloody-handed night and black
Shall be cast out of heaven to die;
   Kingdom by kingdom, crown by crown,
   The fires of darkness are blown down.

Yet heavy, grievous yet the weight
Sits on us of imperfect fate.
   From wounds of other days and deeds
   Still this day's breathing body bleeds;
Still kings for fear and slaves for hate
   Sow lives of men on earth like seeds
In the red soil they saturate;
   And we, with faces eastward set,
   Stand sightless of the morning yet.

And many for pure sorrow's sake
Look back and stretch back hands to take
   Gifts of night's giving, ease and sleep,
   Flowers of night's grafting, strong to steep
The soul in dreams it will not break,
   Songs of soft hours that sigh and sweep
Its lifted eyelids nigh to wake
   With subtle plumes and lulling breath
   That soothe its weariness to death.

And many, called of hope and pride,
Fall ere the sunrise from our side.
   Fresh lights and rumours of fresh fames
   That shift and veer by night like flames,
Shouts and blown trumpets, ghosts that glide
   Calling, and hail them by dead names,
Fears, angers, memories, dreams divide
   Spirit from spirit, and wear out
   Strong hearts of men with hope and doubt.

Till time beget and sorrow bear
The soul-sick eyeless child despair,
   That comes among us, mad and blind,
   With counsels of a broken mind,
Tales of times dead and woes that were,
   And, prophesying against mankind,
Shakes out the horror of her hair
   To take the sunlight with its coils
   And hold the living soul in toils.

By many ways of death and moods
Souls pass into their servitudes.
   Their young wings weaken, plume by plume
   Drops, and their eyelids gather gloom
And close against man's frauds and feuds,
   And their tongues call they know not whom
To help in their vicissitudes;
   For many slaveries are, but one
   Liberty, single as the sun.

One light, one law, that burns up strife,
And one sufficiency of life.
   Self-stablished, the sufficing soul
   Hears the loud wheels of changes roll,
Sees against man man bare the knife,
   Sees the world severed, and is whole;
Sees force take dowerless fraud to wife,
   And fear from fraud's incestuous bed
   Crawl forth and smite his father dead:

Sees death made drunk with war, sees time
Weave many-coloured crime with crime,
   State overthrown on ruining state,
   And dares not be disconsolate.
Only the soul hath feet to climb,
   Only the soul hath room to wait,
Hath brows and eyes to hold sublime
   Above all evil and all good,
   All strength and all decrepitude.

She only, she since earth began,
The many-minded soul of man,
   From one incognizable root
   That bears such divers-coloured fruit,
Hath ruled for blessing or for ban
   The flight of seasons and pursuit;
She regent, she republican,
   With wide and equal eyes and wings
   Broods on things born and dying things.

Even now for love or doubt of us
The hour intense and hazardous
   Hangs high with pinions vibrating
   Whereto the light and darkness cling,
Dividing the dim season thus,
   And shakes from one ambiguous wing
Shadow, and one is luminous,
   And day falls from it; so the past
   Torments the future to the last.

And we that cannot hear or see
The sounds and lights of liberty,
   The witness of the naked God
   That treads on burning hours unshod
With instant feet unwounded; we
   That can trace only where he trod
By fire in heaven or storm at sea,
   Not know the very present whole
   And naked nature of the soul;

We that see wars and woes and kings,
And portents of enormous things,
   Empires, and agonies, and slaves,
   And whole flame of town-swallowing graves;
That hear the harsh hours clap sharp wings
   Above the roar of ranks like waves,
From wreck to wreck as the world swings;
   Know but that men there are who see
   And hear things other far than we.

By the light sitting on their brows,
The fire wherewith their presence glows,
   The music falling with their feet,
   The sweet sense of a spirit sweet
That with their speech or motion grows
   And breathes and burns men's hearts with heat;
By these signs there is none but knows
   Men who have life and grace to give,
   Men who have seen the soul and live.

By the strength sleeping in their eyes,
The lips whereon their sorrow lies
   Smiling, the lines of tears unshed,
   The large divine look of one dead
That speaks out of the breathless skies
   In silence, when the light is shed
Upon man's soul of memories;
   The supreme look that sets love free,
   The look of stars and of the sea;

By the strong patient godhead seen
Implicit in their mortal mien,
   The conscience of a God held still
   And thunders ruled by their own will
And fast-bound fires that might burn clean
   This worldly air that foul things fill,
And the afterglow of what has been,
   That, passing, shows us without word
   What they have seen, what they have heard,

By all these keen and burning signs
The spirit knows them and divines.
   In bonds, in banishment, in grief,
   Scoffed at and scourged with unbelief,
Foiled with false trusts and thwart designs,
   Stripped of green days and hopes in leaf,
Their mere bare body of glory shines
   Higher, and man gazing surelier sees
   What light, what comfort is of these.

So I now gazing; till the sense
Being set on fire of confidence
   Strains itself sunward, feels out far
   Beyond the bright and morning star,
Beyond the extreme wave's refluence,
   To where the fierce first sunbeams are
Whose fire intolerant and intense
   As birthpangs whence day burns to be
   Parts breathless heaven from breathing sea.

I see not, know not, and am blest,
Master, who know that thou knowest,
   Dear lord and leader, at whose hand
   The first days and the last days stand,
With scars and crowns on head and breast,
   That fought for love of the sweet land
Or shall fight in her latter quest;
   All the days armed and girt and crowned
   Whose glories ring thy glory round.

Thou sawest, when all the world was blind,
The light that should be of mankind,
   The very day that was to be;
   And how shalt thou not sometime see
Thy city perfect to thy mind
   Stand face to living face with thee,
And no miscrowned man's head behind;
   The hearth of man, the human home,
   The central flame that shall be Rome?

As one that ere a June day rise
Makes seaward for the dawn, and tries
   The water with delighted limbs
   That taste the sweet dark sea, and swims
Right eastward under strengthening skies,
   And sees the gradual rippling rims
Of waves whence day breaks blossom-wise
   Take fire ere light peer well above,
   And laughs from all his heart with love;

And softlier swimming with raised head
Feels the full flower of morning shed
   And fluent sunrise round him rolled
   That laps and laves his body bold
With fluctuant heaven in water's stead,
   And urgent through the growing gold
Strikes, and sees all the spray flash red,
   And his soul takes the sun, and yearns
   For joy wherewith the sea's heart burns;

So the soul seeking through the dark
Heavenward, a dove without an ark,
   Transcends the unnavigable sea
   Of years that wear out memory;
So calls, a sunward-singing lark,
   In the ear of souls that should be free;
So points them toward the sun for mark
   Who steer not for the stress of waves,
   And seek strange helmsmen, and are slaves.

For if the swimmer's eastward eye
Must see no sunrise--must put by
   The hope that lifted him and led
   Once, to have light about his head,
To see beneath the clear low sky
   The green foam-whitened wave wax red
And all the morning's banner fly -
   Then, as earth's helpless hopes go down,
   Let earth's self in the dark tides drown.

Yea, if no morning must behold
Man, other than were they now cold,
   And other deeds than past deeds done,
   Nor any near or far-off sun
Salute him risen and sunlike-souled,
   Free, boundless, fearless, perfect, one,
Let man's world die like worlds of old,
   And here in heaven's sight only be
   The sole sun on the worldless sea.


P. 7
That called on Cotys by her name.
AEsch.  Fr. 54

P. 94

Was it Love brake forth flower-fashion, a bird with gold on his
Ar. Av. 696.

P. 161

That saw Saint Catherine bodily.

Her pilgrimage to Avignon to recall the Pope into Italy as its
redeemer from the distractions of the time is of course the central
act of St. Catherine's life, the great abiding sign of the greatness
of spirit and genius of heroism which distinguished this daughter of
the people, and should yet keep her name fresh above the holy horde
of saints, in other records than the calendar; but there is no less
significance in the story which tells how she succeeded in humanizing
a criminal under sentence of death, and given over by the priests as
a soul doomed and desperate; how the man thus raised and melted out
of his fierce and brutal despair besought her to sustain him to the
last by her presence; how, having accompanied him with comfort and
support to the very scaffold, and seen his head fall, she took it up,
and turning to the spectators who stood doubtful whether the poor
wretch could be "saved," kissed it in sign of her faith that his sins
were forgiven him.  The high and fixed passion of her heroic
temperament gives her a right to remembrance and honour of which the
miracle-mongers have done their best to deprive her.  Cleared of all
the refuse rubbish of thaumaturgy, her life would deserve a
chronicler who should do justice at once to the ardour of her
religious imagination and to a thing far rarer and more precious--the
strength and breadth of patriotic thought and devotion which sent
this girl across the Alps to seek the living symbol of Italian hope
and unity, and bring it back by force of simple appeal in the name of
God and of the country.  By the light of those solid and actual
qualities which ensure to her no ignoble place on the noble roll of
Italian women who have deserved well of Italy, the record of her
visions and ecstasies may be read without contemptuous intolerance of
hysterical disease.  The rapturous visionary and passionate ascetic
was in plain matters of this earth as pure and practical a heroine as
Joan of Arc.

P. 164

There on the dim side-chapel wall.

In the church of San Domenico.

P. 165

But blood nor tears ye love not, you.

In the Sienese Academy the two things notable to me were the detached
wall-painting by Sodoma of the tortures of Christ bound to the
pillar, and the divine though mutilated group of the Graces in the
centre of the main hall.  The glory and beauty of ancient sculpture
refresh and satisfy beyond expression a sense wholly wearied and
well-nigh nauseated with contemplation of endless sanctities and
agonies attempted by mediaeval art, while yet as handless as accident
or barbarism has left the sculptured goddesses.

P. 168

Saw all Italian things save one.

O patria mia, vedo le mura e gli archi,
E le colonne e i simulacri e l'erme
Torri degli avi nostri;
Ma la gloria non vedo,
Non vedo il lauro a il ferro ond' eran carchi
I nostri padri antichi.


P. 179

Mother, that by that Pegasean spring.

Call.  Lav.  Pall. 105-112.

P. 229

With black blood dripping from her eyes.
AEsch.  Cho.  1058.

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