List Of Contents | Contents of Songs before Sunrise, by Swinburne
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When dying May bears June, too young to know
   The fruit that waxes from the flower that wanes;
         Strange tyrannies and vast,
         Tribes frost-bound to their past,
   Lands that are loud all through their length with chains,
         Wastes where the wind's wings break,
         Displumed by daylong ache
   And anguish of blind snows and rack-blown rains,
      And ice that seals the White Sea's lips,
Whose monstrous weights crush flat the sides of shrieking ships;


Horrible sights and sounds of the unreached pole,
   And shrill fierce climes of inconsolable air,
Shining below the beamless aureole
   That hangs about the north-wind's hurtling hair,
A comet-lighted lamp, sublime and sole
   Dawn of the dayless heaven where suns despair;
Earth, skies, and waters, smitten into soul,
   Feel the hard veil that iron centuries wear
         Rent as with hands in sunder,
         Such hands as make the thunder
   And clothe with form all substance and strip bare;
         Shapes, shadows, sounds and lights
         Of their dead days and nights
   Take soul of life too keen for death to bear;
      Life, conscience, forethought, will, desire,
Flood men's inanimate eyes and dry-drawn hearts with fire.


Light, light, and light! to break and melt in sunder
   All clouds and chains that in one bondage bind
Eyes, hands, and spirits, forged by fear and wonder
   And sleek fierce fraud with hidden knife behind;
There goes no fire from heaven before their thunder,
   Nor are the links not malleable that wind
Round the snared limbs and souls that ache thereunder;
   The hands are mighty, were the head not blind.
         Priest is the staff of king,
         And chains and clouds one thing,
   And fettered flesh with devastated mind.
         Open thy soul to see,
         Slave, and thy feet are free;
   Thy bonds and thy beliefs are one in kind,
      And of thy fears thine irons wrought
Hang weights upon thee fashioned out of thine own thought.


O soul, O God, O glory of liberty,
   To night and day their lightning and their light!
With heat of heart thou kindlest the quick sea,
   And the dead earth takes spirit from thy sight;
The natural body of things is warm with thee,
   And the world's weakness parcel of thy might;
Thou seest us feeble and forceless, fit to be
   Slaves of the years that drive us left and right,
         Drowned under hours like waves
         Wherethrough we row like slaves;
   But if thy finger touch us, these take flight.
         If but one sovereign word
         Of thy live lips be heard,
   What man shall stop us, and what God shall smite?
      Do thou but look in our dead eyes,
They are stars that light each other till thy sundawn rise.


Thou art the eye of this blind body of man,
   The tongue of this dumb people; shalt thou not
See, shalt thou speak not for them?
   Time is wan And hope is weak with waiting, and swift thought
Hath lost the wings at heel wherewith he ran,
   And on the red pit's edge sits down distraught
To talk with death of days republican
   And dreams and fights long since dreamt out and fought;
         Of the last hope that drew
         To that red edge anew
   The firewhite faith of Poland without spot;
         Of the blind Russian might,
         And fire that is not light;
   Of the green Rhineland where thy spirit wrought;
      But though time, hope, and memory tire,
Canst thou wax dark as they do, thou whose light is fire?


I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
   The night is broken westward; the wide sea
That makes immortal motion to and fro
   From world's end unto world's end, and shall be
When nought now grafted of men's hands shall grow
   And as the weed in last year's waves are we
Or spray the sea-wind shook a year ago
   From its sharp tresses down the storm to lee,
         The moving god that hides
         Time in its timeless tides
   Wherein time dead seems live eternity,
         That breaks and makes again
         Much mightier things than men,
   Doth it not hear change coming, or not see?
      Are the deeps deaf and dead and blind,
To catch no light or sound from landward of mankind?


O thou, clothed round with raiment of white waves,
   Thy brave brows lightening through the grey wet air,
Thou, lulled with sea-sounds of a thousand caves,
   And lit with sea-shine to thine inland lair,
Whose freedom clothed the naked souls of slaves
   And stripped the muffled souls of tyrants bare,
O, by the centuries of thy glorious graves,
   By the live light of the earth that was thy care,
         Live, thou must not be dead,
         Live; let thine armed head
   Lift itself up to sunward and the fair
         Daylight of time and man,
         Thine head republican,
   With the same splendour on thine helmless hair
      That in his eyes kept up a light
Who on thy glory gazed away their sacred sight;


Who loved and looked their sense to death on thee;
   Who taught thy lips imperishable things,
And in thine ears outsang thy singing sea;
   Who made thy foot firm on the necks of kings
And thy soul somewhile steadfast--woe are we
   It was but for a while, and all the strings
Were broken of thy spirit; yet had he
   Set to such tunes and clothed it with such wings
         It seemed for his sole sake
         Impossible to break,
   And woundless of the worm that waits and stings,
         The golden-headed worm
         Made headless for a term,
   The king-snake whose life kindles with the spring's,
      To breathe his soul upon her bloom,
And while she marks not turn her temple to her tomb.


By those eyes blinded and that heavenly head
   And the secluded soul adorable,
O Milton's land, what ails thee to be dead?
   Thine ears are yet sonorous with his shell
That all the songs of all thy sea-line fed
   With motive sound of spring-tides at mid swell,
And through thine heart his thought as blood is shed,
   Requickening thee with wisdom to do well;
         Such sons were of thy womb,
         England, for love of whom
   Thy name is not yet writ with theirs that fell,
         But, till thou quite forget
         What were thy children, yet
   On the pale lips of hope is as a spell;
      And Shelley's heart and Landor's mind
Lit thee with latter watch-fires; why wilt thou be blind?


Though all were else indifferent, all that live
   Spiritless shapes of nations; though time wait
In vain on hope till these have help to give,
   And faith and love crawl famished from the gate;
Canst thou sit shamed and self-contemplative
   With soulless eyes on thy secluded fate?
Though time forgive them, thee shall he forgive,
   Whose choice was in thine hand to be so great?
         Who cast out of thy mind
         The passion of man's kind,
And made thee and thine old name separate?
         Now when time looks to see
         New names and old and thee
   Build up our one Republic state by state,
      England with France, and France with Spain,
And Spain with sovereign Italy strike hands and reign.


O known and unknown fountain-heads that fill
   Our dear life-springs of England!  O bright race
Of streams and waters that bear witness still
   To the earth her sons were made of!  O fair face
Of England, watched of eyes death cannot kill,
   How should the soul that lit you for a space
Fall through sick weakness of a broken will
   To the dead cold damnation of disgrace?
         Such wind of memory stirs
         On all green hills of hers,
   Such breath of record from so high a place,
         From years whose tongues of flame
         Prophesied in her name
   Her feet should keep truth's bright and burning trace,
      We needs must have her heart with us,
Whose hearts are one with man's; she must be dead or thus.


Who is against us? who is on our side?
   Whose heart of all men's hearts is one with man's?
Where art thou that wast prophetess and bride,
   When truth and thou trod under time and chance?
What latter light of what new hope shall guide
   Out of the snares of hell thy feet, O France?
What heel shall bruise these heads that hiss and glide,
   What wind blow out these fen-born fires that dance
         Before thee to thy death?
         No light, no life, no breath,
   From thy dead eyes and lips shall take the trance,
         Till on that deadliest crime
         Reddening the feet of time
   Who treads through blood and passes, time shall glance
      Pardon, and Italy forgive,
And Rome arise up whom thou slewest, and bid thee live.


I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
   The night is broken southward; the springs run,
The daysprings and the watersprings that flow
   Forth with one will from where their source was one,
Out of the might of morning:  high and low,
   The hungering hills feed full upon the sun,
The thirsting valleys drink of him and glow
   As a heart burns with some divine thing done,
         Or as blood burns again
         In the bruised heart of Spain,
   A rose renewed with red new life begun,
         Dragged down with thorns and briers,
         That puts forth buds like fires
   Till the whole tree take flower in unison,
      And prince that clogs and priest that clings
Be cast as weeds upon the dunghill of dead things.


Ah heaven, bow down, be nearer!  This is she,
   Italia, the world's wonder, the world's care,
Free in her heart ere quite her hands be free,
   And lovelier than her loveliest robe of air.
The earth hath voice, and speech is in the sea,
   Sounds of great joy, too beautiful to bear;
All things are glad because of her, but we
   Most glad, who loved her when the worst days were.
         O sweetest, fairest, first,
         O flower, when times were worst,
   Thou hadst no stripe wherein we had no share.
         Have not our hearts held close,
         Kept fast the whole world's rose?
   Have we not worn thee at heart whom none would wear?
      First love and last love, light of lands,
Shall we not touch thee full-blown with our lips and hands?


O too much loved, what shall we say of thee?
   What shall we make of our heart's burning fire,
The passion in our lives that fain would be
   Made each a brand to pile into the pyre
That shall burn up thy foemen, and set free
   The flame whence thy sun-shadowing wings aspire?
Love of our life, what more than men are we,
   That this our breath for thy sake should expire,
         For whom to joyous death
         Glad gods might yield their breath,
   Great gods drop down from heaven to serve for hire?
         We are but men, are we,
         And thou art Italy;
   What shall we do for thee with our desire?
      What gift shall we deserve to give?
How shall we die to do thee service, or how live?


The very thought in us how much we love thee
   Makes the throat sob with love and blinds the eyes.
How should love bear thee, to behold above thee
   His own light burning from reverberate skies?
They give thee light, but the light given them of thee
   Makes faint the wheeling fires that fall and rise.
What love, what life, what death of man's should move thee,
   What face that lingers or what foot that flies?
         It is not heaven that lights
         Thee with such days and nights,
   But thou that heaven is lit from in such wise.
         O thou her dearest birth,
   Turn thee to lighten earth,
   Earth too that bore thee and yearns to thee and cries;
   Stand up, shine, lighten, become flame,
Till as the sun's name through all nations be thy name.


I take the trumpet from my lips and sing.
   O life immeasurable and imminent love,
And fear like winter leading hope like spring,
   Whose flower-bright brows the day-star sits above,
Whose hand unweariable and untiring wing
   Strike music from a world that wailed and strove,
Each bright soul born and every glorious thing,
   From very freedom to man's joy thereof,
         O time, O change and death,
      Whose now not hateful breath
   But gives the music swifter feet to move
      Through sharp remeasuring tones
         Of refluent antiphones
   More tender-tuned than heart or throat of dove,
   Soul into soul, song into song,
Life changing into life, by laws that work not wrong;


O natural force in spirit and sense, that art
   One thing in all things, fruit of thine own fruit,
O thought illimitable and infinite heart
   Whose blood is life in limbs indissolute
That still keeps hurtless thine invisible part
   And inextirpable thy viewless root
Whence all sweet shafts of green and each thy dart
   Of sharpening leaf and bud resundering shoot;
         Hills that the day-star hails,
         Heights that the first beam scales,
   And heights that souls outshining suns salute,
         Valleys for each mouth born
         Free now of plenteous corn,
   Waters and woodlands' musical or mute;
      Free winds that brighten brows as free,
And thunder and laughter and lightning of the sovereign sea;


Rivers and springs, and storms that seek your prey;
   With strong wings ravening through the skies by night;
Spirits and stars that hold one choral way;
   O light of heaven, and thou the heavenlier light
Aflame above the souls of men that sway
   All generations of all years with might;
O sunrise of the repossessing day,
   And sunrise of all-renovating right;
         And thou, whose trackless foot
         Mocks hope's or fear's pursuit,
   Swift Revolution, changing depth with height;
         And thou, whose mouth makes one
         All songs that seek the sun,
   Serene Republic of a world made white;
   Thou, Freedom, whence the soul's springs ran;
Praise earth for man's sake living, and for earth's sake man.


Make yourselves wings, O tarrying feet of fate,
   And hidden hour that hast our hope to bear,
A child-god, through the morning-coloured gate
   That lets love in upon the golden air,
Dead on whose threshold lies heart-broken hate,
   Dead discord, dead injustice, dead despair;
O love long looked for, wherefore wilt thou wait,
   And shew not yet the dawn on thy bright hair.
         Not yet thine hand released
         Refreshing the faint east,
   Thine hand reconquering heaven, to seat man there?
         Come forth, be born and live,
         Thou that hast help to give
   And light to make man's day of manhood fair:
      With flight outflying the sphered sun,
Hasten thine hour and halt not, till thy work be done.



Watchman, what of the night? -
   Storm and thunder and rain,
   Lights that waver and wane,
Leaving the watchfires unlit.
Only the balefires are bright,
   And the flash of the lamps now and then
From a palace where spoilers sit,
   Trampling the children of men.


Prophet, what of the night? -
   I stand by the verge of the sea,
   Banished, uncomforted, free,
Hearing the noise of the waves
And sudden flashes that smite
   Some man's tyrannous head,
Thundering, heard among graves
   That hide the hosts of his dead.

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