List Of Contents | Contents of Songs before Sunrise, by Swinburne
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   Light and redemption I am
Unto souls overlaboured," he saith;
And to all men the blast of his breath
Is a savour of death unto death;
And the Dove of his worship a raven,
   And a wolf-cub the life-giving Lamb.

He calls his sheep as a shepherd,
   Calls from the wilderness home,
"Come unto me and be fed,"
To feed them with ashes for bread
And grass from the graves of the dead,
Leaps on the fold as a leopard,
   Slays, and says, "I am Rome,"

Rome, having rent her in sunder,
   With the clasp of an adder he clasps;
Swift to shed blood are his feet,
And his lips, that have man for their meat,
Smoother than oil, and more sweet
Than honey, but hidden thereunder
   Festers the poison of asps.

As swords are his tender mercies,
   His kisses as mortal stings;
Under his hallowing hands
Life dies down in all lands;
Kings pray to him, prone where he stands,
And his blessings, as other men's curses,
   Disanoint where they consecrate kings.

With an oil of unclean consecration,
   With effusion of blood and of tears,
With uplifting of cross and of keys,
Priest, though thou hallow us these,
Yet even as they cling to thy knees
Nation awakens by nation,
   King by king disappears.

How shall the spirit be loyal
   To the shell of a spiritless thing?
Erred once, in only a word,
The sweet great song that we heard
Poured upon Tuscany, erred,
Calling a crowned man royal
   That was no more than a king.

Sea-eagle of English feather,
   A song-bird beautiful-souled,
She knew not them that she sang;
The golden trumpet that rang
From Florence, in vain for them, sprang
As a note in the nightingales' weather
   Far over Fiesole rolled.

She saw not--happy, not seeing -
   Saw not as we with her eyes
Aspromonte; she felt
Never the heart in her melt
As in us when the news was dealt
Melted all hope out of being,
   Dropped all dawn from the skies.

In that weary funereal season,
   In that heart-stricken grief-ridden time,
The weight of a king and the worth,
With anger and sorrowful mirth,
We weighed in the balance of earth,
And light was his word as a treason,
   And heavy his crown as a crime.

Banners of kings shall ye follow
   None, and have thrones on your side
None; ye shall gather and grow
Silently, row upon row,
Chosen of Freedom to go
Gladly where darkness may swallow,
   Gladly where death may divide.

Have we not men with us royal,
   Men the masters of things?
In the days when our life is made new,
All souls perfect and true
Shall adore whom their forefathers slew;
And these indeed shall be loyal,
   And those indeed shall be kings.

Yet for a space they abide with us,
   Yet for a little they stand,
Bearing the heat of the day.
When their presence is taken away,
We shall wonder and worship, and say,
"Was not a star on our side with us?
   Was not a God at our hand?"

These, O men, shall ye honour,
   Liberty only, and these.
For thy sake and for all men's and mine,
Brother, the crowns of them shine
Lighting the way to her shrine,
That our eyes may be fastened upon her,
   That our hands may encompass her knees.

In this day is the sign of her shown to you;
   Choose ye, to live or to die,
Now is her harvest in hand;
Now is her light in the land;
Choose ye, to sink or to stand,
For the might of her strength is made known to you
   Now, and her arm is on high.

Serve not for any man's wages,
   Pleasure nor glory nor gold;
Not by her side are they won
Who saith unto each of you, "Son,
Silver and gold have I none;
I give but the love of all ages,
   And the life of my people of old."

Fear not for any man's terrors;
   Wait not for any man's word;
Patiently, each in his place,
Gird up your loins to the race;
Following the print of her pace,
Purged of desires and of errors,
   March to the tune ye have heard.

March to the tune of the voice of her,
   Breathing the balm of her breath,
Loving the light of her skies.
Blessed is he on whose eyes
Dawns but her light as he dies;
Blessed are ye that make choice of her,
   Equal to life and to death.

Ye that when faith is nigh frozen,
   Ye that when hope is nigh gone,
Still, over wastes, over waves,
Still, among wrecks, among graves,
Follow the splendour that saves,
Happy, her children, her chosen,
   Loyally led of her on.

The sheep of the priests, and the cattle
   That feed in the penfolds of kings,
Sleek is their flock and well-fed;
Hardly she giveth you bread,
Hardly a rest for the head,
Till the day of the blast of the battle
   And the storm of the wind of her wings.

Ye that have joy in your living,
   Ye that are careful to live,
You her thunders go by:
Live, let men be, let them lie,
Serve your season, and die;
Gifts have your masters for giving,
   Gifts hath not Freedom to give;

She, without shelter or station,
   She, beyond limit or bar,
Urges to slumberless speed
Armies that famish, that bleed,
Sowing their lives for her seed,
That their dust may rebuild her a nation,
   That their souls may relight her a star.

Happy are all they that follow her;
   Them shall no trouble cast down;
Though she slay them, yet shall they trust in her,
For unsure there is nought nor unjust in her,
Blemish is none, neither rust in her;
Though it threaten, the night shall not swallow her,
   Tempest and storm shall not drown.

Hither, O strangers, that cry for her,
   Holding your lives in your hands,
Hither, for here is your light,
Where Italy is, and her might;
Strength shall be given you to fight,
Grace shall be given you to die for her,
   For the flower, for the lady of lands;

Turn ye, whose anguish oppressing you
   Crushes, asleep and awake,
For the wrong which is wrought as of yore;
That Italia may give of her store,
Having these things to give and no more;
Only her hands on you, blessing you;
   Only a pang for her sake;

Only her bosom to die on;
   Only her heart for a home,
And a name with her children to be
From Calabrian to Adrian sea
Famous in cities made free
That ring to the roar of the lion
   Proclaiming republican Rome.


At the time when the stars are grey,
   And the gold of the molten moon
Fades, and the twilight is thinned,
And the sun leaps up, and the wind,
A light rose, not of the day,
   A stronger light than of noon.

As the light of a face much loved
   Was the face of the light that clomb;
As a mother's whitened with woes
Her adorable head that arose;
As the sound of a God that is moved,
   Her voice went forth upon Rome.

At her lips it fluttered and failed
   Twice, and sobbed into song,
And sank as a flame sinks under;
Then spake, and the speech was thunder,
And the cheek as he heard it paled
   Of the wrongdoer grown grey with the wrong.

"Is it time, is it time appointed,
   Angel of time, is it near?
For the spent night aches into day
When the kings shall slay not or pray,
And the high-priest, accursed and anointed,
   Sickens to deathward with fear.

 "For the bones of my slain are stirred,
   And the seed of my earth in her womb
Moves as the heart of a bud
Beating with odorous blood
To the tune of the loud first bird
   Burns and yearns into bloom.

"I lay my hand on her bosom,
   My hand on the heart of my earth,
And I feel as with shiver and sob
The triumphant heart in her throb,
The dead petals dilate into blossom,
   The divine blood beat into birth.

"O my earth, are the springs in thee dry?
   O sweet, is thy body a tomb?
Nay, springs out of springs derive,
And summers from summers alive,
And the living from them that die;
   No tomb is here, but a womb.

"O manifold womb and divine,
   Give me fruit of my children, give!
I have given thee my dew for thy root,
Give thou me for my mouth of thy fruit;
Thine are the dead that are mine,
   And mine are thy sons that live.

"O goodly children, O strong
   Italian spirits, that wear
My glories as garments about you,
Could time or the world misdoubt you,
Behold, in disproof of the wrong,
   The field of the grave-pits there.

"And ye that fell upon sleep,
   We have you too with us yet.
Fairer than life or than youth
Is this, to die for the truth:
No death can sink you so deep
   As their graves whom their brethren forget.

"Were not your pains as my pains?
   As my name are your names not divine?
Was not the light in your eyes
Mine, the light of my skies,
And the sweet shed blood of your veins,
   O my beautiful martyrs, mine?

"Of mine earth were your dear limbs made,
   Of mine air was your sweet life's breath;
At the breasts of my love ye were fed,
O my children, my chosen, my dead,
At my breasts where again ye are laid,
   At the old mother's bosom, in death.

"But ye that live, O their brothers,
   Be ye to me as they were;
Give me, my children that live,
What these dead grudged not to give,
Who alive were sons of your mother's,
   Whose lips drew breath of your air.

"Till darkness by dawn be cloven,
   Let youth's self mourn and abstain;
And love's self find not an hour,
And spring's self wear not a flower,
And Lycoris, with hair unenwoven,
   Hail back to the banquet in vain.

"So sooner and surer the glory
   That is not with us shall be,
And stronger the hands that smite
The heads of the sons of night,
And the sound throughout earth of our story
   Give all men heart to be free."



      Blessed was she that bare,
      Hidden in flesh most fair,
For all men's sake the likeness of all love;
      Holy that virgin's womb,
      The old record saith, on whom
The glory of God alighted as a dove;
   Blessed, who brought to gracious birth
The sweet-souled Saviour of a man-tormented earth.


      But four times art thou blest,
      At whose most holy breast
Four times a godlike soldier-saviour hung;
      And thence a fourfold Christ
      Given to be sacrificed
To the same cross as the same bosom clung;
   Poured the same blood, to leave the same
Light on the many-folded mountain-skirts of fame.


      Shall they and thou not live,
      The children thou didst give
Forth of thine hands, a godlike gift, to death,
      Through fire of death to pass
      For her high sake that was
Thine and their mother, that gave all you breath?
   Shall ye not live till time drop dead,
O mother, and each her children's consecrated head?


      Many brought gifts to take
      For her love's supreme sake,
Life and life's love, pleasure and praise and rest,
      And went forth bare; but thou,
      So much once richer, and now
Poorer than all these, more than these be blest;
   Poorer so much, by so much given,
Than who gives earth for heaven's sake, not for earth's sake heaven.


      Somewhat could each soul save,
      What thing soever it gave,
But thine, mother, what has thy soul kept back?
      None of thine all, not one,
      To serve thee and be thy son,
Feed with love all thy days, lest one day lack;
   All thy whole life's love, thine heart's whole,
Thou hast given as who gives gladly, O thou the supreme soul.


      The heart's pure flesh and blood,
      The heaven thy motherhood,
The live lips, the live eyes, that lived on thee;
      The hands that clove with sweet
      Blind clutch to thine, the feet
That felt on earth their first way to thy knee;
   The little laughter of mouths milk-fed,
Now open again to feed on dust among the dead;


      The fair, strong, young men's strength,
      Light of life-days and length,
And glory of earth seen under and stars above,
      And years that bring to tame
      Now the wild falcon fame,
Now, to stroke smooth, the dove-white breast of love;
   The life unlived, the unsown seeds,
Suns unbeholden, songs unsung, and undone deeds.


      Therefore shall man's love be
      As an own son to thee,
And the world's worship of thee for a child;
      All thine own land as one
      New-born, a nursing son,
All thine own people a new birth undefiled;
   And all the unborn Italian time,
And all its glory, and all its works, thy seed sublime.


      That henceforth no man's breath,
      Saying "Italy," but saith
In that most sovereign word thine equal name;
      Nor can one speak of thee
      But he saith "Italy,"
Seeing in two suns one co-eternal flame;
   One heat, one heaven, one heart, one fire,
One light, one love, one benediction, one desire.


      Blest above praise and prayer
      And incense of men's air,
Thy place is higher than where such voices rise
      As in men's temples make
      Music for some vain sake,
This God's or that God's, in one weary wise;
   Thee the soul silent, the shut heart,
The locked lips of the spirit praise thee that thou art.


      Yea, for man's whole life's length,
      And with man's whole soul's strength,
We praise thee, O holy, and bless thee, O mother of lights;
      And send forth as on wings
      The world's heart's thanksgivings,
Song-birds to sing thy days through and thy nights;
   And wrap thee around and arch thee above
With the air of benediction and the heaven of love.


      And toward thee our unbreathed words
      Fly speechless, winged as birds,
As the Indian flock, children of Paradise,
      The winged things without feet,
      Fed with God's dew for meat,
That live in the air and light of the utter skies;
   So fleet, so flying a footless flight,
With wings for feet love seeks thee, to partake thy sight.


      Love like a clear sky spread
      Bends over thy loved head,
As a new heaven bends over a new-born earth,
      When the old night's womb is great
      With young stars passionate
And fair new planets fiery-fresh from birth;
   And moon-white here, there hot like Mars,
Souls that are worlds shine on thee, spirits that are stars.


      Till the whole sky burns through
      With heaven's own heart-deep hue,
With passion-coloured glories of lit souls;
      And thine above all names
      Writ highest with lettering flames
Lightens, and all the old starriest aureoles
   And all the old holiest memories wane,
And the old names of love's chosen, found in thy sight vain.


      And crowned heads are discrowned,
      And stars sink without sound,
And love's self for thy love's sake waxes pale
      Seeing from his storied skies
      In what new reverent wise
Thee Rome's most highest, her sovereign daughters, hail;
   Thee Portia, thee Veturia grey,
Thee Arria, thee Cornelia, Roman more than they.


      Even all these as all we
      Subdue themselves to thee,
Bow their heads haloed, quench their fiery fame;
      Seen through dim years divine,
      Their faint lights feminine
Sink, then spring up rekindled from thy flame;
   Fade, then reflower and reillume
From thy fresh spring their wintering age with new-blown bloom.


      To thy much holier head
      Even theirs, the holy and dead,
Bow themselves each one from her heavenward height;
      Each in her shining turn,
      All tremble toward thee and yearn

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