List Of Contents | Contents of Songs before Sunrise, by Swinburne
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         Such sap is this tree's,
Which hath in it all sounds and all secrets of infinite lands and of

      In the spring-coloured hours
         When my mind was as May's,
      There brake forth of me flowers
         By centuries of days,
Strong blossoms with perfume of manhood, shot out from my spirit as

      And the sound of them springing
         And smell of their shoots
      Were as warmth and sweet singing
         And strength to my roots;
And the lives of my children made perfect with freedom of soul were
my fruits.

      I bid you but be;
         I have need not of prayer;
      I have need of you free
         As your mouths of mine air;
That my heart may be greater within me, beholding the fruits of me

      More fair than strange fruit is
         Of faiths ye espouse;
      In me only the root is
         That blooms in your boughs;
Behold now your God that ye made you, to feed him with faith of your

      In the darkening and whitening
         Abysses adored,
      With dayspring and lightning
         For lamp and for sword,
God thunders in heaven, and his angels are red with the wrath of the

      O my sons, O too dutiful
         Toward Gods not of me,
      Was not I enough beautiful?
         Was it hard to be free?
For behold, I am with you, am in you and of you; look forth now and

      Lo, winged with world's wonders,
         With miracles shod,
      With the fires of his thunders
         For raiment and rod,
God trembles in heaven, and his angels are white with the terror of

      For his twilight is come on him,
         His anguish is here;
      And his spirits gaze dumb on him,
         Grown grey from his fear;
And his hour taketh hold on him stricken, the last of his infinite

      Thought made him and breaks him,
         Truth slays and forgives;
      But to you, as time takes him,
         This new thing it gives,
Even love, the beloved Republic, that feeds upon freedom and lives.

      For truth only is living,
         Truth only is whole,
      And the love of his giving
         Man's polestar and pole;
Man, pulse of my centre, and fruit of my body, and seed of my soul.

      One birth of my bosom;
         One beam of mine eye;
      One topmost blossom
         That scales the sky;
Man, equal and one with me, man that is made of me, man that is I.


Here, down between the dusty trees,
   At this lank edge of haggard wood,
Women with labour-loosened knees,
   With gaunt backs bowed by servitude,
Stop, shift their loads, and pray, and fare
Forth with souls easier for the prayer.

The suns have branded black, the rains
   Striped grey this piteous God of theirs;
The face is full of prayers and pains,
   To which they bring their pains and prayers;
Lean limbs that shew the labouring bones,
And ghastly mouth that gapes and groans.

God of this grievous people, wrought
   After the likeness of their race,
By faces like thine own besought,
   Thine own blind helpless eyeless face,
I too, that have nor tongue nor knee
For prayer, I have a word to thee.

It was for this then, that thy speech
   Was blown about the world in flame
And men's souls shot up out of reach
   Of fear or lust or thwarting shame -
That thy faith over souls should pass
As sea-winds burning the grey grass?

It was for this, that prayers like these
   Should spend themselves about thy feet,
And with hard overlaboured knees
   Kneeling, these slaves of men should beat
Bosoms too lean to suckle sons
And fruitless as their orisons?

It was for this, that men should make
   Thy name a fetter on men's necks,
Poor men's made poorer for thy sake,
   And women's withered out of sex?
It was for this, that slaves should be,
Thy word was passed to set men free?

The nineteenth wave of the ages rolls
   Now deathward since thy death and birth.
Hast thou fed full men's starved-out souls?
   Hast thou brought freedom upon earth?
Or are there less oppressions done
In this wild world under the sun?

Nay, if indeed thou be not dead,
   Before thy terrene shrine be shaken,
Look down, turn usward, bow thine head;
   O thou that wast of God forsaken,
Look on thine household here, and see
These that have not forsaken thee.

Thy faith is fire upon their lips,
   Thy kingdom golden in their hands;
They scourge us with thy words for whips,
   They brand us with thy words for brands;
The thirst that made thy dry throat shrink
To their moist mouths commends the drink.

The toothed thorns that bit thy brows
   Lighten the weight of gold on theirs;
Thy nakedness enrobes thy spouse
   With the soft sanguine stuff she wears
Whose old limbs use for ointment yet
Thine agony and bloody sweat.

The blinding buffets on thine head
   On their crowned heads confirm the crown;
Thy scourging dyes their raiment red,
   And with thy bands they fasten down
For burial in the blood-bought field
The nations by thy stripes unhealed.

With iron for thy linen bands
   And unclean cloths for winding-sheet
They bind the people's nail-pierced hands,
   They hide the people's nail-pierced feet;
And what man or what angel known
Shall roll back the sepulchral stone?

But these have not the rich man's grave
   To sleep in when their pain is done.
These were not fit for God to save.
   As naked hell-fire is the sun
In their eyes living, and when dead
These have not where to lay their head.

They have no tomb to dig, and hide;
   Earth is not theirs, that they should sleep.
On all these tombless crucified
   No lovers' eyes have time to weep.
So still, for all man's tears and creeds,
The sacred body hangs and bleeds.

Through the left hand a nail is driven,
   Faith, and another through the right,
Forged in the fires of hell and heaven,
   Fear that puts out the eye of light:
And the feet soiled and scarred and pale
Are pierced with falsehood for a nail.

And priests against the mouth divine
   Push their sponge full of poison yet
And bitter blood for myrrh and wine,
   And on the same reed is it set
Wherewith before they buffeted
The people's disanointed head.

O sacred head, O desecrate,
   O labour-wounded feet and hands,
O blood poured forth in pledge to fate
   Of nameless lives in divers lands,
O slain and spent and sacrificed
People, the grey-grown speechless Christ!

Is there a gospel in the red
   Old witness of thy wide-mouthed wounds?
From thy blind stricken tongueless head
   What desolate evangel sounds
A hopeless note of hope deferred?
What word, if there be any word?

O son of man, beneath man's feet
   Cast down, O common face of man
Whereon all blows and buffets meet,
   O royal, O republican
Face of the people bruised and dumb
And longing till thy kingdom come!

The soldiers and the high priests part
   Thy vesture:  all thy days are priced,
And all the nights that eat thine heart.
   And that one seamless coat of Christ,
The freedom of the natural soul,
They cast their lots for to keep whole.

No fragment of it save the name
   They leave thee for a crown of scorns
Wherewith to mock thy naked shame
   And forehead bitten through with thorns
And, marked with sanguine sweat and tears,
The stripes of eighteen hundred years

And we seek yet if God or man
   Can loosen thee as Lazarus,
Bid thee rise up republican
   And save thyself and all of us;
But no disciple's tongue can say
When thou shalt take our sins away.

And mouldering now and hoar with moss
   Between us and the sunlight swings
The phantom of a Christless cross
   Shadowing the sheltered heads of kings
And making with its moving shade
The souls of harmless men afraid.

It creaks and rocks to left and right
   Consumed of rottenness and rust,
Worm-eaten of the worms of night,
   Dead as their spirits who put trust,
Round its base muttering as they sit,
In the time-cankered name of it.

Thou, in the day that breaks thy prison,
   People, though these men take thy name,
And hail and hymn thee rearisen,
   Who made songs erewhile of thy shame,
Give thou not ear; for these are they
Whose good day was thine evil day.

Set not thine hand unto their cross.
   Give not thy soul up sacrificed.
Change not the gold of faith for dross
   Of Christian creeds that spit on Christ.
Let not thy tree of freedom be
Regrafted from that rotting tree.

This dead God here against my face
   Hath help for no man; who hath seen
The good works of it, or such grace
   As thy grace in it, Nazarene,
As that from thy live lips which ran
For man's sake, O thou son of man?

The tree of faith ingraffed by priests
   Puts its foul foliage out above thee,
And round it feed man-eating beasts
   Because of whom we dare not love thee;
Though hearts reach back and memories ache,
We cannot praise thee for their sake.

O hidden face of man, whereover
   The years have woven a viewless veil,
If thou wast verily man's lover,
   What did thy love or blood avail?
Thy blood the priests make poison of,
And in gold shekels coin thy love.

So when our souls look back to thee
   They sicken, seeing against thy side,
Too foul to speak of or to see,
   The leprous likeness of a bride,
Whose kissing lips through his lips grown
Leave their God rotten to the bone.

When we would see thee man, and know
   What heart thou hadst toward men indeed,
Lo, thy blood-blackened altars; lo,
   The lips of priests that pray and feed
While their own hell's worm curls and licks
The poison of the crucifix.

Thou bad'st let children come to thee;
   What children now but curses come?
What manhood in that God can be
   Who sees their worship, and is dumb?
No soul that lived, loved, wrought, and died,
Is this their carrion crucified.

Nay, if their God and thou be one,
   If thou and this thing be the same,
Thou shouldst not look upon the sun;
   The sun grows haggard at thy name.
Come down, be done with, cease, give o'er;
Hide thyself, strive not, be no more.


At the chill high tide of the night,
   At the turn of the fluctuant hours,
When the waters of time are at height,
In a vision arose on my sight
   The kingdoms of earth and the powers.

In a dream without lightening of eyes
   I saw them, children of earth,
Nations and races arise,
Each one after his wise,
   Signed with the sign of his birth.

Sound was none of their feet,
   Light was none of their faces;
In their lips breath was not, or heat,
But a subtle murmur and sweet
   As of water in wan waste places.

Pale as from passionate years,
   Years unassuaged of desire,
Sang they soft in mine ears,
Crowned with jewels of tears,
   Girt with girdles of fire.

A slow song beaten and broken,
   As it were from the dust and the dead,
As of spirits athirst unsloken,
As of things unspeakable spoken,
   As of tears unendurable shed.

In the manifold sound remote,
   In the molten murmur of song,
There was but a sharp sole note
Alive on the night and afloat,
   The cry of the world's heart's wrong.

As the sea in the strait sea-caves,
   The sound came straitened and strange;
A noise of the rending of graves,
A tidal thunder of waves,
   The music of death and of change.

"We have waited so long," they say,
   "For a sound of the God, for a breath,
For a ripple of the refluence of day,
For the fresh bright wind of the fray,
   For the light of the sunrise of death.

"We have prayed not, we, to be strong,
   To fulfil the desire of our eyes;
- Howbeit they have watched for it long,
Watched, and the night did them wrong,
   Yet they say not of day, shall it rise?

"They are fearful and feeble with years,
   Yet they doubt not of day if it be;
Yea, blinded and beaten with tears,
Yea, sick with foresight of fears,
   Yet a little, and hardly, they see.

"We pray not, we, for the palm,
   For the fruit ingraffed of the fight,
For the blossom of peace and the balm,
And the tender triumph and calm
   Of crownless and weaponless right.

"We pray not, we, to behold
   The latter august new birth,
The young day's purple and gold,
And divine, and rerisen as of old,
   The sun-god Freedom on earth.

"Peace, and world's honour, and fame,
   We have sought after none of these things;
The light of a life like flame
Passing, the storm of a name
   Shaking the strongholds of kings:

"Nor, fashioned of fire and of air,
   The splendour that burns on his head
Who was chiefest in ages that were,
Whose breath blew palaces bare,
   Whose eye shone tyrannies dead:

"All these things in your day
   Ye shall see, O our sons, and shall hold
Surely; but we, in the grey
Twilight, for one thing we pray,
   In that day though our memories be cold:

"To feel on our brows as we wait
   An air of the morning, a breath
From the springs of the east, from the gate
Whence freedom issues, and fate,
   Sorrow, and triumph, and death

"From a land whereon time hath not trod,
   Where the spirit is bondless and bare,
And the world's rein breaks, and the rod,
And the soul of a man, which is God,
   He adores without altar or prayer:

For alone of herself and her right
   She takes, and alone gives grace:
And the colours of things lose light,
And the forms, in the limitless white
   Splendour of space without space:

"And the blossom of man from his tomb
   Yearns open, the flower that survives;
And the shadows of changes consume
In the colourless passionate bloom
   Of the live light made of our lives:

"Seeing each life given is a leaf
   Of the manifold multiform flower,
And the least among these, and the chief,
As an ear in the red-ripe sheaf
   Stored for the harvesting hour.

"O spirit of man, most holy,
   The measure of things and the root,
In our summers and winters a lowly
Seed, putting forth of them slowly
   Thy supreme blossom and fruit;

"In thy sacred and perfect year,
   The souls that were parcel of thee
In the labour and life of us here
Shall be rays of thy sovereign sphere,
   Springs of thy motion shall be.

"There is the fire that was man,
   The light that was love, and the breath
That was hope ere deliverance began,
And the wind that was life for a span,
   And the birth of new things, which is death

There, whosoever had light,
   And, having, for men's sake gave;
All that warred against night;
All that were found in the fight
   Swift to be slain and to save;

"Undisbranched of the storms that disroot us,
   Of the lures that enthrall unenticed;
The names that exalt and transmute us;
The blood-bright splendour of Brutus,
   The snow-bright splendour of Christ.

"There all chains are undone;
   Day there seems but as night;
Spirit and sense are as one
In the light not of star nor of sun;
   Liberty there is the light.

She, sole mother and maker,
   Stronger than sorrow, than strife;
Deathless, though death overtake her;
Faithful, though faith should forsake her;
   Spirit, and saviour, and life."


In the grey beginning of years, in the twilight of things that began,

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