Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Extracts from Songs before Sunrise: From Mater Triumphalis
By Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)
I DO not bid thee spare me, O dreadful mother!
  I pray thee that thou spare not, of thy grace.
How were it with me then, if ever another
  Should come to stand before thee in this my place?
I am the trumpet at thy lips, thy clarion        5
  Full of thy cry, sonorous with thy breath;
The graves of souls born worms and creeds grown carrion
  Thy blast of judgment fills with fires of death.
Thou art the player whose organ-keys are thunders,
  And I beneath thy foot the pedal prest;        10
Thou art the ray whereat the rent night sunders,
  And I the cloudlet borne upon thy breast.
I shall burn up before thee, pass and perish,
  As haze in sunrise on the red sea-line;
But thou from dawn to sunsetting shalt cherish        15
  The thoughts that led and souls that lighted mine.
Reared between night and noon and truth and error,
  Each twilight-travelling bird that trills and screams
Sickens at midday, nor can face for terror
  The imperious heaven’s inevitable extremes.        20
I have no spirit of skill with equal fingers
  At sign to sharpen or to slacken strings;
I keep no time of song with gold-perched singers
  And chirp of linnets on the wrists of kings.
I am thy storm-thrush of the days that darken,        25
  Thy petrel in the foam that bears thy bark
To port through night and tempest; if thou hearken,
  My voice is in thy heaven before the lark.
My song is in the mist that hides thy morning,
  My cry is up before the day for thee;        30
I have heard thee and beheld thee and give warning,
  Before thy wheels divide the sky and sea.
Birds shall wake with thee voiced and feathered fairer,
  To see in summer what I see in spring;
I have eyes and heart to endure thee, O thunder-bearer,        35
  And they shall be who shall have tongues to sing.
I have love at least, and have not fear, and part not
  From thine unnavigable and wingless way;
Thou tarriest, and I have not said thou art not,
  Nor all thy night long have denied thy day.        40
Darkness to daylight shall lift up thy pæan,
  Hill to hill thunder, vale cry back to vale,
With wind-notes as of eagles Æschylean,
  And Sappho singing in the nightingale.
Sung to by mighty sons of dawn and daughters,        45
  Of this night’s songs thine ear shall keep but one;
That supreme song which shook the channelled waters,
  And called thee skyward as God calls the sun.
Come, though all heaven again be fire above thee;
  Though death before thee come to clear thy sky;        50
Let us but see in his thy face who love thee;
  Yea, though thou slay us, arise and let us die.

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