Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
By Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)

THE SEA gives her shells to the shingle,
  The earth gives her streams to the sea;
They are many, but my gift is single,
  My verses, the first fruits of me.
Let the wind take the green and the gray leaf,        5
  Cast forth without fruit upon air;
Take rose-leaf and vine-leaf and bay-leaf
      Blown loose from the hair.
The night shakes them round me in legions,
  Dawn drives them before her like dreams;        10
Time sheds them like snows on strange regions,
  Swept shoreward on infinite streams;
Leaves pallid and sombre and ruddy
  Dead fruits of the fugitive years;
Some stained as with wine and made bloody,        15
      And some as with tears.
Some scattered in seven years’ traces,
  As they fell from the boy that was then;
Long left among idle green places,
  Or gathered but now among men;        20
On seas full of wonder and peril,
  Blown white round the capes of the north;
Or in islands where myrtles are sterile
      And loves bring not forth.
O daughters of dreams and of stories        25
  That life is not wearied of yet,—
Faustine, Fragoletta, Dolores,
  Felise and Yolande and Juliette,—
Shall I find you not still, shall I miss you,
  When sleep that is true or that seems        30
Comes back to me hopeless to kiss you,
      O daughters of dreams?
They are past as a slumber that passes,
  As the dew of a dawn of old time;
More frail than the shadows on glasses,        35
  More fleet than a wave or a rhyme.
As the waves after ebb drawing seaward,
  When their hollows are full of the night,
So the birds that flew singing to me-ward
      Recede out of sight.        40
The songs of dead seasons that wander
  On wings of articulate words;
Lost leaves that the shore-wind may squander,
  Light flocks of untamable birds:
Some sang to me dreaming in class-time,        45
  And truant in hand as in tongue;
For the youngest were born of boy’s pastime,
      The eldest are young.
Is there shelter while life in them lingers,
  Is there hearing for songs that recede,        50
Tunes touched from a harp with men’s fingers
  Or blown with boy’s mouth in a reed?
Is there place in the land of your labor,
  Is there room in your world of delight,
Where change has not sorrow for neighbor        55
      And day has not night?
In their wings though the sea-wind yet quivers,
  Will you spare not a space for them there,
Made green with the running of rivers
  And gracious with temperate air;        60
In the fields and turreted cities,
  That cover from sunshine and rain
Fair passions and bountiful pities
      And loves without strain?
In a land of clear colors and stories,        65
  In a region of shadowless hours,
Where earth has a garment of glories
  And a murmur of musical flowers;
In woods where the spring half uncovers
  The flush of her amorous face,        70
By the waters that listen for lovers,—
      For these is there place?
For the song-birds of sorrow, that muffle
  Their music as clouds do their fire;
For the storm-birds of passion, that ruffle        75
  Wild wings in a wind of desire;
In the stream of the storm as it settles
  Blown seaward, borne far from the sun,
Shaken loose on the darkness like petals
      Dropt one after one?        80
Though the world of your hands be more gracious,
  And lovelier in lordship of things
Clothed round by sweet art with the spacious
  Warm heaven of her imminent wings,
Let them enter, unfledged and nigh fainting,        85
  For the love of old loves and lost times;
And receive in your palace of painting
      This revel of rhymes.
Though the seasons of man full of losses
  Make empty the years full of youth,        90
If but one thing be constant in crosses,
  Change lays not her hand upon truth;
Hopes die, and their tombs are for token
  That the grief, as the joy, of them ends
Ere time that breaks all men has broken        95
      The faith between friends.
Though the many lights dwindle to one light,
  There is help if the heaven has one;
Though the skies be discrowned of the sunlight
  And the earth dispossessed of the sun,        100
They have moonlight and sleep for repayment,
  When, refreshed as a bride, and set free
With stars and sea-winds in her raiment,
      Night sinks on the sea.

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