Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
Extracts from Songs before Sunrise: From Hertha
By Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)
 
                    THE TREE many-rooted
                      That swells to the sky
                    With frondage red-fruited,
                      The life-tree am I;
In the buds of your lives is the sap of my leaves: ye shall live and not die.        5
 
                    But the Gods of your fashion
                      That take and that give,
                    In their pity and passion
                      That scourge and forgive,
They are worms that are bred in the bark that falls off; they shall die and not live.        10
 
                    My own blood is what stanches
                      The wounds in my bark;
                    Stars caught in my branches
                      Make day of the dark,
And are worshipped as suns till the sunrise shall tread out their fires as a spark.        15
 
                    Where dead ages hide under
                      The live roots of the tree,
                    In my darkness the thunder
                      Makes utterance of me;
In the clash of my boughs with each other ye hear the waves sound of the sea.        20
 
                    That noise is of Time,
                      As his feathers are spread
                    And his feet set to climb
                      Through the boughs overhead,
And my foliage rings round him and rustles, and branches are bent with his tread.        25
 
                    The storm-winds of ages
                      Blow through me and cease,
                    The war-wind that rages,
                      The spring-wind of peace,
Ere the breath of them roughen my tresses, ere one of my blossoms increase.        30
 
                    All sounds of all changes,
                      All shadows and lights
                    On the world’s mountain-ranges
                      And stream-riven heights,
Whose tongue is the wind’s tongue and language of storm-clouds on earth-shaking nights;        35
 
                    All forms of all faces,
                      All works of all hands
                    In unsearchable places
                      Of time-stricken lands,
All death and all life, and all reigns and all ruins, drop through me as sands.        40
 
                    Though sore be my burden
                      And more than ye know,
                    And my growth have no guerdon
                      But only to grow,
Yet I fail not of growing for lightnings above me or death-worms below.        45
 
                    These too have their part in me,
                      As I too in these;
                    Such fire is at heart in me,
                      Such sap is this tree’s,
Which hath in it all sounds and all secrets of infinite lands and of seas.        50
 
                    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 rays.        55
 
                    And the sound of them springing
                      And the 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.        60
 
                    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 fair.        65
 
                    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 vows.        70
 
                    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 Lord.        75
 
                    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 see.        80
 
                    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 God.        85
 
                    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 year.        90
 
                    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.        95
 
                    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.        100
 
                    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.        105
 
 
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