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 the Epilogue to Songs before Sunrise
By Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)
 
AS one that ere a June day rise
Makes seaward for the dawn, and tries
  The water with delighted limbs
  That taste the sweet dark sea, and swims
Right eastward under strengthening skies,        5
  And sees the gradual rippling rims
Of waves whence day breaks blossom-wise
  Take fire ere light peer well above,
  And laughs from all his heart with love;
 
And softlier swimming with raised head        10
Feels the full flower of morning shed
  And fluent sunrise round him rolled
  That laps and laves his body bold
With fluctuant heaven in water’s stead,
  And urgent through the growing gold        15
Strikes, and sees all the spray flash red,
  And his soul takes the sun, and yearns
  For joy wherewith the sea’s heart burns;
 
So the soul seeking through the dark
Heavenward, a dove without an ark,        20
  Transcends the unnavigable sea
  Of years that wear out memory;
So calls, a sunward-singing lark,
  In the ear of souls that should be free;
So points them toward the sun for mark        25
  Who steer not for the stress of waves,
  And seek strange helmsmen, and are slaves.
 
For if the swimmer’s eastward eye
Must see no sunrise—must put by
  The hope that lifted him and led        30
  Once, to have light about his head,
To see beneath the clear low sky
  The green foam-whitened wave wax red
And all the morning’s banner fly—
  Then, as earth’s helpless hopes go down,        35
  Let earth’s self in the dark tides drown.
 
Yea, if no morning must behold
Man, other than were they now cold,
  And other deeds than past deeds done,
  Nor any near or far-off sun        40
Salute him risen and sunlike-souled,
  Free, boundless, fearless, perfect, one,
Let man’s world die like worlds of old,
  And here in heaven’s sight only be
  The sole sun on the worldless sea.        45
 
 
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