Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
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Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
 
XXX. Sweet Sorrow
From ‘Ave atque vale’
By Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)
 
[See full text.]

In memory of Charles Baudelaire

O SLEEPLESS heart and sombre soul unsleeping,
  That were athirst for sleep and no more life
  And no more love, for peace and no more strife!
Now the dim gods of death have in their keeping
  Spirit and body and all the springs of song,        5
  Is it well now where love can do no wrong,
Where stingless pleasure has no foam or fang
  Behind the unopening closure of her lips?
  Is it not well where soul from body slips
And flesh from bone divides without a pang        10
  As dew from flower-bell drips?
 
It is enough; the end and the beginning
  Are one thing to thee, who art past the end.
  O hand unclasp’d of unbeholden friend,
For thee no fruits to pluck, no palms for winning,        15
  No triumph and no labour and no lust,
  Only dead yew-leaves and a little dust.
O quiet eyes wherein the light saith naught,
  Whereto the day is dumb, nor any night
  With obscure finger silences your sight,        20
Nor in your speech the sudden soul speaks thought,
  Sleep, and have sleep for light….
 
Thou art far too far for wings of words to follow,
  Far too far off for thought or any prayer.
  What ails us with thee, who art wind and air?        25
What ails us gazing where all seen is hollow?
  Yet with some fancy, yet with some desire,
  Dreams pursue death as winds a flying fire,
Our dreams pursue our dead and do not find.
  Still, and more swift than they, the thin flame flies,        30
  The low light fails us in elusive skies,
Still the foil’d earnest ear is deaf, and blind
  Are still the eluded eyes….
 
Therefore he too now at thy soul’s sunsetting,
  God of all suns and songs, he too bends down        35
  To mix his laurel with thy cypress crown,
And save thy dust from blame and from forgetting.
  Therefore he too, seeing all thou wert and art,
  Compassionate, with sad and sacred heart,
Mourns thee of many his children the last dead,        40
  And hallows with strange tears and alien sighs
  Thine unmelodious mouth and sunless eyes,
And over thine irrevocable head
  Sheds light from the under skies….
 
Sleep, and if life was bitter to thee, pardon,        45
  If sweet, give thanks; thou hast no more to live;
  And to give thanks is good, and to forgive.
Out of the mystic and the mournful garden
  Where all day through thine hands in barren braid
  Wove the sick flowers of secrecy and shade,        50
Green buds of sorrow and sin, and remnants grey,
  Sweet-smelling, pale with poison, sanguine-hearted,
  Passions that sprang from sleep and thoughts that started,
Shall death not bring us all as thee one day
  Among the days departed?…        55
 
Content thee, howsoe’er, whose days are done;
  There lies not any troublous thing before,
  Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more,
For whom all winds are quiet as the sun,
  All waters as the shore.        60
 
 
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