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Between the wave-ridge and the strand
I let you forth in sight of land,
  Songs that with storm-crossed wings and eyes
  Strain eastward till the darkness dies;
Let signs and beacons fall or stand,
  And stars and balefires set and rise;
Ye, till some lordlier lyric hand
  Weave the beloved brows their crown,
  At the beloved feet lie down.

O, whatsoever of life or light
Love hath to give you, what of might
  Or heart or hope is yours to live,
  I charge you take in trust to give
For very love's sake, in whose sight,
  Through poise of hours alternative
And seasons plumed with light or night,
  Ye live and move and have your breath
  To sing with on the ridge of death.

I charge you faint not all night through
For love's sake that was breathed on you
  To be to you as wings and feet
  For travel, and as blood to heat
And sense of spirit to renew
  And bloom of fragrance to keep sweet
And fire of purpose to keep true
  The life, if life in such things be,
  That I would give you forth of me.

Out where the breath of war may bear,
Out in the rank moist reddened air
  That sounds and smells of death, and hath
  No light but death's upon its path
Seen through the black wind's tangled hair,
  I send you past the wild time's wrath
To find his face who bade you bear
  Fruit of his seed to faith and love,
  That he may take the heart thereof.

By day or night, by sea or street,
Fly till ye find and clasp his feet
  And kiss as worshippers who bring
  Too much love on their lips to sing,
But with hushed heads accept and greet
  The presence of some heavenlier thing
In the near air; so may ye meet
  His eyes, and droop not utterly
  For shame's sake at the light you see.

Not utterly struck spiritless
For shame's sake and unworthiness
  Of these poor forceless hands that come
  Empty, these lips that should be dumb,
This love whose seal can but impress
  These weak word-offerings wearisome
Whose blessings have not strength to bless
  Nor lightnings fire to burn up aught
  Nor smite with thunders of their thought.

One thought they have, even love; one light,
Truth, that keeps clear the sun by night;
  One chord, of faith as of a lyre;
  One heat, of hope as of a fire;
One heart, one music, and one might,
  One flame, one altar, and one choir;
And one man's living head in sight
  Who said, when all time's sea was foam,
  "Let there be Rome"--and there was Rome.

As a star set in space for token
Like a live word of God's mouth spoken,
  Visible sound, light audible,
  In the great darkness thick as hell
A stanchless flame of love unsloken,
  A sign to conquer and compel,
A law to stand in heaven unbroken
  Whereby the sun shines, and wherethrough
  Time's eldest empires are made new;

So rose up on our generations
That light of the most ancient nations,
  Law, life, and light, on the world's way,
  The very God of very day,
The sun-god; from their star-like stations
  Far down the night in disarray
Fled, crowned with fires of tribulations,
  The suns of sunless years, whose light
  And life and law were of the night.

The naked kingdoms quenched and stark
Drave with their dead things down the dark,
  Helmless; their whole world, throne by throne,
  Fell, and its whole heart turned to stone,
Hopeless; their hands that touched our ark
  Withered; and lo, aloft, alone,
On time's white waters man's one bark,
  Where the red sundawn's open eye
  Lit the soft gulf of low green sky.

So for a season piloted
It sailed the sunlight, and struck red
  With fire of dawn reverberate
  The wan face of incumbent fate
That paused half pitying overhead
  And almost had foregone the freight
Of those dark hours the next day bred
  For shame, and almost had forsworn
  Service of night for love of morn.

Then broke the whole night in one blow,
Thundering; then all hell with one throe
  Heaved, and brought forth beneath the stroke
  Death; and all dead things moved and woke
That the dawn's arrows had brought low,
  At the great sound of night that broke
Thundering, and all the old world-wide woe;
  And under night's loud-sounding dome
  Men sought her, and she was not Rome.

Still with blind hands and robes blood-wet
Night hangs on heaven, reluctant yet,
  With black blood dripping from her eyes
  On the soiled lintels of the skies,
With brows and lips that thirst and threat,
  Heart-sick with fear lest the sun rise,
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:02 min read

Algernon Charles Swinburne

Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He wrote several novels and collections of poetry such as Poems and Ballads, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Swinburne wrote about many taboo topics, such as lesbianism, cannibalism, sado-masochism, and anti-theism. His poems have many common motifs, such as the ocean, time, and death. Several historical people are featured in his poems, such as Sappho ("Sapphics"), Anactoria ("Anactoria"), Jesus ("Hymn to Proserpine": Galilaee, La. "Galilean") and Catullus ("To Catullus"). more…

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    "Epilogue" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 23 Oct. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/1311/epilogue>.

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