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May Janet

Algernon Charles Swinburne 1837 (London) – 1909 (London)



“STAND UP, stand up, thou May Janet,
And go to the wars with me.”
He’s drawn her by both hands
With her face against the sea.

“He that strews red shall gather white,
He that sows white reap red,
Before your face and my daughter’s
Meet in a marriage-bed.

“Gold coin shall grow in the yellow field,
Green corn in the green sea-water,
And red fruit grow of the rose’s red,
Ere your fruit grow in her.”

“But I shall have her by land,” he said,
“Or I shall have her by sea,
Or I shall have her by strong treason
And no grace go with me.”

Her father’s drawn her by both hands,
He’s rent her gown from her,
He’s ta’en the smock round her body,
Cast in the sea-water.

The captain’s drawn her by both sides
Out of the fair green sea;
“Stand up, stand up, thou May Janet,
And come to the war with me.”

The first town they came to
There was a blue bride-chamber;
He clothed her on with silk
And belted her with amber.

The second town they came to
The bridesmen feasted knee to knee;
He clothed her on with silver,
A stately thing to see.

The third town they came to
The bridesmaids all had gowns of gold;
He clothed her on with purple,
A rich thing to behold.

The last town they came to
He clothed her white and red,
With a green flag either side of her
And a gold flag overhead.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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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