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Music: An Ode

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



WAS it light that spake from the darkness,
or music that shone from the word,
When the night was enkindled with sound
of the sun or the first-born bird?
Souls enthralled and entrammelled in bondage
of seasons that fall and rise,
Bound fast round with the fetters of flesh,
and blinded with light that dies,
Lived not surely till music spake,
and the spirit of life was heard.

Music, sister of sunrise, and herald of life to be,
Smiled as dawn on the spirit of man,
and the thrall was free.
Slave of nature and serf of time,
the bondman of life and death,
Dumb with passionless patience that breathed
but forlorn and reluctant breath,
Heard, beheld, and his soul made answer,
and communed aloud with the sea.

Morning spake, and he heard:
and the passionate silent noon
Kept for him not silence:
and soft from the mounting moon
Fell the sound of her splendour,
heard as dawn's in the breathless night,
Not of men but of birds whose note
bade man's soul quicken and leap to light:
And the song of it spake, and the light and the darkness
of earth were as chords in tune.

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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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