ATALANTA IN CALYDON - Algernon Charles Swinburne Poems


Poems » algernon charles swinburne » atalanta in calydon



When the hounds of spring are on winter's traces,
     The mother of months in meadow or plain
Fills the shadows and windy places
     With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain;
And the brown bright nightingale amorous
Is half assuaged for Itylus,
For the Thracian ships and the foreign faces,
     The tongueless vigil, and all the pain.

Come with bows bent and with emptying of quivers,
     Maiden most perfect, lady of light,
With a noise of winds and many rivers,
     With a clamour of waters, and with might;
Bind on thy sandals, O thou most fleet,
Over the splendour and speed of thy feet;
For the faint east quickens, the wan west shivers,
     Round the feet of the day and the feet of the night.

Where shall we find her, how shall we sing to her,
     Fold our hands round her knees, and cling?
O that man's heart were as fire and could spring to her,
     Fire, or the strength of the streams that spring!
For the stars and the winds are unto her
As raiment, as songs of the harp-player;
For the risen stars and the fallen cling to her,
     And the southwest-wind and the west-wind sing.

For winter's rains and ruins are over,
     And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
     The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
     Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

The full streams feed on flower of rushes,
     Ripe grasses trammel a travelling foot,
The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes
     From leaf to flower and flower to fruit;
And fruit and leaf are as gold and fire,
And the oat is heard above the lyre,
And the hoofèd heel of a satyr crushes
     The chestnut-husk at the chestnut root.

And Pan by noon and Bacchus by night,
     Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid,
Follows with dancing and fills with delight
     The Mænad and the Bassarid;
And soft as lips that laugh and hide
The laughing leaves of the trees divide,
And screen from seeing and leave in sight
     The god pursuing, the maiden hid.

The ivy falls with the Bacchanal's hair
     Over her eyebrows hiding her eyes;
The wild vine slipping down leaves bare
     Her bright breast shortening into sighs;
The wild vine slips with the weight of its leaves,
But the berried ivy catches and cleaves
To the limbs that glitter, the feet that scare
     The wolf that follows, the fawn that flies.

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Before the beginning of years
     There came to the making of man
Time, with a gift of tears;
     Grief, with a glass that ran;
Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
     Summer, with flowers that fell;
Remembrance fallen from heaven,
     And madness risen from hell;
Strength without hands to smite;
     Love that endures for a breath;
Night, the shadow of light,
     And life, the shadow of death.

And the high gods took in hand
     Fire, and the falling of tears,
And a measure of sliding sand
     From under the feet of the years;
And froth and drift of the sea;
     And dust of the labouring earth;
And bodies of things to be
     In the houses of death and of birth;
And wrought with weeping and laughter,
     And fashioned with loathing and love
With life before and after
     And death beneath and above,
For a day and a night and a morrow,
     That his strength might endure for a span
With travail and heavy sorrow,
     The holy spirit of man.

From the winds of the north and the south
     They gathered as unto strife;
They breathed upon his mouth,
     They filled his body with life;
Eyesight and speech they wrought
     For the veils of the soul therein,
A time for labour and thought,
     A time to serve and to sin;
They gave him light in his ways,
     And love, and a space for delight,
And beauty and length of days,
     And night, and sleep in the night.
His speech is a burning fire;
     With his lips he travaileth;
In his heart is a blind desire,
     In his eyes foreknowledge of death;
He weaves, and is clothed with derision;
     Sows, and he shall not reap;
His life is a watch or a vision
     Between a sleep and a sleep.