Algernon Charles Swinburne
Mentana : First Anniversary - Poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne
At the time when the stars are grey,
And the gold of the molten moon
Fades, and the twilight is thinned,
And the sun leaps up, and the wind,
A light rose, not of the day,
A stronger light than of noon.
As the light of a face much loved
Was the face of the light that clomb;
As a mother's whitened with woes
Her adorable head that arose;
As the sound of a God that is moved,
Her voice went forth upon Rome.
At her lips it fluttered and failed
Twice, and sobbed into song,
And sank as a flame sinks under;
Then spake, and the speech was thunder,
And the cheek as he heard it paled
Of the wrongdoer grown grey with the wrong.
"Is it time, is it time appointed,
Angel of time, is it near?
For the spent night aches into day
When the kings shall slay not or pray,
And the high-priest, accursed and anointed,
Sickens to deathward with fear.
"For the bones of my slain are stirred,
And the seed of my earth in her womb
Moves as the heart of a bud
Beating with odorous blood
To the tune of the loud first bird
Burns and yearns into bloom.
"I lay my hand on her bosom,
My hand on the heart of my earth,
And I feel as with shiver and sob
The triumphant heart in her throb,
The dead petals dilate into blossom,
The divine blood beat into birth.
"O my earth, are the springs in thee dry?
O sweet, is thy body a tomb?
Nay, springs out of springs derive,
And summers from summers alive,
And the living from them that die;
No tomb is here, but a womb.
"O manifold womb and divine,
Give me fruit of my children, give!
I have given thee my dew for thy root,
Give thou me for my mouth of thy fruit;
Thine are the dead that are mine,
And mine are thy sons that live.
"O goodly children, O strong
Italian spirits, that wear
My glories as garments about you,
Could time or the world misdoubt you,
Behold, in disproof of the wrong,
The field of the grave-pits there.
"And ye that fell upon sleep,
We have you too with us yet.
Fairer than life or than youth
Is this, to die for the truth:
No death can sink you so deep
As their graves whom their brethren forget.
"Were not your pains as my pains?
As my name are your names not divine?
Was not the light in your eyes
Mine, the light of my skies,
And the sweet shed blood of your veins,
O my beautiful martyrs, mine?
"Of mine earth were your dear limbs made,
Of mine air was your sweet life's breath;
At the breasts of my love ye were fed,
O my children, my chosen, my dead,
At my breasts where again ye are laid,
At the old mother's bosom, in death.
"But ye that live, O their brothers,
Be ye to me as they were;
Give me, my children that live,
What these dead grudged not to give,
Who alive were sons of your mother's,
Whose lips drew breath of your air.
"Till darkness by dawn be cloven,
Let youth's self mourn and abstain;
And love's self find not an hour,
And spring's self wear not a flower,
And Lycoris, with hair unenwoven,
Hail back to the banquet in vain.
"So sooner and surer the glory
That is not with us shall be,
And stronger the hands that smite
The heads of the sons of night,
And the sound throughout earth of our story
Give all men heart to be free."
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