Studies in Song/Song for the Centenary of Walter Savage Landor

Studies in Song by Algernon Charles Swinburne
Song for the Centenary of Walter Savage Landor

The Song is preceded by a Dedication, in verse, To Mrs. Lynn Linton and is followed by a series of Notes. These relate to specific stanzas and are linked to via the stanza number.




Born January 30th, 1775
Died September 17th, 1864

There is delight in singing, though none hear
Beside the singer: and there is delight
In praising, though the praiser sit alone
And see the praised far off him, far above.




Daughter in spirit elect and consecrate
By love and reverence of the Olympian sire
Whom I too loved and worshipped, seeing so great,
And found so gracious toward my long desire
To bid that love in song before his gate
Sound, and my lute be loyal to his lyre,
To none save one it now may dedicate
Song's new burnt-offering on a century's pyre.
And though the gift be light
As ashes in men's sight,
Left by the flame of no ethereal fire,
Yet, for his worthier sake
Than words are worthless, take
This wreath of words ere yet their hour expire:
So, haply, from some heaven above,
He, seeing, may set next yours my sacrifice of love.

May 24, 1880.



Five years beyond an hundred years have seen

Their winters, white as faith's and age's hue,
Melt, smiling through brief tears that broke between,
And hope's young conquering colours reared anew,
Since, on the day whose edge for kings made keen
Smote sharper once than ever storm-wind blew,
A head predestined for the girdling green:
That laughs at lightning all the seasons through,
Nor frost or change can sunder
Its crown untouched of thunder

Leaf from least leaf of all its leaves that grew
Alone for brows too bold
For storm to sear of old,
Elect to shine in time's eternal view,
Rose on the verge of radiant life
Between the winds and sunbeams mingling love with


The darkling day that gave its bloodred birth

To Milton's white republic undefiled
That might endure so few fleet years on earth
Bore in him likewise as divine a child;
But born not less for crowns of love and mirth,
Of palm and myrtle passionate and mild,
The leaf that girds about with gentler girth
The brow steel-bound in battle, and the wild

Soft spray that flowers above
The flower-soft hair of love;
And the white lips of wayworn winter smiled
And grew serene as spring's
When with stretched clouds like wings
Or wings like drift of snow-clouds massed and piled
The godlike giant, softening, spread
A shadow of stormy shelter round the new-born head.


And o'er it brightening bowed the wild-haired hour,

And touched his tongue with honey and with fire,
And breathed between his lips the note of power
That makes of all the winds of heaven a lyre
Whose strings are stretched from topmost peaks that

To softest springs of waters that suspire,
With sounds too dim to shake the lowliest flower
Breathless with hope and dauntless with desire:
And bright before his face
That Hour became a Grace,
As in the light of their Athenian quire
When the Hours before the sun
And Graces were made one,
Called by sweet Love down from the aerial gyre
By one dear name of natural joy,
To bear on her bright breast from heaven a heaven-born


Ere light could kiss the little lids in sunder

Or love could lift them for the sun to smite,
His fiery birth-star as a sign of wonder
Had risen, perplexing the presageful night

With shadow and glory around her sphere and under
And portents prophesying by sound and sight;
And half the sound was song and half was thunder,
And half his life of lightning, half of light:
And in the soft clenched hand
Shone like a burning brand
A shadowy sword for swordless fields of fight,
Wrought only for such lord
As so may wield the sword
That all things ill be put to fear and flight
Even at the flash and sweep and gleam
Of one swift stroke beheld but in a shuddering dream.


Like the sun's rays that blind the night's wild beasts

The sword of song shines as the swordsman sings;

From the west wind's verge even to the arduous east's
The splendour of the shadow that it flings
Makes fire and storm in heaven above the feasts
Of men fulfilled with food of evil things;
Strikes dumb the lying and hungering lips of priests,
Smites dead the slaying and ravening hands of kings
Turns dark the lamp's hot light,
And turns the darkness bright
As with the shadow of dawn's reverberate wings;
And far before its way
Heaven, yearning toward the day,
Shines with its thunder and round its lightning rings;
And never hand yet earlier played
With that keen sword whose hilt is cloud, and fire its


As dropping flakes of honey-heavy dew

More soft than slumber's, fell the first note's sound
From strings the swift young hand strayed lightlier through
Than leaves through calm air wheeling toward the ground
Stray down the drifting wind when skies are blue
Nor yet the wings of latter winds unbound,
Ere winter loosen all the Æolian crew
With storm unleashed behind them like a hound.
As lightly rose and sank
Beside a green-flowered bank
The clear first notes his burning boyhood found
To sing her sacred praise
Who rode her city's ways
Clothed with bright hair and with high purpose crowned;

A song of soft presageful breath,
Prefiguring all his love and faith in life and death.


Who should love two things only and only praise

More than all else for ever: even the glory
Of goodly beauty in women, whence all days
Take light whereby death's self seems transitory;
And loftier love than loveliest eyes can raise,
Love that wipes off the miry stains and gory
From Time's worn feet, besmirched on bloodred ways,
And lightens with his light the night of story;
Love that lifts up from dust
Life, and makes darkness just,
And purges as with fire of purgatory

The dense disastrous air,
To burn old falsehood bare
And give the wind its ashes heaped and hoary;
Love, that with eyes of ageless youth
Sees on the breast of Freedom borne her nursling Truth.


For at his birth the sistering stars were one

That flamed upon it as one fiery star;
Freedom, whose light makes pale the mounting sun,
And Song, whose fires are quenched when Freedom's are.
Of all that love not liberty let none
Love her that fills our lips with fire from far
To mix with winds and seas in unison
And sound athwart life's tideless harbour-bar

Out where our songs fly free
Across time's bounded sea
A boundless flight beyond the dim sun's car,
Till all the spheres of night
Chime concord round their flight
Too loud for blasts of warring change to mar,
From stars that sang for Homer's birth
To these that gave our Landor welcome back from earth.


Shine, as above his cradle, on his grave,

Stars of our worship, lights of our desire!
For never man that heard the world's wind rave
To you was truer in trust of heart and lyre:
Nor Greece nor England on a brow more brave
Beheld your flame against the wind burn higher:

Nor all the gusts that blanch life's worldly wave
With surf and surge could quench its flawless fire:
No blast of all that blow
Might bid the torch burn low
That lightens on us yet as o'er his pyre,
Indomitable of storm,
That now no flaws deform
Nor thwart winds baffle ere it all aspire,
One light of godlike breath and flame,
To write on heaven with man's most glorious names his


The very dawn was dashed with stormy dew

And freaked with fire as when God's hand would mar
Palaces reared of tyrants, and the blue
Deep heaven was kindled round her thunderous car,

That saw how swift a gathering glory grew
About him risen, ere clouds could blind or bar
A splendour strong to burn and burst them through
And mix in one sheer light things near and far.
First flew before his path
Light shafts of love and wrath,
But winged and edged as elder warriors' are;
Then rose a light that showed
Across the midsea road
From radiant Calpe to revealed Masar
The way of war and love and fate
Between the goals of fear and fortune, hope and hate.


Mine own twice banished fathers' harbour-land,

Their nursing-mother France, the well-beloved,

By the arduous blast of sanguine sunrise fanned,
Flamed on him, and his burning lips were moved
As that live statue's throned on Lybian sand
When morning moves it, ere her light faith roved
From promise, and her tyrant's poisonous hand
Fed hope with Corsic honey till she proved
More deadly than despair
And falser even than fair,
Though fairer than all elder hopes removed
As landmarks by the crime
Of inundating time;
Light faith by grief too loud too long reproved:
For even as in some darkling dance
Wronged love changed hands with hate, and turned his
heart from France.


But past the snows and summits Pyrenean

Love stronger-winged held more prevailing flight
That o'er Tyrrhene, Iberian, and Ægean
Shores lightened with one storm of sound and light.
From earliest even to hoariest years one pæan
Rang rapture through the fluctuant roar of fight,
From Nestor's tongue in accents Achillean
On death's blind verge dominant over night
For voice as hand and hand
As voice for one fair land
Rose radiant, smote sonorous, past the height
Where darkling pines enrobe
The steel-cold Lake of Gaube,
Deep as dark death and keen as death to smite,

To where on peak or moor or plain
His heart and song and sword were one to strike for Spain.


Resurgent at his lifted voice and hand

Pale in the light of war or treacherous fate
Song bade before him all their shadows stand
For whom his will unbarred their funeral grate.
The father by whose wrong revenged his land
Was given for sword and fire to desolate
Rose fire-encircled as a burning brand,
Great as the woes he wrought and bore were great.
Fair as she smiled and died,
Death's crowned and breathless bride
Smiled as one living even on craft and hate:

And pity, a star unrisen,
Scarce lit Ferrante's prison
Ere night unnatural closed the natural gate
That gave their life and love and light
To those fair eyes despoiled by fratricide of sight.


Tears bright and sweet as fire and incense fell

In perfect notes of music-measured pain
On veiled sweet heads that heard not love's farewell
Sob through the song that bade them rise again;
Rise in the light of living song, to dwell
With memories crowned of memory: so the strain
Made soft as heaven the stream that girdles hell
And sweet the darkness of the breathless plain,
And with Elysian flowers

Recrowned the wreathless hours
That mused and mourned upon their works in vain;
For all their works of death
Song filled with light and breath,
And listening grief relaxed her lightening chain;
For sweet as all the wide sweet south
She found the song like honey from the lion's mouth.


High from his throne in heaven Simonides,

Crowned with mild aureole of memorial tears
That the everlasting sun of all time sees
All golden, molten from the forge of years,
Smiled, as the gift was laid upon his knees
Of songs that hang like pearls in mourners' ears,
Mild as the murmuring of Hymettian bees

And honied as their harvest, that endears
The toil of flowery days;
And smiling perfect praise
Hailed his one brother mateless else of peers:
Whom we that hear not him
For length of date grown dim
Hear, and the heart grows glad of grief that hears;
And harshest heights of sorrowing hours,
Like snows of Alpine April, melt from tears to flowers.


Therefore to him the shadow of death was none,

The darkness was not, nor the temporal tomb:
And multitudinous time for him was one,
Who bade before his equal seat of doom
Rise and stand up for judgment in the sun

The weavers of the world's large-historied loom,
By their own works of light or darkness done
Clothed round with light or girt about with gloom.
In speech of purer gold
Than even they spake of old
He bade the breath of Sidney's lips relume
The fire of thought and love
That made his bright life move
Through fair brief seasons of benignant bloom
To blameless music ever, strong
As death and sweet as death-annihilating song.


Thought gave his wings the width of time to roam,

Love gave his thought strength equal to release
From bonds of old forgetful years, like foam

Vanished, the fame of memories that decrease;
So strongly faith had fledged for flight from home
The soul's large pinions till her strife should cease:
And through the trumpet of a child of Rome
Rang the pure music of the flutes of Greece.
As though some northern hand
Reft from the Latin land
A spoil more costly than the Colchian fleece
To clothe with golden sound
Of old joy newly found
And rapture as of penetrating peace
The naked north-wind's cloudiest clime,
And give its darkness light of the old Sicilian time.


He saw the brand that fired the towers of Troy

Fade, and the darkness at Œnone's prayer

Close upon her that closed upon her boy,
For all the curse of godhead that she bare;
And the Apollonian serpent gleam and toy
With scathless maiden limbs and shuddering hair;
And his love smitten in their dawn of joy
Leave Pan the pine-leaf of her change to wear;
And one in flowery coils
Caught as in fiery toils
Smite Calydon with mourning unaware;
And where her low turf shrine
Showed Modesty divine
The fairest mother's daughter far more fair
Hide on her breast the heavenly shame
That kindled once with love should kindle Troy with flame.


Nor less the light of story than of song

With graver glories girt his godlike head,
Reverted alway from the temporal throng
Of lives that live not toward the living dead.
The shadows and the splendours of their throng
Made bright and dark about his board and bed
The lines of life and vision, sweet or strong
With sound of lutes or trumpets blown, that led
Forth of the ghostly gate
Opening in spite of fate
Shapes of majestic or tumultuous tread,
Divine and direful things,
These foul as priests or kings,
Those fair as heaven or love or freedom, red

With blood and green with palms and white
With raiment woven of deeds divine and words of light.


The thunder-fire of Cromwell, and the ray

That keeps the place of Phocion's name serene
And clears the cloud from Kosciusko's day,
Alternate as dark hours with bright between,
Met in the heaven of his high thought, which lay
For all stars open that all eyes had seen
Rise on the night or twilight of the way
Where feet of human hopes and fears had been.
Again the sovereign word
On Milton's lips was heard
Living: again the tender three days' queen

Drew bright and gentle breath
On the sharp edge of death:
And, staged again to show of mortal scene,
Tiberius, ere his name grew dire,
Wept, stainless yet of empire, tears of blood and fire.


Most ardent and most awful and most fond,

The fervour of his Apollonian eye
Yearned upon Hellas, yet enthralled in bond
Of time whose years beheld her and past by
Silent and shameful, till she rose and donned
The casque again of Pallas; for her cry
Forth of the past and future, depths beyond
This where the present and its tyrants lie,
As one great voice of twain

For him had pealed again,
Heard but of hearts high as her own was high,
High as her own and his
And pure as love's heart is,
That lives though hope at once and memory die:
And with her breath his clarion's blast
Was filled as cloud with fire or future souls with past.


As a wave only obsequious to the wind

Leaps to the lifting breeze that bids it leap,
Large-hearted, and its thickening mane be thinned
By the strong god's breath moving on the deep
From utmost Atlas even to extremest Ind
That shakes the plain where no men sow nor reap,
So, moved with wrath toward men that ruled and sinned

And pity toward all tears he saw men weep,
Arose to take man's part
His loving lion heart,
Kind as the sun's that has in charge to keep
Earth and the seed thereof
Safe in his lordly love,
Strong as sheer truth and soft as very sleep;
The mightiest heart since Milton's leapt,
The gentlest since the gentlest heart of Shakespeare slept.


Like the wind's own on her divided sea

His song arose on Corinth, and aloud
Recalled her Isthmian song and strife when she
Was thronged with glories as with gods in crowd

And as the wind's own spirit her breath was free
And as the heaven's own heart her soul was proud,
But freer and prouder stood no son than he
Of all she bare before her heart was bowed;
None higher than he who heard
Medea's keen last word
Transpierce her traitor, and like a rushing cloud
That sundering shows a star
Saw pass her thunderous car
And a face whiter and deadlier than a shroud
That lightened from it, and the brand
Of tender blood that falling seared his suppliant hand.


More fair than all things born and slain of fate,

More glorious than all births of days and nights,

He bade the spirit of man regenerate,
Rekindling, rise and reassume the rights
That in high seasons of his old estate
Clothed him and armed with majesties and mights
Heroic, when the times and hearts were great
And in the depths of ages rose the heights
Radiant of high deeds done
And souls that matched the sun
For splendour with the lightnings of their lights
Whence even their uttered names
Burn like the strong twin flames
Of song that shakes a throne and steel that smites;
As on Thermopylæ when shone
Leonidas, on Syracuse Timoleon.


Or, sweeter than the breathless buds when spring

With smiles and tears and kisses bids them breathe,
Fell with its music from his quiring string
Fragrance of pine-leaves and odorous heath
Twined round the lute whereto he sighed to sing
Of the oak that screened and showed its maid beneath,
Who seeing her bee crawl back with broken wing
Faded, a fairer flower than all her wreath,
And paler, though her oak
Stood scathless of the stroke
More sharp than edge of axe or wolfish teeth,
That mixed with mortals dead
Her own half heavenly head
And life incorporate with a sylvan sheath,
And left the wild rose and the dove
A secret place and sacred from all guests but Love.


But in the sweet clear fields beyond the river

Dividing pain from peace and man from shade
He saw the wings that there no longer quiver
Sink of the hours whose parting footfalls fade
On ears which hear the rustling amaranth shiver
With sweeter sound of wind than ever made
Music on earth: departing, they deliver
The soul that shame or wrath or sorrow swayed;
And round the king of men
Clash the clear arms again,
Clear of all soil and bright as laurel braid,
That rang less high for joy
Through the gates fallen of Troy
Than here to hail the sacrificial maid,

Iphigeneia, when the ford
Fast-flowing of sorrows brought her father and their lord.


And in the clear gulf of the hollow sea

He saw light glimmering through the grave green gloom
That hardly gave the sun's eye leave to see
Cymodameia; but nor tower nor tomb,
No tower on earth, no tomb of waves may be,
That may not sometime by diviner doom
Be plain and pervious to the poet; he
Bids time stand back from him and fate make room
For passage of his feet,
Strong as their own are fleet,
And yield the prey no years may reassume

Through all their clamorous track,
Nor night nor day win back
Nor give to darkness what his eyes illume
And his lips bless for ever: he
Knows what earth knows not, sings truth sung not of the sea.


Before the sentence of a curule chair

More sacred than the Roman, rose and stood
To take their several doom the imperial pair
Diversely born of Venus, and in mood
Diverse as their one mother, and as fair,
Though like two stars contrasted, and as good,
Though different as dark eyes from golden hair;
One as that iron planet red like blood
That bears among the stars
Fierce witness of her Mars

In bitter fire by her sweet light subdued;
One, in the gentler skies
Sweet as her amorous eyes:
One proud of worlds and seas and darkness rude
Composed and conquered; one content
With lightnings from loved eyes of lovers lightly sent.


And where Alpheus and where Ladon ran

Radiant, by many a rushy and rippling cove
More known to glance of god than wandering man,
He sang the strife of strengths divine that strove,
Unequal, one with other, for a span,
Who should be friends for ever in heaven above
And here on pastoral earth: Arcadian Pan,

And the awless lord of kings and shepherds, Love:
All the sweet strife and strange
With fervid counterchange
Till one fierce wail through many a glade and grove
Rang, and its breath made shiver
The reeds of many a river,
And the warm airs waxed wintry that it clove,
Keen-edged as ice-retempered brand;
Nor might god's hurt find healing save of godlike hand.


As when the jarring gates of thunder ope

Like earthquake felt in heaven, so dire a cry,
So fearful and so fierce—'Give the sword scope!'—
Rang from a daughter's lips, darkening the sky

To the extreme azure of all its cloudless cope
With starless horror: nor the God's own eye
Whose doom bade smite, whose ordinance bade hope,
Might well endure to see the adulteress die,
The husband-slayer fordone
By swordstroke of her son,
Unutterable, unimaginable on high,
On earth abhorrent, fell
Beyond all scourge of hell,
Yet righteous as redemption: Love stood nigh,
Mute, sister-like, and closer clung
Than all fierce forms of threatening coil and maddening tongue.


All these things heard and seen and sung of old,

He heard and saw and sang them. Once again

Might foot of man tread, eye of man behold
Things unbeholden save of ancient men,
Ways save by gods untrodden. In his hold
The staff that stayed through some Ætnean glen
The steps of the most highest, most awful-souled
And mightiest-mouthed of singers, even as then
Became a prophet's rod,
A lyre on fire of God,
Being still the staff of exile: yea, as when
The voice poured forth on us
Was even of Æschylus,
And his one word great as the crying of ten,
Crying in men's ears of wrath toward wrong,
Of love toward right immortal, sanctified with song.


Him too whom none save one before him ever

Beheld, nor since hath man again beholden,
Whom Dante seeing him saw not, nor the giver
Of all gifts back to man by time withholden,
Shakespeare—him too, whom sea-like ages sever,
As waves divide men's eyes from lights upholden
To landward, from our songs that find him never,
Seeking, though memory fire and hope embolden—
Him too this one song found,
And raised at its sole sound
Up from the dust of darkling dreams and olden
Legends forlorn of breath,
Up from the deeps of death,
Ulysses: him whose name turns all songs golden,
The wise divine strong soul, whom fate
Could make no less than change and chance beheld him great.


Nor stands the seer who raised him less august

Before us, nor in judgment frail and rathe,
Less constant or less loving or less just,
But fruitful-ripe and full of tender faith,
Holding all high and gentle names in trust
Of time for honour; so his quickening breath
Called from the darkness of their martyred dust
Our sweet Saints Alice and Elizabeth,
Revived and reinspired
With speech from heavenward fired
By love to say what Love the Archangel saith
Only, nor may such word
Save by such ears be heard
As hear the tongues of angels after death

Descending on them like a dove
Has taken all earthly sense of thought away but love.


All sweet, all sacred, all heroic things,

All generous names and loyal, and all wise,
With all his heart in all its wayfarings
He sought, and worshipped, seeing them with his eyes
In very present glory, clothed with wings
Of words and deeds and dreams immortal, rise
Visible more than living slaves and kings,
Audible more than actual vows and lies:
These, with scorn's fieriest rod,
These and the Lord their God,
The Lord their likeness, tyrant of the skies

As they Lord Gods of earth,
These with a rage of mirth
He mocked and scourged and spat on, in such wise
That none might stand before his rod,
And these being slain the Spirit alone be lord or God.


For of all souls for all time glorious none

Loved Freedom better, of all who have loved her best,
Than he who wrote that scripture of the sun
Writ as with fire and light on heaven's own crest,
Of all words heard on earth the noblest one
That ever spake for souls and left them blest:
Gladly we should rest ever, had we won
Freedom: we have lost, and very gladly rest.

O poet hero, lord
And father, we record
Deep in the burning tablets of the breast
Thankfully those divine
And living words of thine
For faith and comfort in our hearts imprest
With strokes engraven past hurt of years
And lines inured with fire of immemorial tears.


But who being less than thou shall sing of thee

Words worthy of more than pity or less than scorn?
Who sing the golden garland woven of three,
Thy daughters, Graces mightier than the morn,
More godlike than the graven gods men see
Made all but all immortal, human born

And heavenly natured? With the first came He,
Led by the living hand, who left forlorn
Life by his death, and time
More by his life sublime
Than by the lives of all whom all men mourn,
And even for mourning praise
Heaven, as for all those days
These dead men's lives clothed round with glories worn
By memory till all time lie dead,
And higher than all behold the bay round Shakespeare's head.


Then, fairer than the fairest Grace of ours,

Came girt with Grecian gold the second Grace,

And verier daughter of his most perfect hours
Than any of latter time or alien place
Named, or with hair inwoven of English flowers
Only, nor wearing on her statelier face
The lordlier light of Athens. All the Powers
That graced and guarded round that holiest race,
That heavenliest and most high
Time hath seen live and die,
Poured all their power upon him to retrace
The erased immortal roll
Of Love's most sovereign scroll
And Wisdom's warm from Freedom's wide embrace,
The scroll that on Aspasia's knees
Laid once made manifest the Olympian Pericles.


Clothed on with tenderest weft of Tuscan air,

Came laughing like Etrurian spring the third,
With green Valdelsa's hill-flowers in her hair
Deep-drenched with May-dews, in her voice the bird
Whose voice hath night and morning in it; fair
As the ambient gold of wall-flowers that engird
The walls engirdling with a circling stair
My sweet San Gimignano: nor a word
Fell from her flowerlike mouth
Not sweet with all the south;
As though the dust shrined in Certaldo stirred
And spake, as o'er it shone
That bright Pentameron,
And his own vines again and chestnuts heard
Boccaccio: nor swift Elsa's chime
Mixed not her golden babble with Petrarca's rhyme.


No lovelier laughed the garden which receives

Yet, and yet hides not from our following eyes
With soft rose-laurels and low strawberry-leaves,
Ternissa, sweet as April-coloured skies,
Bowed like a flowering reed when May's wind heaves
The reed-bed that the stream kisses and sighs,
In love that shrinks and murmurs and believes
What yet the wisest of the starriest wise
Whom Greece might ever hear
Speaks in the gentlest ear
That ever heard love's lips philosophize
With such deep-reasoning words
As blossoms use and birds,
Nor heeds Leontion lingering till they rise

Far off, in no wise over far,
Beneath a heaven all amorous of its first-born star.


What sound, what storm and splendour of what fire,

Darkening the light of heaven, lightening the night,
Rings, rages, flashes round what ravening pyre
That makes time's face pale with its reflex light
And leaves on earth, who seeing might scarce respire,
A shadow of red remembrance? Right nor might
Alternating wore ever shapes more dire
Nor manifest in all men's awful sight
In form and face that wore
Heaven's light and likeness more
Than these, or held suspense men's hearts at height

More fearful, since man first
Slaked with man's blood his thirst,
Than when Rome clashed with Hannibal in fight,
Till tower on ruining tower was hurled
Where Scipio stood, and Carthage was not in the world.


Nor lacked there power of purpose in his hand

Who carved their several praise in words of gold
To bare the brows of conquerors and to brand,
Made shelterless of laurels bought and sold
For price of blood or incense, dust or sand,
Triumph or terror. He that sought of old
His father Ammon in a stranger's land,
And shrank before the serpentining fold,

Stood in our seer's wide eye
No higher than man most high,
And lowest in heart when highest in hope to hold
Fast as a scripture furled
The scroll of all the world
Sealed with his signet: nor the blind and bold
First thief of empire, round whose head
Swarmed carrion flies for bees, on flesh for violets fed.[1]


As fire that kisses, killing with a kiss,

He saw the light of death, riotous and red,
Flame round the bent brows of Semiramis
Re-risen, and mightier, from the Assyrian dead,

Kindling, as dawn a frost-bound precipice,
The steely snows of Russia, for the tread
Of feet that felt before them crawl and hiss
The snaky lines of blood violently shed.
Like living creeping things
That writhe but have no stings
To scare adulterers from the imperial bed
Bowed with its load of lust,
Or chill the ravenous gusts
That made her body a fire from heel to head;
Or change her high bright spirit and clear,
For all its mortal stains, from taint of fraud or fear.


As light that blesses, hallowing with a look;

He saw the godhead in Vittoria's face

Shine soft on Buonarroti's, till he took,
Albeit himself God, a more godlike grace,
A strength more heavenly to confront and brook
All ill things coiled about his worldly race,
From the bright scripture of that present book
Wherein his tired grand eyes got power to trace
Comfort more sweet than youth,
And hope whose child was truth,
And love that brought forth sorrow for a space,
Only that she might bear
Joy: these things, written there,
Made even his soul's high heaven a heavenlier place,
Perused with eyes whose glory and glow
Had in their fires the spirit of Michael Angelo.


With balms and dews of blessing he consoled

The fair fame wounded by the black priest's fang,
Giovanna's, and washed off her blithe and bold
Boy-bridegroom's blood, that seemed so long to hang
On her fair hand, even till the stain of old
Was cleansed with healing song, that after sang
Sharp truth by sweetest singers' lips untold
Of pale Beatrice, though her death-note rang
From other strings divine
Ere his rekindling line
With yet more piteous and intolerant pang
Pierced all men's hearts anew
That heard her passion through
Till fierce from throes of fiery pity sprang

Wrath, armed for chase of monstrous beasts,
Strong to lay waste the kingdom of the seed of priests.


He knew the high-souled humbleness, the mirth

And majesty of meanest men born free,
That made with Luther's or with Hofer's birth
The whole world worthier of the sun to see:
The wealth of spirit among the snows, the dearth
Wherein souls festered by the servile sea
That saw the lowest of even crowned heads on earth
Thronged round with worship in Parthenope.
His hand bade Justice guide
Her child Tyrannicide,
Light winged by fire that brings the dawn to be;

And pierced with Tyrrel's dart
Again the riotous heart
That mocked at mercy's tongue and manhood's knee:
And oped the cell where kinglike death
Hung o'er her brows discrowned who bare Elizabeth.


Toward Spenser or toward Bacon proud or kind

He bared the heart of Essex, twain and one,
For the base heart that soiled the starry mind
Stern, for the father in his child undone
Soft as his own toward children, stamped and signed
With their sweet image visibly set on
As by God's hand, clear as his own designed
The likeness radiant out of ages gone

That none may now destroy
Of that high Roman boy
Whom Julius and Cleopatra saw their son
True-born of sovereign seed,
Foredoomed even thence to bleed,
The stately grace of bright Cæsarion,
The head unbent, the heart unbowed,
That not the shadow of death could make less clear and proud.


With gracious gods he communed, honouring thus

At once by service and similitude,
Service devout and worship emulous
Of the same golden Muses once they wooed,
The names and shades adored of all of us,
The nurslings of the brave world's earlier brood,

Grown gods for us themselves: Theocritus
First, and more dear Catullus, names bedewed
With blessings bright like tears
From the old memorial years,
And loves and lovely laughters, every mood
Sweet as the drops that fell
Of their own oenomel
From living lips to cheer the multitude
That feeds on words divine, and grows
More worthy, seeing their world reblossom like a rose.


Peace, the soft seal of long life's closing story,

The silent music that no strange note jars,
Crowned not with gentler hand the years that glory
Crowned, but could hide not all the spiritual scars

Time writes on the inward strengths of warriors hoary
With much long warfare, and with gradual bars
Blindly pent in: but these, being transitory,
Broke, and the power came back that passion mars:
And at the lovely last
Above all anguish past
Before his own the sightless eyes like stars
Arose that watched arise
Like stars in other skies
Above the strife of ships and hurtling cars
The Dioscurian songs divine
That lighten all the world with lightning of their line.


He sang the last of Homer, having sung

The last of his Ulysses. Bright and wide

For him time's dark strait ways, like clouds that clung
About the day-star, doubtful to divide,
Waxed in his spiritual eyeshot, and his tongue
Spake as his soul bore witness, that descried,
Like those twin towering lights in darkness hung,
Homer, and grey Laertes at his side
Kingly as kings are none
Beneath a later sun,
And the sweet maiden ministering in pride
To sovereign and to sage
In their more sweet old age:
These things he sang, himself as old, and died.
And if death be not, if life be,
As Homer and as Milton are in heaven is he.


Poet whose large-eyed loyalty of love

Was pure toward all high poets, all their kind
And all bright words and all sweet works thereof;
Strong like the sun, and like the sunlight kind;
Heart that no fear but every grief might move
Wherewith men's hearts were bound of powers that bind;
The purest soul that ever proof could prove
From taint of tortuous or of envious mind;
Whose eyes elate and clear
Nor shame nor ever fear
But only pity or glorious wrath could blind;
Name set for love apart,
Held lifelong in my heart,
Face like a father's toward my face inclined;
No gilts like thine are mine to give,
Who by thine own words only bid thee hail, and live.

  1. Thy lifelong works, Napoleon, who shall write?
    Time, in his children's blood who takes delight.
    From the Greek of Landor.