After Sunset - Sonnets

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

‘Si quis piorum Manibus locus.’


I.

Straight from the sun’s grave in the deep clear west
A sweet strong wind blows, glad of life: and I,
Under the soft keen stardawn whence the sky
Takes life renewed, and all night’s godlike breast
Palpitates, gradually revealed at rest
By growth and change of ardours felt on high,
Make onward, till the last flame fall and die
And all the world by night’s broad hand lie blest.
Haply, meseems, as from that edge of death,
Whereon the day lies dark, a brightening breath
Blows more of benediction than the morn,
So from the graves whereon grief gazing saith
That half our heart of life there lies forlorn
May light or breath at least of hope be born.



II.

The wind was soft before the sunset fled:
Now, while the cloud-enshrouded corpse of day
Is lowered along a red funereal way
Down to the dark that knows not white from red,
A clear sheer breeze against the night makes head,
Serene, but sure of life as ere a ray
Springs, or the dusk of dawn knows red from grey,
Being as a soul that knows not quick from dead.
From far beyond the sunset, far above,
Full toward the starry soundless east it blows
Bright as a child’s breath breathing on a rose,
Smooth to the sense as plume of any dove;
Till more and more as darkness grows and glows
Silence and night seem likest life and love.



III.

If light of life outlive the set of sun
That men call death and end of all things, then
How should not that which life held best for men
And proved most precious, though it seem undone
By force of death and woful victory won,
Be first and surest of revival, when
Death shall bow down to life arisen again?
So shall the soul seen be the self-same one
That looked and spake with even such lips and eyes
As love shall doubt not then to recognise,
And all bright thoughts and smiles of all time past
Revive, transfigured, but in spirit and sense
None other than we knew, for evidence
That love’s last mortal word was not his last

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