Dedication - A Channel Passage and Other Poems

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

The sea that is life everlasting
And death everlasting as life
Abides not a pilot's forecasting,
Foretells not of peace or of strife.
The might of the night that was hidden
Arises and darkens the day,
A glory rebuked and forbidden,
Time's crown, and his prey.
No sweeter, no kindlier, no fairer,
No lovelier a soul from its birth
Wore ever a brighter and rarer
Life's raiment for life upon earth
Than his who enkindled and cherished
Art's vestal and luminous flame,
That dies not when kingdoms have perished
In storm or in shame.
No braver, no trustier, no purer,
No stronger and clearer a soul
Bore witness more splendid and surer
For manhood found perfect and whole
Since man was a warrior and dreamer
Than his who in hatred of wrong
Would fain have arisen a redeemer
By sword or by song.
Twin brethren in spirit, immortal
As art and as love, which were one
For you from the birthday whose portal
First gave you to sight of the sun,
To-day nor to-night nor to-morrow
May bring you again from above,
Drawn down by the spell of the sorrow
Whose anguish is love.
No light rearising hereafter
Shall lighten us here as of old
When seasons were lustrous as laughter
Of waves that are snowshine and gold.
The dawn that imbues and enkindles
Life's fluctuant and fugitive sea
Dies down as the starshine that dwindles
And cares not to be.
Men, mightier than death which divides us,
Friends, dearer than sorrow can say,
The light that is darkness and hides us
Awhile from each other away
Abides but awhile and endures not,
We know, though the day be as night,
For souls that forgetfulness lures not
Till sleep be in sight.
The sleep that enfolds you, the slumber
Supreme and eternal on earth,
Whence ages of numberless number
Shall bring us not back into birth,
We know not indeed if it be not
What no man hath known if it be,
Life, quickened with light that we see not
If spirits may see.
The love that would see and would know it
Is even as the love of a child.
But the fire of the fame of the poet
Who gazed on the past, and it smiled,
But the light of the fame of the painter
Whose hand was as morning's in May,
Death bids not be darker or fainter,
Time casts not away.
We, left of them loveless and lonely,
Who lived in the light of their love,
Whose darkness desires it, we only,
Who see them afar and above,
So far, if we die not, above us,
So lately no dearer than near,
May know not of death if they love us,
Of night if they hear.
We, stricken and darkling and living,
Who loved them and love them, abide
A day, and the gift of its giving,
An hour, and the turn of its tide,
When twilight and midnight and morrow
Shall pass from the sight of the sun,
And death be forgotten, and sorrow
Discrowned and undone.
For us as for these will the breathless
Brief minute arise and pass by:
And if death be not utterly deathless,
If love do not utterly die,
From the life that is quenched as an ember
The soul that aspires as a flame
Can choose not but wholly remember
Love, lovelier than fame.
Though sure be the seal of their glory
And fairer no fame upon earth,
Though never a leaf shall grow hoary
Of the crowns that were given them at birth,
While time as a vassal doth duty
To names that he towers not above,
More perfect in price and in beauty
For ever is love.
The night is upon us, and anguish
Of longing that yearns for the dead.
But mourners that faint not or languish,
That veil not and bow not the head,
Take comfort to heart if a token
Be given them of comfort to be:
While darkness on earth is unbroken,
Light lives on the sea.

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