Dedication From "Astrophel and Other Poems"

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

The sea of the years that endure not
Whose tide shall endure till we die
And know what the seasons assure not,
If death be or life be a lie,
Sways hither the spirit and thither,
A waif in the swing of the sea
Whose wrecks are of memories that wither
As leaves of a tree.
We hear not and hail not with greeting
The sound of the wings of the years,
The storm of the sound of them beating,
That none till it pass from him hears:
But tempest nor calm can imperil
The treasures that fade not or fly;
Change bids them not change and be sterile,
Death bids them not die.
Hearts plighted in youth to the royal
High service of hope and of song,
Sealed fast for endurance as loyal,
And proved of the years as they throng,
Conceive not, believe not, and fear not
That age may be other than youth;
That faith and that friendship may hear not
And utter not truth.
Not yesterday's light nor to-morrow's
Gleams nearer or clearer than gleams,
Though joys be forgotten and sorrows
Forgotten as changes of dreams,
The dawn of the days unforgotten
That noon could eclipse not or slay,
Whose fruits were as children begotten
Of dawn upon day.
The years that were flowerful and fruitless,
The years that were fruitful and dark,
The hopes that were radiant and rootless,
The hopes that were winged for their mark,
Lie soft in the sepulchres fashioned
Of hours that arise and subside,
Absorbed and subdued and impassioned,
In pain or in pride.
But far in the night that entombs them
The starshine as sunshine is strong,
And clear through the cloud that resumes them
Remembrance, a light and a song,
Rings lustrous as music and hovers
As birds that impend on the sea,
And thoughts that their prison-house covers
Arise and are free.
Forgetfulness deep as a prison
Holds days that are dead for us fast
Till the sepulchre sees rearisen
The spirit whose reign is the past,
Disentrammelled of darkness, and kindled
With life that is mightier than death,
When the life that obscured it has dwindled
And passed as a breath.
But time nor oblivion may darken
Remembrance whose name will be joy
While memory forgets not to hearken,
While manhood forgets not the boy
Who heard and exulted in hearing
The songs of the sunrise of youth
Ring radiant above him, unfearing
And joyous as truth.
Truth, winged and enkindled with rapture
And sense of the radiance of yore,
Fulfilled you with power to recapture
What never might singer before,
The life, the delight, and the sorrow
Of troublous and chivalrous years
That knew not of night or of morrow,
Of hopes or of fears.
But wider the wing and the vision
That quicken the spirit have spread
Since memory beheld with derision
Man's hope to be more than his dead.
From the mists and the snows and the thunders
Your spirit has brought for us forth
Light, music, and joy in the wonders
And charms of the north.
The wars and the woes and the glories
That quicken and lighten and rain
From the clouds of its chronicled stories,
The passion, the pride, and the pain,
Whose echoes were mute and the token
Was lost of the spells that they spake,
Rise bright at your bidding, unbroken
Of ages that break.
For you, and for none of us other,
Time is not: the dead that must live
Hold commune with you as a brother
By grace of the life that you give.
The heart that was in them is in you,
Their soul in your spirit endures:
The strength of their song is the sinew
Of this that is yours.
Hence is it that life, everlasting
As light and as music, abides
In the sound of the surge of it, casting
Sound back to the surge of the tides,
Till sons of the sons of the Norsemen
Watch, hurtling to windward and lee,
Round England, unbacked of her horsemen,
The steeds of the sea.

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