In Memory of John William Inchbold

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Farewell: how should not such as thou fare well,
Though we fare ill that love thee, and that live,
And know, whate'er the days wherein we dwell
May give us, thee again they will not give?
Peace, rest, and sleep are all we know of death,
And all we dream of comfort: yet for thee,
Whose breath of life was bright and strenuous breath,
We think the change is other than we see.
The seal of sleep set on thine eyes to-day
Surely can seal not up the keen swift light
That lit them once for ever. Night can slay
None save the children of the womb of night.
The fire that burns up dawn to bring forth noon
Was father of thy spirit: how shouldst thou
Die as they die for whom the sun and moon
Are silent? Thee the darkness holds not now:
Them, while they looked upon the light, and deemed
That life was theirs for living in the sun,
The darkness held in bondage: and they dreamed,
Who knew not that such life as theirs was none.
To thee the sun spake, and the morning sang
Notes deep and clear as life or heaven: the sea
That sounds for them but wild waste music rang
Notes that were lost not when they rang for thee.
The mountains clothed with light and night and change,
The lakes alive with wind and cloud and sun,
Made answer, by constraint sublime and strange,
To the ardent hand that bade thy will be done.
We may not bid the mountains mourn, the sea
That lived and lightened from thine hand again
Moan, as of old would men that mourned as we
A man beloved, a man elect of men,
A man that loved them. Vain, divine and vain,
The dream that touched with thoughts or tears of ours
The spirit of sense that lives in sun and rain,
Sings out in birds, and breathes and fades in flowers.
Not for our joy they live, and for our grief
They die not. Though thine eye be closed, thine hand
Powerless as mine to paint them, not a leaf
In English woods or glades of Switzerland
Falls earlier now, fades faster. All our love
Moves not our mother's changeless heart, who gives
A little light to eyes and stars above,
A little life to each man's heart that lives.
A little life to heaven and earth and sea,
To stars and souls revealed of night and day,
And change, the one thing changeless: yet shall she
Cease too, perchance, and perish. Who shall say?
Our mother Nature, dark and sweet as sleep,
And strange as life and strong as death, holds fast,
Even as she holds our hearts alive, the deep
Dumb secret of her first-born births and last.
But this, we know, shall cease not till the strife
Of nights and days and fears and hopes find end;
This, through the brief eternities of life,
Endures, and calls from death a living friend;
The love made strong with knowledge, whence confirmed
The whole soul takes assurance, and the past
(So by time's measure, not by memory's, termed)
Lives present life, and mingles first with last.
I, now long since thy guest of many days,
Who found thy hearth a brother's, and with thee
Tracked in and out the lines of rolling bays
And banks and gulfs and reaches of the sea—
Deep dens wherein the wrestling water sobs
And pants with restless pain of refluent breath
Till all the sunless hollow sounds and throbs
With ebb and flow of eddies dark as death—
I know not what more glorious world, what waves
More bright with life,—if brighter aught may live
Than those that filled and fled their tidal caves—
May now give back the love thou hast to give.
Tintagel, and the long Trebarwith sand,
Lone Camelford, and Boscastle divine
With dower of southern blossom, bright and bland
Above the roar of granite-baffled brine,
Shall hear no more by joyous night or day
From downs or causeways good to rove and ride
Or feet of ours or horse-hoofs urge their way
That sped us here and there by tower and tide.
The headlands and the hollows and the waves,
For all our love, forget us: where I am
Thou art not: deeper sleeps the shadow on graves
Than in the sunless gulf that once we swam.
Thou hast swum too soon the sea of death: for us
Too soon, but if truth bless love's blind belief
Faith, born of hope and memory, says not thus:
And joy for thee for me should mean not grief.
And joy for thee, if ever soul of man
Found joy in change and life of ampler birth
Than here pens in the spirit for a span,
Must be the life that doubt calls death on earth.
For if, beyond the shadow and the sleep,
A place there be for souls without a stain,
Where peace is perfect, and delight more deep
Than seas or skies that change and shine again,
There none of all unsullied souls that live
May hold a surer station: none may lend
More light to hope's or memory's lamp, nor give
More joy than thine to those that called thee friend.
Yea, joy from sorrow's barren womb is born
When faith begets on grief the godlike child:
As midnight yearns with starry sense of morn
In Arctic summers, though the sea wax wild,
So love, whose name is memory, thrills at heart,
Remembering and rejoicing in thee, now
Alive where love may dream not what thou art
But knows that higher than hope or love art thou.
"Whatever heaven, if heaven at all may be,
Await the sacred souls of good men dead,
There, now we mourn who loved him here, is he,"
So, sweet and stern of speech, the Roman said,
Erect in grief, in trust erect, and gave
His deathless dead a deathless life even here
Where day bears down on day as wave on wave
And not man's smile fades faster than his tear.
Albeit this gift be given not me to give,
Nor power be mine to break time's silent spell,
Not less shall love that dies not while I live
Bid thee, beloved in life and death, farewell.

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