On the Death of Richard Burton

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Night or light is it now, wherein
Sleeps, shut out from the wild world's din,
Wakes, alive with a life more clear,
One who found not on earth his kin?
Sleep were sweet for awhile, were dear
Surely to souls that were heartless here,
Souls that faltered and flagged and fell,
Soft of spirit and faint of cheer.
A living soul that had strength to quell
Hope the spectre and fear the spell,
Clear-eyed, content with a scorn sublime
And a faith superb, can it fare not well?
Life, the shadow of wide-winged time,
Cast from the wings that change as they climb,
Life may vanish in death, and seem
Less than the promise of last year's prime.
But not for us is the past a dream
Wherefrom, as light from a clouded stream,
Faith fades and shivers and ebbs away,
Faint as the moon if the sundawn gleam.
Faith, whose eyes in the low last ray
Watch the fire that renews the day,
Faith which lives in the living past,
Rock-rooted, swerves not as weeds that sway.
As trees that stand in the storm-wind fast
She stands, unsmitten of death's keen blast,
With strong remembrance of sunbright spring
Alive at heart to the lifeless last.
Night, she knows, may in no wise cling
To a soul that sinks not and droops not wing,
A sun that sets not in death's false night
Whose kingdom finds him not thrall but king.
Souls there are that for soul's affright
Bow down and cower in the sun's glad sight,
Clothed round with faith that is one with fear,
And dark with doubt of the live world's light.
But him we hailed from afar or near
As boldest born of the bravest here
And loved as brightest of souls that eyed
Life, time, and death with unchangeful cheer,
A wider soul than the world was wide,
Whose praise made love of him one with pride,
What part has death or has time in him,
Who rode life's lists as a god might ride?
While England sees not her old praise dim,
While still her stars through the world's night swim,
A fame outshining her Raleigh's fame,
A light that lightens her loud sea's rim,
Shall shine and sound as her sons proclaim
The pride that kindles at Burton's name.
And joy shall exalt their pride to be
The same in birth if in soul the same.
But we that yearn for a friend's face, we
Who lack the light that on earth was he,
Mourn, though the light be a quenchless flame
That shines as dawn on a tideless sea.

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