The Ballad of Melicertes

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

In Memory of Theodore de Banville

Death, a light outshining life, bids heaven resume
Star by star the souls whose light made earth divine.
Death, a night outshining day, sees burn and bloom
Flower by flower, and sun by sun, the fames that shine
Deathless, higher than life beheld their sovereign sign.
Dead Simonides of Ceos, late restored,
Given again of God, again by man deplored,
Shone but yestereve, a glory frail as breath.
Frail? But fame's breath quickens, kindles, keeps in ward,
Life so sweet as this that dies and casts off death.
Mother's love, and rapture of the sea, whose womb
Breeds eternal life of joy that stings like brine,
Pride of song, and joy to dare the singer's doom,
Sorrow soft as sleep and laughter bright as wine,
Flushed and filled with fragrant fire his lyric line.
As the sea-shell utters, like a stricken chord,
Music uttering all the sea's within it stored,
Poet well-beloved, whose praise our sorrow saith,
So thy songs retain thy soul, and so record
Life so sweet as this that dies and casts off death.
Side by side we mourned at Gautier's golden tomb:
Here in spirit now I stand and mourn at thine.
Yet no breath of death strikes thence, no shadow of gloom,
Only light more bright than gold of the inmost mine,
Only steam of incense warm from love's own shrine.
Not the darkling stream, the sundering Stygian ford,
Not the hour that smites and severs as a sword,
Not the night subduing light that perisheth,
Smite, subdue, divide from us by doom abhorred,
Life so sweet as this that dies and casts off death.
Prince of song more sweet than honey, lyric lord,
Not thy France here only mourns a light adored,
One whose love-lit fame the world inheriteth.
Strangers too, now brethren, hail with heart's accord
Life so sweet as this that dies and casts off death.

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