The Interpreters

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

I
Days dawn on us that make amends for many
Sometimes,
When heaven and earth seem sweeter even than any
Man's rhymes.
Light had not all been quenched in France, or quelled
In Greece,
Had Homer sung not, or had Hugo held
His peace.
Had Sappho's self not left her word thus long
For token,
The sea round Lesbos yet in waves of song
Had spoken.

II
And yet these days of subtler air and finer
Delight,
When lovelier looks the darkness, and diviner
The light -
The gift they give of all these golden hours,
Whose urn
Pours forth reverberate rays or shadowing showers
In turn -
Clouds, beams, and winds that make the live day's track
Seem living -
What were they did no spirit give them back
Thanksgiving?

III
Dead air, dead fire, dead shapes and shadows, telling
Time nought;
Man gives them sense and soul by song, and dwelling
In thought.
In human thought their being endures, their power
Abides:
Else were their life a thing that each light hour
Derides.
The years live, work, sigh, smile, and die, with all
They cherish;
The soul endures, though dreams that fed it fall
And perish.

IV
In human thought have all things habitation;
Our days
Laugh, lower, and lighten past, and find no station
That stays.
But thought and faith are mightier things than time
Can wrong,
Made splendid once with speech, or made sublime
By song.
Remembrance, though the tide of change that rolls
Wax hoary,
Gives earth and heaven, for song's sake and the soul's,
Their glory.

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