The Twilight of the Lords

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Is the sound a trumpet blown, or a bell for burial tolled,
Whence the whole air vibrates now to the clash of words like swords
‘Let us break their bonds in sunder, and cast away their cords;
Long enough the world has mocked us, and marvelled to behold
How the grown man bears the curb whence his boyhood was controlled’?
Nay, but hearken: surer counsel more sober speech affords:
‘Is the past not all inscribed with the praises of our Lords?
Is the memory dead of deeds done of yore, the love grown cold
That should bind our hearts to trust in their counsels wise and bold?
These that stand against you now, senseless crowds and heartless hordes,
Are not these the sons of men that withstood your kings of old?
Theirs it is to bind and loose; theirs the key that knows the wards,
Theirs the staff to lead or smite; yours, the spades and ploughs and hods:
Theirs to hear and yours to cry, Power is yours, O Lords our Gods.’

Hear, O England: these are they that would counsel thee aright.
Wouldst thou fain have all thy sons sons of thine indeed, and free?
Nay, but then no more at all as thou hast been shalt thou be:
Needs must many dwell in darkness, that some may look on light;
Needs must poor men brook the wrong that ensures the rich man’s right.
How shall kings and lords be worshipped, if no man bow the knee?
How, if no man worship these, may thy praise endure with thee?
How, except thou trust in these, shall thy name not lose its might?
These have had their will of thee since the Norman came to smite:
Sires on grandsires, even as wave after wave along the sea,
Sons on sires have followed, steadfast as clouds or hours in flight.
Time alone hath power to say, time alone hath eyes to see,
If your walls of rule be built but of clay-compacted sods,
If your place of old shall know you no more, O Lords our Gods.

Through the stalls wherein ye sit sounds a sentence while we wait,
Set your house in order: is it not builded on the sand?
Set your house in order, seeing the night is hard at hand.
As the twilight of the Gods in the northern dream of fate
Is this hour that comes against you, albeit this hour come late.
Ye whom Time and Truth bade heed, and ye would not understand,
Now an axe draws nigh the tree overshadowing all the land,
And its edge of doom is set to the root of all your state.
Light is more than darkness now, faith than fear and hope than hate,
And what morning wills, behold, all the night shall not withstand.
Rods of office, helms of rule, staffs of wise men, crowns of great,
While the people willed, ye bare; now their hopes and hearts expand,
Time with silent foot makes dust of your broken crowns and rods,
And the lordship of your godhead is gone, O Lords our Gods.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'The Twilight of the Lords' by Algernon Charles Swinburne

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy