To John Nichol - Sonnets

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne


Friend of the dead, and friend of all my days
Even since they cast off boyhood, I salute
The song saluting friends whose songs are mute
With full burnt-offerings of clear-spirited praise.
That since our old young years our several ways
Have led through fields diverse of flower and fruit
Yet no cross wind has once relaxed the root
We set long since beneath the sundawn’s rays,
The root of trust whence towered the trusty tree,
Friendship this only and duly might impel
My song to salutation of your own;
More even than praise of one unseen of me
And loved the starry spirit of Dobell,
To mine by light and music only known.


But more than this what moves me most of all
To leave not all unworded and unsped
The whole heart’s greeting of my thanks unsaid
Scarce needs this sign, that from my tongue should fall
His name whom sorrow and reverent love recall,
The sign to friends on earth of that dear head
Alive, which now long since untimely dead
The wan grey waters covered for a pall.
Their trustless reaches dense with tangling stems
Took never life more taintless of rebuke,
More pure and perfect, more serene and kind,
Than when those clear eyes closed beneath the Thames,
And made the now more hallowed name of Luke
Memorial to us of morning left behind.

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