A Parting Song

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

To a friend leaving England for a year's residence in Australia.


These winds and suns of spring
That warm with breath and wing
The trembling sleep of earth, till half awake
She laughs and blushes ere her slumber break,
For all good gifts they bring
Require one better thing,
For all the loans of joy they lend us, borrow
One sharper dole of sorrow,
To sunder soon by half a world of sea
Her son from England and my friend from me.
Nor hope nor love nor fear
May speed or stay one year,
Nor song nor prayer may bid, as mine would fain,
The seasons perish and be born again,
Restoring all we lend,
Reluctant, of a friend,
The voice, the hand, the presence and the sight
That lend their life and light
To present gladness and heart-strengthening cheer,
Now lent again for one reluctant year.
So much we lend indeed,
Perforce, by force of need,
So much we must; even these things and no more
The far sea sundering and the sundered shore
A world apart from ours,
So much the imperious hours,
Exact, and spare not; but no more than these
All earth and all her seas
From thought and faith of trust and truth can borrow,
Not memory from desire, nor hope from sorrow.
Through bright and dark and bright
Returns of day and night
I bid the swift year speed and change and give
His breath of life to make the next year live
With sunnier suns for us
A life more prosperous,
And laugh with flowers more fragrant, that shall see
A merrier March for me,
A rosier-girdled race of night with day,
A goodlier April and a tenderer May.
For him the inverted year
Shall mark our seasons here
With alien alternation, and revive
This withered winter, slaying the spring alive
With darts more sharply drawn
As nearer draws the dawn
In heaven transfigured over earth transformed
And with our winters warmed
And wasted with our summers, till the beams
Rise on his face that rose on Dante's dreams.
Till fourfold morning rise
Of starshine on his eyes,
Dawn of the spheres that brand steep heaven across
At height of night with semblance of a cross
Whose grace and ghostly glory
Poured heaven on purgatory
Seeing with their flamelets risen all heaven grow glad
For love thereof it had
And lovely joy of loving; so may these
Make bright with welcome now their southern seas.
O happy stars, whose mirth
The saddest soul on earth
That ever soared and sang found strong to bless,
Lightening his life's harsh load of heaviness
With comfort sown like seed
In dream though not in deed
On sprinkled wastes of darkling thought divine,
Let all your lights now shine
With all as glorious gladness on his eyes
For whom indeed and not in dream they rise.
As those great twins of air
Hailed once with oldworld prayer
Of all folk alway faring forth by sea,
So now may these for grace and guidance be,
To guard his sail and bring
Again to brighten spring
The face we look for and the hand we lack
Still, till they light him back,
As welcome as to first discovering eyes
Their light rose ever, soon on his to rise.
As parting now he goes
From snow-time back to snows,
So back to spring from summer may next year
Restore him, and our hearts receive him here,
The best good gift that spring
Had ever grace to bring
At fortune's happiest hour of star-blest birth
Back to love's homebright earth,
To eyes with eyes that commune, hand with hand,
And the old warm bosom of all our mother-land.
Earth and sea-wind and sea
And stars and sunlight be
Alike all prosperous for him, and all hours
Have all one heart, and all that heart as ours.
All things as good as strange
Crown all the seasons' change
With changing flower and compensating fruit
From one year's ripening root;
Till next year bring us, roused at spring's recall,
A heartier flower and goodlier fruit than all.

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