Adieux à Marie Stuart

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne


Queen, for whose house my fathers fought,
With hopes that rose and fell,
Red star of boyhood’s fiery thought,

They gave their lives, and I, my queen,
Have given you of my life,
Seeing your brave star burn high between
Men’s strife.

The strife that lightened round their spears
Long since fell still: so long
Hardly may hope to last in years
My song.

But still through strife of time and thought
Your light on me too fell:
Queen, in whose name we sang or fought,


There beats no heart on either border
Wherethrough the north blasts blow
But keeps your memory as a warder
His beacon-fire aglow.

Long since it fired with love and wonder
Mine, for whose April age
Blithe midsummer made banquet under
The shade of Hermitage.

Soft sang the burn’s blithe notes, that gather
Strength to ring true:
And air and trees and sun and heather
Remembered you.

Old border ghosts of fight or fairy
Or love or teen,
These they forgot, remembering Mary
The Queen.


Queen once of Scots and ever of ours
Whose sires brought forth for you
Their lives to strew your way like flowers,

Dead is full many a dead man’s name
Who died for you this long
Time past: shall this too fare the same,
My song?

But surely, though it die or live,
Your face was worth
All that a man may think to give
On earth.

No darkness cast of years between
Can darken you:
Man’s love will never bid my queen


Love hangs like light about your name
As music round the shell:
No heart can take of you a tame

Yet, when your very face was seen,
Ill gifts were yours for giving:
Love gat strange guerdons of my queen
When living.

O diamond heart unflawed and clear,
The whole world’s crowning jewel!
Was ever heart so deadly dear
So cruel?

Yet none for you of all that bled
Grudged once one drop that fell:
Not one to life reluctant said


Strange love they have given you, love disloyal,
Who mock with praise your name,
To leave a head so rare and royal
Too low for praise or blame.

You could not love nor hate, they tell us,
You had nor sense nor sting:
In God’s name, then, what plague befell us
To fight for such a thing?

‘Some faults the gods will give’ to fetter
Man’s highest intent:
But surely you were something better
Than innocent !

No maid that strays with steps unwary
Through snares unseen,
But one to live and die for; Mary,
The Queen.


Forgive them all their praise, who blot
Your fame with praise of you:
Then love may say, and falter not

Yet some you hardly would forgive
Who did you much less wrong
Once: but resentment should not live
Too long.

They never saw your lip’s bright bow,
Your swordbright eyes,
The bluest of heavenly things below
The skies.

Clear eyes that love’s self finds most like
A swordblade’s blue,
A swordblade’s ever keen to strike,


Though all things breathe or sound of fight
That yet make up your spell,
To bid you were to bid the light

Farewell the song says only, being
A star whose race is run:
Farewell the soul says never, seeing
The sun.

Yet, wellnigh as with flash of tears,
The song must say but so
That took your praise up twenty years

More bright than stars or moons that vary,
Sun kindling heaven and hell,
Here, after all these years, Queen Mary,

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