By the Wayside

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Summer's face was rosiest, skies and woods were mellow,
Earth had heaven to friend, and heaven had earth to fellow,
When we met where wooded hills and meadows meet.
Autumn's face is pale, and all her late leaves yellow,
Now that here again we greet.
Wan with years whereof this eightieth nears December,
Fair and bright with love, the kind old face I know
Shines above the sweet small twain whose eyes remember
Heaven, and fill with April's light this pale November,
Though the dark year's glass run low.
Like a rose whose joy of life her silence utters
When the birds are loud, and low the lulled wind mutters,
Grave and silent shines the boy nigh three years old.
Wise and sweet his smile, that falters not nor flutters,
Glows, and turns the gloom to gold.
Like the new-born sun's that strikes the dark and slays it,
So that even for love of light it smiles and dies,
Laughs the boy's blithe face whose fair fourth year arrays it
All with light of life and mirth that stirs and sways it
And fulfils the deep wide eyes.
Wide and warm with glowing laughter's exultation,
Full of welcome, full of sunbright jubilation,
Flash my taller friend's quick eyebeams, charged with glee;
But with softer still and sweeter salutation
Shine my smaller friend's on me.
Little arms flung round my bending neck, that yoke it
Fast in tender bondage, draw my face down too
Toward the flower-soft face whose dumb deep smiles invoke it;
Dumb, but love can read the radiant eyes that woke it,
Blue as June's mid heaven is blue.
How may men find refuge, how should hearts be shielded,
From the weapons thus by little children wielded,
When they lift such eyes as light this lustrous face
Eyes that woke love sleeping unawares, and yielded
Love for love, a gift of grace,
Grace beyond man's merit, love that laughs, forgiving
Even the sin of being no more a child, nor worth
Trust and love that lavish gifts above man's giving,
Touch or glance of eyes and lips the sweetest living,
Fair as heaven and kind as earth?

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