Hawthorn Tide

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Dawn is alive in the world, and the darkness of heaven and of earth
Subsides in the light of a smile more sweet than the loud noon's mirth,
Spring lives as a babe lives, glad and divine as the sun, and unsure
If aught so divine and so glad may be worshipped and loved and endure.
A soft green glory suffuses the love-lit earth with delight,
And the face of the noon is fair as the face of the star-clothed night.
Earth knows not and doubts not at heart of the glories again to be:
Sleep doubts not and dreams not how sweet shall the waking beyond her be.
A whole white world of revival awaits May's whisper awhile,
Abides and exults in the bud as a soft hushed laugh in a smile.
As a maid's mouth laughing with love and subdued for the love's sake, May
Shines and withholds for a little the word she revives to say.
When the clouds and the winds and the sunbeams are warring and strengthening with joy that they live,
Spring, from reluctance enkindled to rapture, from slumber to strife,
Stirs, and repents, and is winter, and weeps, and awakes as the frosts forgive,
And the dark chill death of the woodland is troubled, and dies into life.
And the honey of heaven, of the hives whence night feeds full on the springtide's breath,
Fills fuller the lips of the lustrous air with delight in the dawn:
Each blossom enkindling with love that is life and subsides with a smile into death
Arises and lightens and sets as a star from her sphere withdrawn.
Not sleep, in the rapture of radiant dreams, when sundawn smiles on the night,
Shows earth so sweet with a splendour and fragrance of life that is love:
Each blade of the glad live grass, each bud that receives or rejects the light,
Salutes and responds to the marvel of Maytime around and above.
Joy gives thanks for the sight and the savour of heaven, and is humbled
With awe that exults in thanksgiving: the towers of the flowers of the trees
Shine sweeter than snows that the hand of the season has melted and crumbled,
And fair as the foam that is lesser of life than the loveliest of these.
But the sense of a life more lustrous with joy and enkindled of glory
Than man's was ever or may be, and briefer than joys most brief,
Bids man's heart bend and adore, be the man's head golden or hoary,
As it leapt but a breath's time since and saluted the flower and the leaf.
The rapture that springs into love at the sight of the world's exultation
Takes not a sense of rebuke from the sense of triumphant awe:
But the spirit that quickens the body fulfils it with mute adoration,
And the knees would fain bow down as the eyes that rejoiced and saw.

Fair and sublime as the face of the dawn is the splendour of May,
But the sky's and the sea's joy fades not as earth's pride passes away.
Yet hardly the sun's first lightning or laughter of love on the sea
So humbles the heart into worship that knows not or doubts if it be
As the first full glory beholden again of the life new-born
That hails and applauds with inaudible music the season of morn.
A day's length since, and it was not: a night's length more, and the sun
Salutes and enkindles a world of delight as a strange world won.
A new life answers and thrills to the kiss of the young strong year,
And the glory we see is as music we hear not, and dream that we hear.
From blossom to blossom the live tune kindles, from tree to tree,
And we know not indeed if we hear not the song of the life we see.
For the first blithe day that beholds it and worships and cherishes cannot but sing
With a louder and lustier delight in the sun and the sunlit earth
Than the joy of the days that beheld but the soft green dawn of the slow faint spring
Glad and afraid to be glad, and subdued in a shamefast mirth.
When the first bright knoll of the woodland world laughs out into fragrant light,
The year's heart changes and quickens with sense of delight in desire,
And the kindling desire is one with thanksgiving for utter fruition of sight,
For sight and for sense of a world that the sun finds meet for his lyre.
Music made of the morning that smites from the chords of the mute world song
Trembles and quickens and lightens, unfelt, unbeholden, unheard,
From blossom on blossom that climbs and exults in the strength of the sun grown strong,
And answers the word of the wind of the spring with the sun's own word.
Hard on the skirt of the deep soft copses that spring refashions,
Triumphs and towers to the height of the crown of a wildwood tree
One royal hawthorn, sublime and serene as the joy that impassions
Awe that exults in thanksgiving for sight of the grace we see,
The grace that is given of a god that abides for a season, mysterious
And merciful, fervent and fugitive, seen and unknown and adored:
His presence is felt in the light and the fragrance, elate and imperious,
His laugh and his breath in the blossom are love's, the beloved soul's lord.
For surely the soul if it loves is beloved of the god as a lover
Whose love is not all unaccepted, a worship not utterly vain:
So full, so deep is the joy that revives for the soul to recover
Yearly, beholden of hope and of memory in sunshine and rain.

Wonder and love stand silent, stricken at heart and stilled.
But yet is the cup of delight and of worship unpledged and unfilled.
A handsbreadth hence leaps up, laughs out as an angel crowned,
A strong full fountain of flowers overflowing above and around.
The boughs and the blossoms in triumph salute with adoring mirth
The womb that bare them, the glad green mother, the sunbright earth.
Downward sweeping, as song subsides into silence, none
May hear what sound is the word's they speak to the brooding sun.
None that hearken may hear: man may but pass and adore,
And humble his heart in thanksgiving for joy that is now no more.
And sudden, afront and ahead of him, joy is alive and aflame
On the shrine whose incense is given of the godhead, again the same.
Pale and pure as a maiden secluded in secret and cherished with fear,
One sweet glad hawthorn smiles as it shrinks under shelter, screened
By two strong brethren whose bounteous blossom outsoars it, year after year,
While earth still cleaves to the live spring's breast as a babe unweaned.
Never was amaranth fairer in fields where heroes of old found rest,
Never was asphodel sweeter: but here they endure not long,
Though ever the sight that salutes them again and adores them awhile is blest,
And the heart is a hymn, and the sense is a soul, and the soul is a song.
Alone on a dyke's trenched edge, and afar from the blossoming wildwood's verge,
Laughs and lightens a sister, triumphal in love-lit pride;
Clothed round with the sun, and inviolate: her blossoms exult as the springtide surge,
When the wind and the dawn enkindle the snows of the shoreward tide.
Hardly the worship of old that rejoiced as it knelt in the vision
Shown of the God new-born whose breath is the spirit of spring
Hailed ever with love more strong and defiant of death's derision
A joy more perfect than here we mourn for as May takes wing.
Time gives it and takes it again and restores it: the glory, the wonder,
The triumph of lustrous blossom that makes of the steep sweet bank
One visible marvel of music inaudible, over and under,
Attuned as in heaven, pass hence and return for the sun to thank.
The stars and the sun give thanks for the glory bestowed and beholden,
For the gladness they give and rejoice in, the night and the dawn and the day:
But nought they behold when the world is aflower and the season is golden
Makes answer as meet and as sweet as the flower that itself is May.

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