Mentana: Third Anniversary

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne


Such prayers last year were put up for thy sake;
What shall this year do that hath lived to see
The piteous and unpitied end of thee?
What moan, what cry, what clamour shall it make,
Seeing as a reed breaks all thine empire break,
And all thy great strength as a rotten tree,
Whose branches made broad night from sea to sea,
And the world shuddered when a leaf would shake?
From the unknown deep wherein those prayers were heard,
From the dark height of time there sounds a word,
Crying, Comfort; though death ride on this red hour,
Hope waits with eyes that make the morning dim,
Till liberty, reclothed with love and power,
Shall pass and know not if she tread on him.


The hour for which men hungered and had thirst,
And dying were loth to die before it came,
Is it indeed upon thee? and the lame
Late foot of vengeance on thy trace accurst
For years insepulchred and crimes inhearsed,
For days marked red or black with blood or shame,
Hath it outrun thee to tread out thy name?
This scourge, this hour, is this indeed the worst?
O clothed and crowned with curses, canst thou tell?
Have thy dead whispered to thee what they see
Whose eyes are open in the dark on thee
Ere spotted soul and body take farewell
Or what of life beyond the worm's may be
Satiate the immitigable hours in hell?

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