A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

The sea shall praise him and the shores bear part
That reared him when the bright south world was black
With fume of creeds more foul than hell’s own rack,
Still darkening more love’s face with loveless art
Since Paul, faith’s fervent Antichrist, of heart
Heroic, haled the world vehemently back
From Christ’s pure path on dire Jehovah’s track,
And said to dark Elisha’s Lord, ‘Thou art.’
But one whose soul had put the raiment on
Of love that Jesus left with James and John
Withstood that Lord whose seals of love were lies,
Seeing what we see how, touched by Truth’s bright rod,
The fiend whom Jews and Africans called God
Feels his own hell take hold on him, and dies.

The world has no such flower in any land,
And no such pearl in any gulf the sea,
As any babe on any mother’s knee.
But all things blessed of men by saints are banned:
God gives them grace to read and understand
The palimpsest of evil, writ where we,
Poor fools and lovers but of love, can see
Nought save a blessing signed by Love’s own hand.
The smile that opens heaven on us for them
Hath sin’s transmitted birthmark hid therein:
The kiss it craves calls down from heaven a rod.
If innocence be sin that Gods condemn,
Praise we the men who so being born in sin
First dared the doom and broke the bonds of God.

Man’s heel is on the Almighty’s neck who said,
Let there be hell, and there was hell on earth.
But not for that may men forget their worth
Nay, but much more remember them who led
The living first from dwellings of the dead,
And rent the cerecloths that were wont to engirth
Souls wrapped and swathed and swaddled from their birth
With lies that bound them fast from heel to head.
Among the tombs when wise men all their lives
Dwelt, and cried out, and cut themselves with knives,
These men, being foolish, and of saints abhorred,
Beheld in heaven the sun by saints reviled,
Love, and on earth one everlasting Lord
In every likeness of a little child.

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