The High Oaks

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Fourscore years and seven
Light and dew from heaven
Have fallen with dawn on these glad woods each day
Since here was born, even here,
A birth more bright and dear
Than ever a younger year
Hath seen or shall till all these pass away,
Even all the imperious pride of these,
The woodland ways majestic now with towers of trees.
Love itself hath nought
Touched of tenderest thought
With holiest hallowing of memorial grace
For memory, blind with bliss,
To love, to clasp, to kiss,
So sweetly strange as this,
The sense that here the sun first hailed her face,
A babe at Her glad mother's breast,
And here again beholds it more beloved and blest.
Love's own heart, a living
Spring of strong thanksgiving,
Can bid no strength of welling song find way
When all the soul would seek
One word for joy to speak,
And even its strength makes weak
The too strong yearning of the soul to say
What may not be conceived or said
While darkness makes division of the quick and dead.
Haply, where the sun
Wanes, and death is none,
The word known here of silence only, held
Too dear for speech to wrong,
May leap in living song
Forth, and the speech be strong
As here the silence whence it yearned and welled
From hearts whose utterance love sealed fast
Till death perchance might give it grace to live at last.
Here we have our earth
Yet, with all the mirth
Of all the summers since the world began,
All strengths of rest and strife
And love-lit love of life
Where death has birth to wife,
And where the sun speaks, and is heard of man:
Yea, half the sun's bright speech is heard,
And like the sea the soul of man gives back his word.
Earth's enkindled heart
Bears benignant part
In the ardent heaven's auroral pride of prime:
If ever home on earth
Were found of heaven's grace worth
So God-beloved a birth
As here makes bright the fostering face of time,
Here, heaven bears witness, might such grace
Fall fragrant as the dewfall on that brightening face.
Here, for mine and me,
All that eyes may see
Hath more than all the wide world else of good,
All nature else of fair:
Here as none otherwhere
Heaven is the circling air,
Heaven is the homestead, heaven the wold, the wood:
The fragrance with the shadow spread
From broadening wings of cedars breathes of dawn's bright bed.
Once a dawn rose here
More divine and dear,
Rose on a birth-bed brighter far than dawn's,
Whence all the summer grew
Sweet as when earth was new
And pure as Eden's dew:
And yet its light lives on these lustrous lawns,
Clings round these wildwood ways, and cleaves
To the aisles of shadow and sun that wind unweaves and weaves.
Thoughts that smile and weep,
Dreams that hallow sleep,
Brood in the branching shadows of the trees,
Tall trees at agelong rest
Wherein the centuries nest,
Whence, blest as these are blest,
We part, and part not from delight in these;
Whose comfort, sleeping as awake,
We bear about within us as when first it spake.
Comfort as of song
Grown with time more strong,
Made perfect and prophetic as the sea,
Whose message, when it lies
Far off our hungering eyes,
Within us prophesies
Of life not ours, yet ours as theirs may be
Whose souls far off us shine and sing
As ere they sprang back sunward, swift as fire might spring.
All this oldworld pleasance
Hails a hallowing presence,
And thrills with sense of more than summer near,
And lifts toward heaven more high
The song-surpassing cry
Of rapture that July
Lives, for her love who makes it loveliest here;
For joy that she who here first drew
The breath of life she gave me breathes it here anew.
Never birthday born
Highest in height of morn
Whereout the star looks forth that leads the sun
Shone higher in love's account,
Still seeing the mid noon mount
From the eager dayspring's fount
Each year more lustrous, each like all in one;
Whose light around us and above
We could not see so lovely save by grace of love.

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