August 17, 2013

The Internet Is Not Yet Full: A Brief Tale of Two Poems [Filed under: Noyes, Alfred.Swinburne, Algernon Charles]

In a brief moment of quiet this afternoon, I was browsing the poetry shelf in my home library today and noticed a book I did not know we owned: Sonnets of This Century, edited and arranged, with a critical introduction on the sonnet, by William Sharp. The little volume was published by Walter Scott of Paternoster Row, London, in 1888 (though the copy at Google Books shows a publication date of 1886), and contains a reasonable selection of nineteenth century sonnets. I browsed the author index and noticed a small number of entries by Algernon Charles Swinburne, who has long been my favorite poet. I did not recognize any of the titles, so I opened the book and read one called “Hope and Fear”:

Hope and Fear

Beneath the shadow of dawn’s aerial cope,
    With eyes enkindled as the sun’s own sphere,
    Hope from the front of youth in godlike cheer
Looks Godward, past the shades where blind men grope
Round the dark door that prayers nor dreams can ope,
    And makes for joy the very darkness dear
    That gives her wide wings play ; nor dreams that fear
At noon may rise and pierce the heart of hope.
Then, when the soul leaves off to dream and yearn,
May truth first purge her eyesight to discern
    What once being known leaves time no power to appal ;
Till youth at last, ere yet youth be not, learn
    The kind wise word that falls from years that fall—
    ‘Hope thou not much, and fear thou not at all.

The poem is the first in a collection of sonnets Swinburne published in “Tristram of Lyonesse and Other Poems” in 1882. I do not have a copy of Tristram and had never seen the sonnet before. It is certainly not Swinburne’s best, but the last line is somewhat catchy. So I was rather surprised when I pulled another book off my shelf—A Letter to Lucian by Alfred Noyes, published in 1956—and quite by accident landed on the following poem:

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May 27, 2004

Selections [Filed under: Swinburne, Algernon Charles]

from Félise

Two gifts perforce he has given us yet,
  Though sad things stay and glad things fly ;
Two gifts he has given us, to forget
  All glad and sad things that go by,
  And then to die.

from Ilicet

A little sorrow, a little pleasure,
Fate metes us from the dusty measure
  That holds the date of all of us ;
We are born with travail and strong crying,
And from the birth-day to the dying
  The likeness of our life is thus.

from Satia te Sanguine

Where, when the gods would be cruel,
  Do they go for a torture ? where
Plant thorns, set pain like a jewel ?
  Ah, not in the flesh, not there !

The racks of earth and the rods
  Are weak as foam on the sands ;
In the heart is the prey for gods,
  Who crucify hearts, not hands.

December 9, 2003

RE: Nephelidia [Filed under: Group Meetings.Swinburne, Algernon Charles]

I tell ya, I’m such a sucker for alliteration. (That and lights on trees in the winter.) So, needless to say, I enjoyed the Swinburne poem you posted Mike.

The snow is blowing out here in Nebraska, but not as high as the trees. That’s a good thing though since I intend to come home tomorrow. Thursday at Jon’s place sounds good to me.

See you all soon!

December 6, 2003

Happy Birthday, Lawless [Filed under: Swinburne, Algernon Charles]

A poem in your honor:

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November 20, 2003

From my law school applications:

Lines Written Upon Reading the Caption Below a Picture of Natalie Portman with Her Hand Down the Back of Her Jeans, which Said Something about Ants in Her Pants

Let us make haste, depart ; she will not dance.
Let us quaff our drinks and leave for France.
She would not pluck the fruit from off the vine,
Nor help our Bacchanal one step advance.
How humourless she is ! like hemlock wine ;
Yea, though we poured a thousand ants into her pants,
   She would not dance.

To atone for the assault on your sensibilities that must have been, I offer also a snippet from a poem by Swinburne called “Félise,” which I was reading on the Metro coming home. It’s a longer piece, quite beautiful in places, but in the latter half he decries the godless world at some length. The stars make an indifferent appearance:

from Félise

Do the stars answer ? in the night
  Have ye found comfort ? or by day
Have ye seen gods ? What hope, what light,
  Falls from the farthest starriest way
  On you that pray?

Are the skies wet because we weep,
  Or fair because of any mirth ?
Cry out ; they are gods ; perchance they sleep ;
  Cry ; thou shalt know what prayers are worth,
  Thou dust and earth.