A Year's Carols

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A Year's Carols
by Algernon Charles Swinburne
This poem is from the collection Astrophel and Other Poems, Book I of The Collected Poetical Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne, Vol. VI.

     January

     Hail, January, that bearest here
     On snowbright breasts the babe-faced year
       That weeps and trembles to be born.
     Hail, maid and mother, strong and bright,
     Hooded and cloaked and shod with white,
       Whose eyes are stars that match the morn.
     Thy forehead braves the storm's bent bow,
     Thy feet enkindle stars of snow.


     February

     Wan February with weeping cheer,
     Whose cold hand guides the youngling year
       Down misty roads of mire and rime,
     Before thy pale and fitful face
     The shrill wind shifts the clouds apace
       Through skies the morning scarce may climb.
     Thine eyes are thick with heavy tears,
     But lit with hopes that light the year's.


     March

     Hail, happy March, whose foot on earth
     Rings as the blast of martial mirth
       When trumpets fire men's hearts for fray.
     No race of wild things winged or finned
     May match the might that wings thy wind
       Through air and sea, through scud and spray.
     Strong joy and thou were powers twin-born
     Of tempest and the towering morn.


     April

     Crowned April, king whose kiss bade earth
     Bring forth to time her lordliest birth
       When Shakespeare from thy lips drew breath
     And laughed to hold in one soft hand
     A spell that bade the world's wheel stand,
       And power on life, and power on death,
     With quiring suns and sunbright showers
     Praise him, the flower of all thy flowers.


     May

     Hail, May, whose bark puts forth full-sailed
     For summer; May, whom Chaucer hailed
       With all his happy might of heart,
     And gave thy rosebright daisy-tips
     Strange fragrance from his amorous lips
       That still thine own breath seems to part
     And sweeten till each word they say
     Is even a flower of flowering May.


     June

     Strong June, superb, serene, elate
     With conscience of thy sovereign state
       Untouched of thunder, though the storm
     Scathe here and there thy shuddering skies
     And bid its lightning cross thine eyes
       With fire, thy golden hours inform
     Earth and the souls of men with life
     That brings forth peace from shining strife.


     July

     Hail, proud July, whose fervent mouth
     Bids even be morn and north be south
       By grace and gospel of thy word,
     Whence all the splendour of the sea
     Lies breathless with delight in thee
       And marvel at the music heard
     From the ardent silent lips of noon
     And midnight's rapturous plenilune.


     August

     Great August, lord of golden lands,
     Whose lordly joy through seas and strands
       And all the red-ripe heart of earth
     Strikes passion deep as life, and stills
     The folded vales and folding hills
       With gladness too divine for mirth,
     The gracious glories of thine eyes
     Make night a noon where darkness dies.


     September

     Hail, kind September, friend whose grace
     Renews the bland year's bounteous face
       With largess given of corn and wine
     Through many a land that laughs with love
     Of thee and all the heaven above,
       More fruitful found than all save thine
     Whose skies fulfil with strenuous cheer
     The fervent fields that knew thee near.


     October

     October of the tawny crown,
     Whose heavy-laden hands drop down
       Blessing, the bounties of thy breath
     And mildness of thy mellowing might
     Fill earth and heaven with love and light
       Too sweet for fear to dream of death
     Or memory, while thy joy lives yet,
     To know what joy would fain forget.


     November

     Hail, soft November, though thy pale
     Sad smile rebuke the words that hail
       Thy sorrow with no sorrowing words
     Or gratulate thy grief with song
     Less bitter than the winds that wrong
       Thy withering woodlands, where the birds
     Keep hardly heart to sing or see
     How fair thy faint wan face may be.


     December

     December, thou whose hallowing hands
     On shuddering seas and hardening lands
       Set as a sacramental sign
     The seal of Christmas felt on earth
     As witness toward a new year's birth
       Whose promise makes thy death divine,
     The crowning joy that comes of thee
     Makes glad all grief on land or sea.