|This poem is from the collection Astrophel and Other Poems, Book I of The Collected Poetical Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne, Vol. VI.|
Auvergne, Auvergne, O wild and woful land,
O glorious land and gracious, white as gleam
The stairs of heaven, black as a flameless brand,
Strange even as life, and stranger than a dream,
Could earth remember man, whose eyes made bright
The splendour of her beauty, lit by day
Or soothed and softened and redeemed by night,
Wouldst thou not know what light has passed away?
Wouldst thou not know whom England, whom the world,
Mourns? For the world whose wildest ways he trod,
And smiled their dangers down that coiled and curled
Against him, knows him now less man than god.
Our demigod of daring, keenest-eyed
To read and deepest read in earth's dim things,
A spirit now whose body of death has died
And left it mightier yet in eyes and wings,
The sovereign seeker of the world, who now
Hath sought what world the light of death may show,
Hailed once with me the crowns that load thy brow,
Crags dark as midnight, columns bright as snow.
Thy steep small Siena, splendid and content
As shines the mightier city's Tuscan pride
Which here its face reflects in radiance, pent
By narrower bounds from towering side to side,
Set fast between the ridged and foamless waves
Of earth more fierce and fluctuant than the sea,
The fearless town of towers that hails and braves
The heights that gird, the sun that brands Le Puy;
The huddled churches clinging on the cliffs
As birds alighting might for storm's sake cling,
Moored to the rocks as tempest-harried skiffs
To perilous refuge from the loud wind's wing;
The stairs on stairs that wind and change and climb
Even up to the utmost crag's edge curved and curled,
More bright than vision, more than faith sublime,
Strange as the light and darkness of the world;
Strange as are night and morning, stars and sun,
And washed from west and east by day's deep tide.
Shine yet less fair, when all their heights are won,
Than sundawn shows thy pillared mountain-side.
Even so the dawn of death, whose light makes dim
The starry fires that life sees rise and set,
Shows higher than here he shone before us him
Whom faith forgets not, nor shall fame forget.
Even so those else unfooted heights we clomb
Through scudding mist and eddying whirls of cloud,
Blind as a pilot beaten blind with foam,
And shrouded as a corpse with storm's grey shroud,
Foot following foot along the sheer strait ledge
Where space was none to bear the wild goat's feet
Till blind we sat on the outer footless edge
Where darkling death seemed fain to share the seat,
The abyss before us, viewless even as time's,
The abyss to left of us, the abyss to right,
Bid thought now dream how high the freed soul climbs
That death sets free from change of day and night.
The might of raging mist and wind whose wrath
Shut from our eyes the narrowing rock we trod,
The wondrous world it darkened, made our path
Like theirs who take the shadow of death for God.
Yet eastward, veiled in vapour white as snow,
The grim black herbless heights that scorn the sun
And mock the face of morning rose to show
The work of earth-born fire and earthquake done.
And half the world was haggard night, wherein
We strove our blind way through: but far above
Was light that watched the wild mists whirl and spin,
And far beneath a land worth light and love.
Deep down the Valley of the Curse, undaunted
By shadow and whisper of winds with sins for wings
And ghosts of crime wherethrough the heights live haunted
By present sense of past and monstrous things,
The glimmering water holds its gracious way
Full forth, and keeps one happier hand's-breadth green
Of all that storm-scathed world whereon the sway
Sits dark as death of deadlier things unseen.
But on the soundless and the viewless river
That bears through night perchance again to day
The dead whom death and twin-born fame deliver
From life that dies, and time's inveterate sway,
No shadow save of falsehood and of fear
That brands the future with the past, and bids
The spirit wither and the soul grow sere,
Hovers or hangs to cloud life's opening lids,
If life have eyes to lift again and see,
Beyond the bounds of sensual sight or breath,
What life incognisable of ours may be
That turns our light to darkness deep as death.
Priests and the soulless serfs of priests may swarm
With vulturous acclamation, loud in lies,
About his dust while yet his dust is warm
Who mocked as sunlight mocks their base blind eyes,
Their godless ghost of godhead, false and foul
As fear his dam or hell his throne: but we,
Scarce hearing, heed no carrion church-wolf's howl:
The corpse be theirs to mock; the soul is free.
Free as ere yet its earthly day was done
It lived above the coil about us curled:
A soul whose eyes were keener than the sun,
A soul whose wings were wider than the world.
We, sons of east and west, ringed round with dreams,
Bound fast with visions, girt about with fears,
Live, trust, and think by chance, while shadow seems
Light, and the wind that wrecks a hand that steers.
He, whose full soul held east and west in poise,
Weighed man with man, and creed of man's with creed,
And age with age, their triumphs and their toys,
And found what faith may read not and may read.
Scorn deep and strong as death and life, that lit
With fire the smile at lies and dreams outworn
Wherewith he smote them, showed sublime in it
The splendour and the steadfastness of scorn.
What loftier heaven, what lordlier air, what space
Illimitable, insuperable, infinite,
Now to that strong-winged soul yields ampler place
Than passing darkness yields to passing light,
No dream, no faith can tell us: hope and fear,
Whose tongues were loud of old as children's, now
From babbling fall to silence: change is here,
And death; dark furrows drawn by time's dark plough.
Still sunward here on earth its flight was bent,
Even since the man within the child began
To yearn and kindle with superb intent
And trust in time to magnify the man.
Still toward the old garden of the Sun, whose fruit
The honey-heavy lips of Sophocles
Desired and sang, wherein the unwithering root
Sprang of all growths that thought brings forth and sees
Incarnate, bright with bloom or dense with leaf
Far-shadowing, deep as depth of dawn or night:
And all were parcel of the garnered sheaf
His strenuous spirit bound and stored aright.
And eastward now, and ever toward the dawn,
If death's deep veil by life's bright hand be rent,
We see, as through the shadow of death withdrawn,
The imperious soul's indomitable ascent.
But not the soul whose labour knew not end--
But not the swordsman's hand, the crested head--
The royal heart we mourn, the faultless friend,
Burton--a name that lives till fame be dead.