Light: an Epicede

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Light: an Epicede
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.


To Philip Bourke Marston


     Love will not weep because the seal is broken
       That sealed upon a life beloved and brief
     Darkness, and let but song break through for token
       How deep, too far for even thy song's relief,
       Slept in thy soul the secret springs of grief.

     Thy song may soothe full many a soul hereafter,
       As tears, if tears will come, dissolve despair;
     As here but late, with smile more bright than laughter,
       Thy sweet strange yearning eyes would seem to bear
       Witness that joy might cleave the clouds of care.

     Two days agone, and love was one with pity
       When love gave thought wings toward the glimmering goal
     Where, as a shrine lit in some darkling city,
       Shone soft the shrouded image of thy soul:
       And now thou art healed of life; thou art healed, and whole.

     Yea, two days since, all we that loved thee pitied:
       And now with wondering love, with shame of face,
     We think how foolish now, how far unfitted,
       Should be from us, toward thee who hast run thy race,
       Pity--toward thee, who hast won the painless place;

     The painless world of death, yet unbeholden
       Of eyes that dream what light now lightens thine
     And will not weep. Thought, yearning toward those olden
       Dear hours that sorrow sees and sees not shine,
       Bows tearless down before a flameless shrine:

     A flameless altar here of life and sorrow
       Quenched and consumed together. These were one,
     One thing for thee, as night was one with morrow
       And utter darkness with the sovereign sun:
       And now thou seest life, sorrow, and darkness done.

     And yet love yearns again to win thee hither;
       Blind love, and loveless, and unworthy thee:
     Here where I watch the hours of darkness wither,
       Here where mine eyes were glad and sad to see
       Thine that could see not mine, though turned on me.

     But now, if aught beyond sweet sleep lie hidden,
       And sleep be sealed not fast on dead men's sight
     For ever, thine hath grace for ours forbidden,
       And sees us compassed round with change and night:
       Yet light like thine is ours, if love be light.