The Palace of Pan

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The Palace of Pan
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.


Inscribed to my Mother


     September, all glorious with gold, as a king
       In the radiance of triumph attired,
     Outlightening the summer, outsweetening the spring,
     Broods wide on the woodlands with limitless wing,
       A presence of all men desired.

     Far eastward and westward the sun-coloured lands
       Smile warm as the light on them smiles;
     And statelier than temples upbuilded with hands,
     Tall column by column, the sanctuary stands
       Of the pine-forest's infinite aisles.

     Mute worship, too fervent for praise or for prayer,
       Possesses the spirit with peace,
     Fulfilled with the breath of the luminous air,
     The fragrance, the silence, the shadows as fair
       As the rays that recede or increase.

     Ridged pillars that redden aloft and aloof,
       With never a branch for a nest,
     Sustain the sublime indivisible roof,
     To the storm and the sun in his majesty proof,
       And awful as waters at rest.

     Man's hand hath not measured the height of them; thought
       May measure not, awe may not know;
     In its shadow the woofs of the woodland are wrought;
     As a bird is the sun in the toils of them caught,
       And the flakes of it scattered as snow.

     As the shreds of a plumage of gold on the ground
       The sun-flakes by multitudes lie,
     Shed loose as the petals of roses discrowned
     On the floors of the forest engilt and embrowned
       And reddened afar and anigh.

     Dim centuries with darkling inscrutable hands
       Have reared and secluded the shrine
     For gods that we know not, and kindled as brands
     On the altar the years that are dust, and their sands
       Time's glass has forgotten for sign.

     A temple whose transepts are measured by miles,
       Whose chancel has morning for priest,
     Whose floor-work the foot of no spoiler defiles,
     Whose musical silence no music beguiles,
       No festivals limit its feast.

     The noon's ministration, the night's and the dawn's,
       Conceals not, reveals not for man,
     On the slopes of the herbless and blossomless lawns,
     Some track of a nymph's or some trail of a faun's
       To the place of the slumber of Pan.

     Thought, kindled and quickened by worship and wonder
       To rapture too sacred for fear
     On the ways that unite or divide them in sunder,
     Alone may discern if about them or under
       Be token or trace of him here.

     With passionate awe that is deeper than panic
       The spirit subdued and unshaken
     Takes heed of the godhead terrene and Titanic
     Whose footfall is felt on the breach of volcanic
       Sharp steeps that their fire has forsaken.

     By a spell more serene than the dim necromantic
       Dead charms of the past and the night,
     Or the terror that lurked in the noon to make frantic
     Where Etna takes shape from the limbs of gigantic
       Dead gods disanointed of might,

     The spirit made one with the spirit whose breath
       Makes noon in the woodland sublime
     Abides as entranced in a presence that saith
     Things loftier than life and serener than death,
       Triumphant and silent as time.


Pine Ridge: September 1893