Four Songs Of Four Seasons by Algernon Charles Swinburne
I. WINTER IN NORTHUMBERLAND OUTSIDE the garden The wet skies harden; The gates are barred on The summer side: "Shut out the flower-time, Sunbeam and shower-time; Make way for our time," Wild winds have cried. Green once and cheery, The woods, worn weary, Sigh as the dreary Weak sun goes home: A great wind grapples The wave, and dapples The dead green floor of the sea with foam.
Through fell and moorland, And salt-sea foreland, Our noisy norland Resounds and rings; Waste waves thereunder Are blown in sunder, And winds make thunder With cloudwide wings; Sea-drift makes dimmer The beacon's glimmer; Nor sail nor swimmer Can try the tides; And snowdrifts thicken Where, when leaves quicken, Under the heather the sundew hides.
Green land and red land, Moorside and headland, Are white as dead land, Are all as one; Nor honied heather, Nor bells to gather, Fair with fair weather And faithful sun: Fierce frost has eaten All flowers that sweeten The fells rain-beaten; And winds their foes Have made the snow's bed Down in the rose-bed; Deep in the snow's bed bury the rose.
Bury her deeper Than any sleeper; Sweet dreams will keep her All day, all night; Though sleep benumb her And time o'ercome her, She dreams of summer, And takes delight, Dreaming and sleeping In love's good keeping, While rain is weeping And no leaves cling; Winds will come bringing her Comfort, and singing her Stories and songs and good news of the spring.
Draw the white curtain Close, and be certain She takes no hurt in Her soft low bed; She feels no colder, And grows not older, Though snows enfold her From foot to head; She turns not chilly Like weed and lily In marsh or hilly High watershed, Or green soft island In lakes of highland; She sleeps awhile, and she is not dead.
For all the hours, Come sun, come showers, Are friends of flowers, And fairies all; When frost entrapped her, They came and lapped her In leaves, and wrapped her With shroud and pall; In red leaves wound her, With dead leaves bound her Dead brows, and round her A death-knell rang; Rang the death-bell for her, Sang, "is it well for her, Well, is it well with you, rose?" they sang.
O what and where is The rose now, fairies, So shrill the air is, So wild the sky? Poor last of roses, Her worst of woes is The noise she knows is The winter's cry; His hunting hollo Has scared the swallow; Fain would she follow And fain would fly: But wind unsettles Her poor last petals; Had she but wings, and she would not die.
Come, as you love her, Come close and cover Her white face over, And forth again Ere sunset glances On foam that dances, Through lowering lances Of bright white rain; And make your playtime Of winter's daytime, As if the Maytime Were here to sing; As if the snowballs Were soft like blowballs, Blown in a mist from the stalk in the spring.
Each reed that grows in Our stream is frozen, The fields it flows in Are hard and black; The water-fairy Waits wise and wary Till time shall vary And thaws come back. "O sister, water," The wind besought her, "O twin-born daughter Of spring with me, Stay with me, play with me, Take the warm way with me, Straight for the summer and oversea."
But winds will vary, And wise and wary The patient fairy Of water waits; All shrunk and wizen, In iron prison, Till spring re-risen Unbar the gates; Till, as with clamor Of axe and hammer, Chained streams that stammer And struggle in straits Burst bonds that shiver, And thaws deliver The roaring river in stormy spates.
In fierce March weather White waves break tether, And whirled together At either hand, Like weeds uplifted, The tree-trunks rifted In spars are drifted, Like foam or sand, Past swamp and sallow And reed-beds callow, Through pool and shallow, To wind and lee, Till, no more tongue-tied, Full flood and young tide Roar down the rapids and storm the sea.
As men's cheeks faded On shores invaded, When shorewards waded The lords of fight; When churl and craven Saw hard on haven The wide-winged raven At mainmast height; When monks affrighted To windward sighted The birds full-flighted Of swift sea-kings; So earth turns paler When Storm the sailor Steers in with a roar in the race of his wings.
O strong sea-sailor, Whose cheek turns paler For wind or hail or For fear of thee? O far sea-farer, O thunder-bearer, Thy songs are rarer Than soft songs be. O fleet-foot stranger, O north-sea ranger Through days of danger And ways of fear, Blow thy horn here for us, Blow the sky clear for us, Send us the song of the sea to hear.
Roll the strong stream of it Up, till the scream of it Wake from a dream of it Children that sleep, Seamen that fare for them Forth, with a prayer for them: Shall not God care for them Angels not keep? Spare not the surges Thy stormy scourges; Spare us the dirges Of wives that weep. Turn back the waves for us: Dig no fresh graves for us, Wind, in the manifold gulfs of the deep.
O stout north-easter, Sea-king, land-waster, For all thine haste, or Thy stormy skill, Yet hadst thou never, For all endeavour, Strength to dissever Or strength to spill, Save of his giving Who gave our living, Whose hands are weaving What ours fulfil; Whose feet tread under The storms and thunder; Who made our wonder to work his will.
His years and hours, His world's blind powers, His stars and flowers, His nights and days, Sea-tide and river, And waves that shiver, Praise God, the giver Of tongues to praise. Winds in their blowing, And fruits in growing; Time in its going, While time shall be; In death and living, With one thanksgiving, Praise him whose hand is the strength of the sea.
II. SPRING IN TUSCANY ROSE-RED lilies that bloom on the banner; Rose-cheeked gardens that revel in spring; Rose-mouthed acacias that laugh as they climb, Like plumes for a queen's hand fashioned to fan her With wind more soft than a wild dove's wing, What do they sing in the spring of their time
If this be the rose that the world hears singing, Soft in the soft night, loud in the day, Songs for the fireflies to dance as they hear; If that be the song of the nightingale, springing Forth in the form of a rose in May, What do they say of the way of the year?
What of the way of the world gone Maying, What of the work of the buds in the bowers, What of the will of the wind on the wall, Fluttering the wall-flowers, sighing and playing, Shrinking again as a bird that cowers, Thinking of hours when the flowers have to fall?
Out of the throats of the loud birds showering, Out of the folds where the flag-lilies leap, Out of the mouths of the roses stirred, Out of the herbs on the walls reflowering, Out of the heights where the sheer snows sleep, Out of the deep and the steep, one word.
One from the lips of the lily-flames leaping, The glad red lilies that burn in our sight, The great live lilies for standard and crown; One from the steeps where the pines stand sleeping, One from the deep land, one from the height, One from the light and the might of the town.
The lowlands laugh with delight of the highlands, Whence May winds feed them with balm and breath From hills that beheld in the years behind A shape as of one from the blest souls' islands, Made fair by a soul too fair for death, With eyes on the light that should smite them blind.
Vallombrosa remotely remembers, Perchance, what still to us seems so near That time not darkens it, change not mars, The foot that she knew when her leaves were September's, The face lift up to the star-blind seer, That saw from his prison arisen his stars.
And Pisa broods on her dead, not mourning, For love of her loveliness given them in fee; And Prato gleams with the glad monk's gift Whose hand was there as the hand of morning; And Siena, set in the sand's red sea, Lifts loftier her head than the red sand's drift.
And far to the fair south-westward lightens, Girdled and sandalled and plumed with flowers, At sunset over the love-lit lands, The hill-side's crown where the wild hill brightens, Saint Fina's town of the Beautiful Towers, Hailing the sun with a hundred hands.
Land of us all that have loved thee dearliest, Mother of men that were lords of man, Whose name in the world's heart work a spell My last song's light, and the star of mine earliest, As we turn from thee, sweet, who wast ours for a span, Fare well we may not who say farewell.
III. SUMMER IN AUVERGNE THE sundawn fills the land Full as a feaster's hand Fills full with bloom of bland Bright wine his cup; Flows full to flood that fills From the arch of air it thrills Those rust-red iron hills With morning up.
Dawn, as a panther springs, With fierce and fire-fledged wings Leaps on the land that rings From her bright feet Through all its lava-black Cones that cast answer back And cliffs of footless track Where thunders meet.
The light speaks wide and loud From deeps blown clean of cloud As though day's heart were proud And heaven's were glad; The towers brown-striped and grey Take fire from heaven of day As though the prayers they pray Their answers had.
Higher in these high first hours Wax all the keen church towers, And higher all hearts of ours Than the old hills' crown, Higher than the pillared height Of that strange cliff-side bright With basalt towers whose might Strong time bows down.
And the old fierce ruin there Of the old wild princes' lair Whose blood in mine hath share Gapes gaunt and great Toward heaven that long ago Watched all the wan land's woe Whereon the wind would blow Of their bleak hate.
Dead are those deeds; but yet Their memory seems to fret Lands that might else forget That old world's brand; Dead all their sins and days; Yet in this red clime's rays Some fiery memory stays That sears their land.
IV. AUTUMN IN CORNWALL THE year lies fallen and faded On cliffs by clouds invaded, With tongues of storms upbraided, With wrath of waves bedinned; And inland, wild with warning, As in deaf ears or scorning, The clarion even and morning Rings of the south-west wind.
The wild bents wane and wither In blasts whose breath bows hither Their grey-grown heads and thither, Unblest of rain or sun; The pale fierce heavens are crowded With shapes like dreams beclouded, As though the old year enshrouded Lay, long ere life were done.
Full-charged with oldworld wonders, From dusk Tintagel thunders A note that smites and sunders The hard frore fields of air; A trumpet stormier-sounded Than once from lists rebounded When strong men sense-confounded Fell thick in tourney there.
From scarce a duskier dwelling Such notes of wail rose welling Through the outer darkness, telling In the awful singer's ears What souls the darkness covers, What love-lost souls of lovers, Whose cry still hangs and hovers In each man's born that hears.
For there by Hector's brother And yet some thousand other He that had grief to mother Passed pale from Dante's sight; With one fast linked as fearless, Perchance, there only tearless; Iseult and Tristram, peerless And perfect queen and knight.
A shrill-winged sound comes flying North, as of wild souls crying The cry of things undying, That know what life must be; Or as the old year's heart, stricken Too sore for hope to quicken By thoughts like thorns that thicken, Broke, breaking with the sea.