A Century of Roundels

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A Century of Roundels

by Algernon Charles Swinburne


In Harbour

    The Way of the Wind

    Had I Wist


    Time and Life

    A Dialogue

Plus Ultra

    A Dead Friend

    Past Days

    Autumn and Winter The Death of Richard Wagner

    Two preludes


     Tristan und Isolde

    The Lute and the Lyre

    Plus Intra


    A Baby's Death One of Twain

    Death and Birth Birth and Death Benediction

    Etude Realiste Babyhood

    First Footsteps A Ninth Birthday Not a Child

    To Dora Dorian The Roundel

    At Sea

    Wasted Love

    Before Sunset

    A Singing Lesson Flower-pieces

     Love Lies Bleeding

     Love in a Mist Three faces







    On an Old Roundel A Landscape by Courbet

    A Flower-piece by Fantin

    A Night-piece by Millet

    Marzo Pazzo

    Dead Love




    Aperotos Eros

    To Catullus

    Insularum Ocelle'

    In Sark

    In Guernsey




    Songs light as these may sound, though deep and strong The heart spake through them, scarce should hope to please Ears tuned to strains of loftier thoughts than throng

     Songs light as these.

    Yet grace may set their sometime doubt at ease, Nor need their too rash reverence fear to wrong The shrine it serves at and the hope it sees.

    For childlike loves and laughters thence prolong Notes that bid enter, fearless as the breeze, Even to the shrine of holiest-hearted song,

     Songs light as these.



    Goodnight and goodbye to the life whose signs denote us As mourners clothed with regret for the life gone by; To the waters of gloom whence winds of the dayspring float us

     Goodnight and goodbye.

    A time is for mourning, a season for grief to sigh; But were we not fools and blind, by day to devote us As thralls to the darkness, unseen of the sundawn's eye?

    We have drunken of Lethe at length, we have eaten of lotus; What hurts it us here that sorrows are born and die? We have said to the dream that caressed and the dread that smote us

     Goodnight and goodbye.


    Outside of the port ye are moored in, lying Close from the wind and at ease from the tide, What sounds come swelling, what notes fall dying


They will not cease, they will not abide:

Voices of presage in darkness crying

    Pass and return and relapse aside.

    Ye see not, but hear ye not wild wings flying To the future that wakes from the past that died? Is grief still sleeping, is joy not sighing



The wind's way in the deep sky's hollow

    None may measure, as none can say

    How the heart in her shows the swallow

     The wind's way.

Hope nor fear can avail to stay

    Waves that whiten on wrecks that wallow,

    Times and seasons that wane and slay.

    Life and love, till the strong night swallow Thought and hope and the red last ray,

    Swim the waters of years that follow

     The wind's way.


    Had I wist, when life was like a warm wind playing Light and loud through sundawn and the dew's bright trust, How the time should come for hearts to sigh in saying

     'Had I wist' -

    Surely not the roses, laughing as they kissed, Not the lovelier laugh of seas in sunshine swaying, Should have lured my soul to look thereon and list.

    Now the wind is like a soul cast out and praying Vainly, prayers that pierce not ears when hearts resist: Now mine own soul sighs, adrift as wind and straying,

     'Had I wist.'



    Years upon years, as a course of clouds that thicken Thronging the ways of the wind that shifts and veers, Pass, and the flames of remembered fires requicken

     Years upon years.

    Surely the thought in a man's heart hopes or fears Now that forgetfulness needs must here have stricken Anguish, and sweetened the sealed-up springs of tears.

    Ah, but the strength of regrets that strain and sicken, Yearning for love that the veil of death endears, Slackens not wing for the wings of years that quicken -

     Years upon years.


    Years upon years, and the flame of love's high altar Trembles and sinks, and the sense of listening ears Heeds not the sound that it heard of love's blithe psalter

     Years upon years.

    Only the sense of a heart that hearkens hears, Louder than dreams that assail and doubts that palter, Sorrow that slept and that wakes ere sundawn peers.

    Wakes, that the heart may behold, and yet not falter, Faces of children as stars unknown of, spheres Seen but of love, that endures though all things alter,

     Years upon years.


    Years upon years, as a watch by night that passes, Pass, and the light of their eyes is fire that sears Slowly the hopes of the fruit that life amasses

     Years upon years.

    Pale as the glimmer of stars on moorland meres Lighten the shadows reverberate from the glasses Held in their hands as they pass among their peers.

    Lights that are shadows, as ghosts on graveyard grasses, Moving on paths that the moon of memory cheers, Shew but as mists over cloudy mountain passes

     Years upon years.



    Time, thy name is sorrow, says the stricken Heart of life, laid waste with wasting flame Ere the change of things and thoughts requicken,

     Time, thy name.

    Girt about with shadow, blind and lame, Ghosts of things that smite and thoughts that sicken Hunt and hound thee down to death and shame.