Before the Beginning of Years

This is one of my favourite poems of all times. Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote it in 1865, more than one hundred years before I was born. Those who still can, bring more poets to this world, will you.

Before the beginning of years

There came to the making of man

Time, with a gift of tears;

Grief, with a glass that ran;

Pleasure, with pain for leaven;

Summer, with flowers that fell;

Remembrance, fallen from heaven,

And madness risen from hell;

Strength without hands to smite;

Love that endures for a breath;

Night, the shadow of light,

And life, the shadow of death.

And the high gods took in hand

Fire, and the falling of tears,

And a measure of sliding sand

From under the feet of the years;

And froth and the drift of the sea;

And dust of the laboring earth;

And bodies of things to be

In the houses of death and of birth;

And wrought with weeping and laughter,

And fashioned with loathing and love,

With life before and after

And death beneath and above,

For a day and a night and a morrow,

That his strength might endure for a span

With travail and heavy sorrow,

The holy spirit of man.

From the winds of the north and the south,

They gathered as unto strife;

They breathed upon his mouth,

They filled his body with life;

Eyesight and speech they wrought

For the veils of the soul therein,

A time for labor and thought,

A time to serve and to sin;

They gave him light in his ways,

And love, and space for delight,

And beauty, and length of days,

And night, and sleep in the night.

His speech is a burning fire;

With his lips he travaileth;

In his heart is a blind desire,

In his eyes foreknowledge of death;

He weaves, and is clothed with derision;

Sows, and he shall not reap;

His life is a watch or a vision

Between a sleep and a sleep.

Image

Church by Jože Plečnik in Prague (I get a certain Monty Python feel from it). Photo: MM

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