Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)
A Ballad of Burdens
1The burden of fair women. Vain delight,
2 And love self-slain in some sweet shameful way,
3And sorrowful old age that comes by night
4 As a thief comes that has no heart by day,
5 And change that finds fair cheeks and leaves them grey,
6And weariness that keeps awake for hire,
7 And grief that says what pleasure used to say;
8This is the end of every man's desire.
9The burden of bought kisses. This is sore,
10 A burden without fruit in childbearing;
11Between the nightfall and the dawn threescore,
12 Threescore between the dawn and evening.
13 The shuddering in thy lips, the shuddering
14In thy sad eyelids tremulous like fire,
15 Makes love seem shameful and a wretched thing.
16This is the end of every man's desire.
17The burden of sweet speeches. Nay, kneel down,
18 Cover thy head, and weep; for verily
19These market-men that buy thy white and brown
20 In the last days shall take no thought for thee.
21 In the last days like earth thy face shall be,
22Yea, like sea-marsh made thick with brine and mire,
23 Sad with sick leavings of the sterile sea.
24This is the end of every man's desire.
25The burden of long living. Thou shalt fear
26 Waking, and sleeping mourn upon thy bed;
27And say at night "Would God the day were here,"
28 And say at dawn "Would God the day were dead."
29 With weary days thou shalt be clothed and fed,
30And wear remorse of heart for thine attire,
31 Pain for thy girdle and sorrow upon thine head;
32This is the end of every man's desire.
33The burden of bright colours. Thou shalt see
34 Gold tarnished, and the grey above the green;
35And as the thing thou seest thy face shall be,
36 And no more as the thing beforetime seen.
37 And thou shalt say of mercy "It hath been,"
38And living, watch the old lips and loves expire,
39 And talking, tears shall take thy breath between;
40This is the end of every man's desire.
41The burden of sad sayings. In that day
42 Thou shalt tell all thy days and hours, and tell
43Thy times and ways and words of love, and say
44 How one was dear and one desirable,
45 And sweet was life to hear and sweet to smell,
46But now with lights reverse the old hours retire
47 And the last hour is shod with fire from hell;
48This is the end of every man's desire.
49The burden of four seasons. Rain in spring,
50 White rain and wind among the tender trees;
51A summer of green sorrows gathering,
52 Rank autumn in a mist of miseries,
53 With sad face set towards the year, that sees
54The charred ash drop out of the dropping pyre,
55 And winter wan with many maladies;
56This is the end of every man's desire.
57The burden of dead faces. Out of sight
58 And out of love, beyond the reach of hands,
59Changed in the changing of the dark and light,
60 They walk and weep about the barren lands
61 Where no seed is nor any garner stands,
62Where in short breaths the doubtful days respire,
63 And time's turned glass lets through the sighing sands;
64This is the end of every man's desire.
65The burden of much gladness. Life and lust
66 Forsake thee, and the face of thy delight;
67And underfoot the heavy hour strews dust,
68 And overhead strange weathers burn and bite;
69 And where the red was, lo the bloodless white,
70And where the truth was, the likeness of a liar,
71And where the day was, the likeness of the night;
72 This is the end of every man's desire.
73Princes, and ye whom pleasure quickeneth,
74 Heed well this rhyme before your pleasure tire;
75For life is sweet, but after life is death.
76 This is the end of every man's desire.
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: Swinburne's Collected Poetical Works, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924): I, 125-27.
First publication date:
Publication date note: Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads (London: J. C. Hotten, 1866): 144-47. end S956 P644 1866b Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto)
RPO poem editor: P. F. Morgan
RP edition: 3RP 3.380.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/2
Other poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne