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Short poem

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

Cor Cordium

              1O heart of hearts, the chalice of love's fire,
              2     Hid round with flowers and all the bounty of bloom;
              3     O wonderful and perfect heart, for whom
              4The lyrist liberty made life a lyre;
              5O heavenly heart, at whose most dear desire
              6     Dead love, living and singing, cleft his tomb,
              7     And with him risen and regent in death's room
              8All day thy choral pulses rang full choir;
              9O heart whose beating blood was running song,
            10     O sole thing sweeter than thine own songs were,
            11          Help us for thy free love's sake to be free,
            12True for thy truth's sake, for thy strength's sake strong,
            13     Till very liberty make clean and fair
            14          The nursing earth as the sepulchral sea.


1] "Cor Cordium" is the phrase inscribed on Shelley's tomb.
This poem went through several versions. Swinburne wrote William Michael Rossetti on December 2, 1869, "I wrote the other day a sonnet to the Cor Cordium from another point than your admirable one -- a sort of `Ora pro nobis et re publicâ'" and in succeeding letters of December 16, 1869, and August 20, 1870, transcribed the poem as he revised it (The Complete Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne, ed. Sir Edmond Gosse and Thomas James Wise [London: William Heinemann, 1926]: II, 62, 70, 121). For the more important variants, see below.

6] cleft: clove (1869).

7] and regent in death's room: in glow of things and gloom (1869).

9] Love of loves, holy of holies, light of lights, (1869);
O heart whose hearing blood was running song (1870).

10] O sole: And sole (1869).

12] for thy strength's sake strong: (1870); righteous for thy rights (1869).

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, 831.
First publication date: 1871
Publication date note: Algernon Charles Swinburne, Songs before Sunrise (London: F. S. Ellis, 1871): 205. end S956 S673 1871a Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto) end S956 S673 1871b
RPO poem editor: P. F. Morgan
RP edition: 3RP 3.389.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/2

Form: sonnet
Rhyme: abbaabbacdecde

Other poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne