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Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

A Forsaken Garden


              1In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland,
              2     At the sea-down's edge between windward and lee,
              3Walled round with rocks as an inland island,
              4     The ghost of a garden fronts the sea.
              5A girdle of brushwood and thorn encloses
              6     The steep square slope of the blossomless bed
              7Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of its roses
              8          Now lie dead.

              9The fields fall southward, abrupt and broken,
            10     To the low last edge of the long lone land.
            11If a step should sound or a word be spoken,
            12     Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest's hand?
            13So long have the grey bare walks lain guestless,
            14     Through branches and briars if a man make way,
            15He shall find no life but the sea-wind's, restless
            16          Night and day.

            17The dense hard passage is blind and stifled
            18     That crawls by a track none turn to climb
            19To the strait waste place that the years have rifled
            20     Of all but the thorns that are touched not of time.
            21The thorns he spares when the rose is taken;
            22     The rocks are left when he wastes the plain.
            23The wind that wanders, the weeds wind-shaken,
            24          These remain.

            25Not a flower to be pressed of the foot that falls not;
            26     As the heart of a dead man the seed-plots are dry;
            27From the thicket of thorns whence the nightingale calls not,
            28     Could she call, there were never a rose to reply.
            29Over the meadows that blossom and wither
            30     Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song;
            31Only the sun and the rain come hither
            32          All year long.

            33The sun burns sere and the rain dishevels
            34     One gaunt bleak blossom of scentless breath.
            35Only the wind here hovers and revels
            36     In a round where life seems barren as death.
            37Here there was laughing of old, there was weeping,
            38     Haply, of lovers none ever will know,
            39Whose eyes went seaward a hundred sleeping
            40          Years ago.

            41Heart handfast in heart as they stood, "Look thither,"
            42     Did he whisper? "look forth from the flowers to the sea;
            43For the foam-flowers endure when the rose-blossoms wither,
            44     And men that love lightly may die--but we?"
            45And the same wind sang and the same waves whitened,
            46     And or ever the garden's last petals were shed,
            47In the lips that had whispered, the eyes that had lightened,
            48          Love was dead.

            49Or they loved their life through, and then went whither?
            50     And were one to the end--but what end who knows?
            51Love deep as the sea as a rose must wither,
            52     As the rose-red seaweed that mocks the rose.
            53Shall the dead take thought for the dead to love them?
            54     What love was ever as deep as a grave?
            55They are loveless now as the grass above them
            56          Or the wave.

            57All are at one now, roses and lovers,
            58     Not known of the cliffs and the fields and the sea.
            59Not a breath of the time that has been hovers
            60     In the air now soft with a summer to be.
            61Not a breath shall there sweeten the seasons hereafter
            62     Of the flowers or the lovers that laugh now or weep,
            63When as they that are free now of weeping and laughter
            64          We shall sleep.

            65Here death may deal not again for ever;
            66     Here change may come not till all change end.
            67From the graves they have made they shall rise up never,
            68     Who have left nought living to ravage and rend.
            69Earth, stones, and thorns of the wild ground growing,
            70     While the sun and the rain live, these shall be;
            71Till a last wind's breath upon all these blowing
            72          Roll the sea.

            73Till the slow sea rise and the sheer cliff crumble,
            74     Till terrace and meadow the deep gulfs drink,
            75Till the strength of the waves of the high tides humble
            76     The fields that lessen, the rocks that shrink,
            77Here now in his triumph where all things falter,
            78     Stretched out on the spoils that his own hand spread,
            79As a god self-slain on his own strange altar,
            80          Death lies dead.


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, 318-21.
First publication date: 22 July 1876
Publication date note: The Athenaeum (July 22, 1876): 112. AP 4 A8 ROBA. Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads, Second Series (London: Chatto and Windus, 1878): 27-31. PR 5506 .P62 1878 Trinity College Library
RPO poem editor: P. F. Morgan
RP edition: 3RP 3.390.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/2

Rhyme: ababcdcd


Other poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne