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Short poem

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

The Garden of Proserpine

              1Here, where the world is quiet;
              2      Here, where all trouble seems
              3Dead winds' and spent waves' riot
              4      In doubtful dreams of dreams;
              5I watch the green field growing
              6For reaping folk and sowing,
              7For harvest-time and mowing,
              8      A sleepy world of streams.

              9I am tired of tears and laughter,
            10      And men that laugh and weep;
            11Of what may come hereafter
            12      For men that sow to reap:
            13I am weary of days and hours,
            14Blown buds of barren flowers,
            15Desires and dreams and powers
            16      And everything but sleep.

            17Here life has death for neighbour,
            18      And far from eye or ear
            19Wan waves and wet winds labour,
            20      Weak ships and spirits steer;
            21They drive adrift, and whither
            22They wot not who make thither;
            23But no such winds blow hither,
            24      And no such things grow here.

            25No growth of moor or coppice,
            26      No heather-flower or vine,
            27But bloomless buds of poppies,
            28      Green grapes of Proserpine,
            29Pale beds of blowing rushes
            30Where no leaf blooms or blushes
            31Save this whereout she crushes
            32      For dead men deadly wine.

            33Pale, without name or number,
            34      In fruitless fields of corn,
            35They bow themselves and slumber
            36      All night till light is born;
            37And like a soul belated,
            38In hell and heaven unmated,
            39By cloud and mist abated
            40      Comes out of darkness morn.

            41Though one were strong as seven,
            42      He too with death shall dwell,
            43Nor wake with wings in heaven,
            44      Nor weep for pains in hell;
            45Though one were fair as roses,
            46His beauty clouds and closes;
            47And well though love reposes,
            48      In the end it is not well.

            49Pale, beyond porch and portal,
            50      Crowned with calm leaves, she stands
            51Who gathers all things mortal
            52      With cold immortal hands;
            53Her languid lips are sweeter
            54Than love's who fears to greet her
            55To men that mix and meet her
            56      From many times and lands.

            57She waits for each and other,
            58      She waits for all men born;
            59Forgets the earth her mother,
            60        The life of fruits and corn;
            61And spring and seed and swallow
            62Take wing for her and follow
            63Where summer song rings hollow
            64      And flowers are put to scorn.

            65There go the loves that wither,
            66      The old loves with wearier wings;
            67And all dead years draw thither,
            68      And all disastrous things;
            69Dead dreams of days forsaken,
            70Blind buds that snows have shaken,
            71Wild leaves that winds have taken,
            72      Red strays of ruined springs.

            73We are not sure of sorrow,
            74      And joy was never sure;
            75To-day will die to-morrow;
            76      Time stoops to no man's lure;
            77And love, grown faint and fretful,
            78With lips but half regretful
            79Sighs, and with eyes forgetful
            80      Weeps that no loves endure.

            81From too much love of living,
            82      From hope and fear set free,
            83We thank with brief thanksgiving
            84      Whatever gods may be
            85That no life lives for ever;
            86That dead men rise up never;
            87That even the weariest river
            88      Winds somewhere safe to sea.

            89Then star nor sun shall waken,
            90      Nor any change of light:
            91Nor sound of waters shaken,
            92      Nor any sound or sight:
            93Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
            94Nor days nor things diurnal;
            95Only the sleep eternal
            96      In an eternal night.


1] Proserpina, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, whom Pluto, god of the underworld, seized for his queen and took off to the land of the dead. Cf. Milton's description of her in Paradise Lost, IV.269-72.

22] wot: know.

25] coppice: wild crump of bushes or small trees, a thicket.

34] corn: grain.

76] Time does not swoop down (like a bird of prey) to seize bait laid out for it by man.

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, 169-72.
First publication date: 1866
Publication date note: Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads (London: J. C. Hotten, 1866): 196-99. end S956 P644 1866b Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto)
RPO poem editor: P. F. Morgan
RP edition: 3RP 3.378.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/2

Rhyme: ababcccb

Other poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne