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Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

Itylus


              1Swallow, my sister, O sister swallow,
              2     How can thine heart be full of the spring?
              3          A thousand summers are over and dead.
              4What hast thou found in the spring to follow?
              5     What hast thou found in thine heart to sing?
              6          What wilt thou do when the summer is shed?

              7O swallow, sister, O fair swift swallow,
              8     Why wilt thou fly after spring to the south,
              9          The soft south whither thine heart is set?
            10Shall not the grief of the old time follow?
            11     Shall not the song thereof cleave to thy mouth?
            12          Hast thou forgotten ere I forget?

            13Sister, my sister, O fleet sweet swallow,
            14     Thy way is long to the sun and the south;
            15          But I, fulfilled of my heart's desire,
            16Shedding my song upon height, upon hollow,
            17     From tawny body and sweet small mouth
            18          Feed the heart of the night with fire.

            19I the nightingale all spring through,
            20     O swallow, sister, O changing swallow,
            21          All spring through till the spring be done,
            22Clothed with the light of the night on the dew,
            23     Sing, while the hours and the wild birds follow,
            24          Take flight and follow and find the sun.

            25Sister, my sister, O soft light swallow,
            26     Though all things feast in the spring's guest-chamber,
            27          How hast thou heart to be glad thereof yet?
            28For where thou fliest I shall not follow,
            29     Till life forget and death remember,
            30          Till thou remember and I forget.

            31Swallow, my sister, O singing swallow,
            32     I know not how thou hast heart to sing.
            33          Hast thou the heart? is it all past over?
            34Thy lord the summer is good to follow,
            35     And fair the feet of thy lover the spring:
            36          But what wilt thou say to the spring thy lover?

            37O swallow, sister, O fleeting swallow,
            38     My heart in me is a molten ember
            39          And over my head the waves have met.
            40But thou wouldst tarry or I would follow,
            41     Could I forget or thou remember,
            42          Couldst thou remember and I forget.

            43O sweet stray sister, O shifting swallow,
            44     The heart's division divideth us.
            45          Thy heart is light as a leaf of a tree;
            46But mine goes forth among sea-gulfs hollow
            47     To the place of the slaying of Itylus,
            48          The feast of Daulis, the Thracian Sea.

            49O swallow, sister, O rapid swallow,
            50     I pray thee sing not a little space.
            51          Are not the roofs and the lintels wet?
            52The woven web that was plain to follow,
            53     The small slain body, the flowerlike face,
            54          Can I remember if thou forget?

            55O sister, sister, thy first-begotten!
            56     The hands that cling and the feet that follow,
            57          The voice of the child's blood crying yet
            58Who hath remembered me? who hath forgotten?
            59     Thou hast forgotten, O summer swallow,
            60          But the world shall end when I forget.


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: Swibnurne's Collected Poetical Works, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924): I, 54-56.
First publication date: 1866
Publication date note: Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads (London: J. C. Hotten, 1866): 62-64. end S956 P644 1866b Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto)
RPO poem editor: P. F. Morgan
RP edition: 3RP 3.374.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/2

Rhyme: abcabc


Other poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne