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Nephelidia -- Algernon Charles Swinburne

Note the p1c compliance :)
[in the next, actually - result of renumbering --sitaram]

[Lines split into two to fit the display. [not any more --sitaram]]
(Poem #99) Nephelidia
From the depth of the dreamy decline of the dawn
        through a notable nimbus of nebulous noonshine,
Pallid and pink as the palm of the flag-flower
        that flickers with fear of the flies as they float,
Are they looks of our lovers that lustrously lean
        from a marvel of mystic miraculous moonshine,
These that we feel in the blood of our blushes
        that thicken and threaten with throbs through the throat?
Thicken and thrill as a theatre thronged
        at appeal of an actor's appalled agitation,
Fainter with fear of the fires of the future
        than pale with the promise of pride in the past;
Flushed with the famishing fullness of fever
        that reddens with radiance of rathe recreation,
Gaunt as the ghastliest of glimpses that gleam
        through the gloom of the gloaming when ghosts go aghast?
Nay, for the nick of the tick of the time
        is a tremulous touch on the temples of terror,
Strained as the sinews yet strenuous with strife
        of the dead who is dumb as the dust-heaps of death:
Surely no soul is it, sweet as the spasm
        of erotic emotional exquisite error,
Bathed in the balms of beatified bliss,
        beatific itself by beatitude's breath.
Surely no spirit or sense of a soul
        that was soft to the spirit and soul of our senses
Sweetens the stress of suspiring suspicion
        that sobs in the semblance and sound of a sigh;
Only this oracle opens Olympian,
        in mystical moods and triangular tenses--
"Life is the lust of a lamp for the light
        that is dark till the dawn of the day when we die.
Mild is the mirk and monotonous music of memory,
        melodiously mute as it may be,
While the hope in the heart of a hero is bruised
        by the breach of men's rapiers, resigned to the rod;
Made meek as a mother whose bosom-beats bound
        with the bliss-bringing bulk of a balm-breathing baby,
As they grope through the grave-yard of creeds, under skies
        growing green at a groan for the grimness of God.
Blank is the book of his bounty beholden of old,
        and its binding is blacker than bluer:
Out of blue into black is the scheme of the skies,
        and their dews are the wine of the bloodshed of things;
Till the darkling desire of delight shall be free
        as a fawn that is freed from the fangs that pursue her,
Till the heart-beats of hell shall be hushed by a hymn
        from the hunt that has harried the kennel of kings.
-- Algernon Charles Swinburne
This marvellous piece of amphigouri[1] was a deliberate self-parody by
Swinburne, capturing his style, with its complex metres and abundant
alliteration, perfectly. While meaning precisely nothing, it nonetheless
manages to be an altogether delightful trip through the intricate interplay
of sounds and patterns. It also manages to have some wonderfully quotable
bits that hover tantalisingly on the edge of meaning.

[1] Amphigouri: A verse composition which, while apparently coherent,
contains no sense or meaning. 'Nephelidia' is usually cited as an example.

m.

Biography and Assessment:

Swinburne, Algernon Charles

 b. April 5, 1837, London
 d. April 10, 1909, Putney, London

  English poet and critic, outstanding for prosodic innovations and
  noteworthy as the symbol of mid-Victorian poetic revolt. The
  characteristic qualities of his verse are insistent alliteration,
  unflagging rhythmic energy, sheer melodiousness, great variation of pace
  and stress, effortless expansion of a given theme, and evocative if rather
  imprecise use of imagery. His poetic style is highly individual and his
  command of word-colour and word-music striking. Swinburne's technical
  gifts and capacity for prosodic invention were extraordinary, but too
  often his poems' remorseless rhythms have a narcotic effect, and he has
  been accused of paying more attention to the melody of words than to their
  meaning. Swinburne was pagan in his sympathies and passionately
  antitheist.

        -- EB

53 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Thomas Green said...

Comment on Nephelidia - I'm so pleased to rediscover this poem, I
remember howling with laughter when i was a schoolboy. That was almost
half a century ago and I still find it funny.

Thomas Green, Leeds, UK

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