Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #923) Leave-Taking
Let us go hence, my songs; she will not hear. Let us go hence together without fear; Keep silence now, for singing-time is over, And over all old things and all things dear. She loves not you nor me as all we love her. Yea, though we sang as angels in her ear, She would not hear. Let us rise up and part; she will not know. Let us go seaward as the great winds go, Full of blown sand and foam; what help is here? There is no help, for all these things are so, And all the world is bitter as a tear. And how these things are, though ye strove to show, She would not know. Let us go home and hence; she will not weep. We gave love many dreams and days to keep, Flowers without scent, and fruits that would not grow, Saying 'If thou wilt, thrust in thy sickle and reap.' All is reaped now; no grass is left to mow; And we that sowed, though all we fell on sleep, She would not weep. Let us go hence and rest; she will not love. She shall not hear us if we sing hereof, Nor see love's ways, how sore they are and steep. Come hence, let be, lie still; it is enough. Love is a barren sea, bitter and deep; And though she saw all heaven in flower above, She would not love. Let us give up, go down; she will not care. Though all the stars made gold of all the air, And the sea moving saw before it move One moon-flower making all the foam-flowers fair; Though all those waves went over us, and drove Deep down the stifling lips and drowning hair, She would not care. Let us go hence, go hence; she will not see. Sing all once more together; surely she, She too, remembering days and words that were, Will turn a little toward us, sighing; but we, We are hence, we are gone, as though we had not been there. Nay, and though all men seeing had pity on me, She would not see.
I've always thought of Swinburne as being the quintessential Victorian poet - his poems like poppies in a field, crying to be plucked, to be read aloud, but withering so quickly when one searches them for depth of image or meaning. This poem is no exception. I can find little in it that is obviously original, yet having read it once I find that its sweet, poisonous ache will not leave me. What I love about it is not just the effortless way in which Swinburne (as always) carries off an incredibly difficult verse pattern (aababaa ccacacc and with a common pattern to each starting and ending line) but the way in which the poem incessantly peaks and dies and peaks again. Every stanza begins with with a new rebellion, a coming together of forces in defiance, and every stanza winds irrevocably down to the heartstopping finality of that last brutal line. This is a poem as restless and as endlessly repetitive as the sea it was undoubtedly written by and it's Swinburne's ability to capture that restlessness, that 'repetition of salutes' that makes this a truly great poem. Aseem. [Minstrels Links] Algernon Charles Swinburne: Poem #99, Nephelidia Poem #857, Chorus from 'Atalanta in Calydon' Poem #923, Leave-Taking