Choriambics

Original Text: 
Swinburne's Collected Poetical Works, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924): I, 394-95.
2What sweet visions of sleep lured thee away, down from the light above?
3What strange faces of dreams, voices that called, hands that were raised to wave,
4Lured or led thee, alas, out of the sun, down to the sunless grave?
5Ah, thy luminous eyes! once was their light fed with the fire of day;
6Now their shadowy lids cover them close, hush them and hide away.
7Ah, thy snow-coloured hands! once were they chains, mighty to bind me fast;
8Now no blood in them burns, mindless of love, senseless of passion past.
9Ah, thy beautiful hair! so was it once braided for me, for me;
10Now for death is it crowned, only for death, lover and lord of thee.
11Sweet, the kisses of death set on thy lips, colder are they than mine;
12Colder surely than past kisses that love poured for thy lips as wine.
13Lov'st thou death? is his face fairer than love's, brighter to look upon?
14Seest thou light in his eyes, light by which love's pales and is overshone?
15Lo the roses of death, grey as the dust, chiller of leaf than snow!
16Why let fall from thy hand love's that were thine, roses that loved thee so?
17Large red lilies of love, sceptral and tall, lovely for eyes to see;
18Thornless blossom of love, full of the sun, fruits that were reared for thee.
19Now death's poppies alone circle thy hair, girdle thy breasts as white;
20Bloodless blossoms of death, leaves that have sprung never against the light.
21Nay then, sleep if thou wilt; love is content; what should he do to weep?
22Sweet was love to thee once; now in thine eyes sweeter than love is sleep.

Notes

1] Swinburne wrote John Nichol on Nov. 29, 1872, that his own choriambics are "done rather on the model (metrical and otherwise) of Catullus, -- `Alpheus immemor,' etc. which I have always thought one of the sweetest and most intense even of his poems -- rather than of Horace `Tu me quaesievis' etc., though the metre in either poet's hand is so charming to my ear that I have actually attempted it in English for a short poem -- e.g.,
Żà Żà Żô Żà Żà Żà Żô Żà Żô Żà Ü Żà Ü Żà Żà Żô Żà Żô Żà Żà Ü Żà Żà Ü Żà Żà Żô Żà Żà Żô Żà Żà Ü Żà Ü Żà Żà Żô Żà Żà Ü Żà Żà Żô
Large red lilies of love, sceptral and tall, lovely for eyes to see,
Thornless blossom of love, full of the sun, fruits that were rear'd for thee.'"
(The Complete Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne, ed. Sir Edmund Gosse and Thomas James Wise [London: William Heinemann, 1926]: II, 201). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1878
Publication Notes: 
Poems and Ballads, 2nd ser. (1878): 141-43.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO (1999).
Form: