The Garden of Proserpine
Swinburne's Collected Poetical Works, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924): I, 169-72.
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
23But no such winds blow hither,
24 And no such things grow here.
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,
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;
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. Back to Line
22] wot: know. Back to Line
25] coppice: wild crump of bushes or small trees, a thicket. Back to Line
34] corn: grain. Back to Line
76] Time does not swoop down (like a bird of prey) to seize bait laid out for it by man. Back to Line
Publication Start Year:
Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads (London: J. C. Hotten, 1866): 196-99. end S956 P644 1866b Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto)
RPO poem Editors:
P. F. Morgan