Atalanta in Calydon

Original Text: 
Swinburne's Collected Poetical Works, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924): II, 249-50.
67Fills the shadows and windy places
68     With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain;
70Is half assuaged for Itylus,
71For the Thracian ships and the foreign faces,
72     The tongueless vigil, and all the pain.
73Come with bows bent and with emptying of quivers,
75With a noise of winds and many rivers,
76     With a clamour of waters, and with might;
77Bind on thy sandals, O thou most fleet,
78Over the splendour and speed of thy feet;
79For the faint east quickens, the wan west shivers,
80     Round the feet of the day and the feet of the night.
81Where shall we find her, how shall we sing to her,
83O that man's heart were as fire and could spring to her,
84     Fire, or the strength of the streams that spring!
85For the stars and the winds are unto her
86As raiment, as songs of the harp-player;
87For the risen stars and the fallen cling to her,
88     And the southwest-wind and the west-wind sing.
89For winter's rains and ruins are over,
90     And all the season of snows and sins;
91The days dividing lover and lover,
92     The light that loses, the night that wins;
93And time remembered is grief forgotten,
94And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
95And in green underwood and cover
96     Blossom by blossom the spring begins.
97The full streams feed on flower of rushes,
98     Ripe grasses trammel a travelling foot,
99The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes
100     From leaf to flower and flower to fruit;
101And fruit and leaf are as gold and fire,
104     The chestnut-husk at the chestnut root.
106     Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid,
107Follows with dancing and fills with delight
109And soft as lips that laugh and hide
110The laughing leaves of the trees divide,
112     The god pursuing, the maiden hid.
113The ivy falls with the Bacchanal's hair
114     Over her eyebrows hiding her eyes;
115The wild vine slipping down leaves bare
116     Her bright breast shortening into sighs;
117The wild vine slips with the weight of its leaves,
118But the berried ivy catches and cleaves
119To the limbs that glitter, the feet that scare
120     The wolf that follows, the fawn that flies.
                    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
314Before the beginning of years
315     There came to the making of man
317     Grief, with a glass that ran;
318Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
319     Summer, with flowers that fell;
320Remembrance fallen from heaven,
321     And madness risen from hell;
322Strength without hands to smite;
323     Love that endures for a breath;
324Night, the shadow of light,
325     And life, the shadow of death.
326And the high gods took in hand
327     Fire, and the falling of tears,
328And a measure of sliding sand
329     From under the feet of the years;
330And froth and drift of the sea;
331     And dust of the labouring earth;
332And bodies of things to be
333     In the houses of death and of birth;
334And wrought with weeping and laughter,
335     And fashioned with loathing and love
336With life before and after
337     And death beneath and above,
338For a day and a night and a morrow,
339     That his strength might endure for a span
340With travail and heavy sorrow,
341     The holy spirit of man.
342From the winds of the north and the south
343     They gathered as unto strife;
344They breathed upon his mouth,
345     They filled his body with life;
346Eyesight and speech they wrought
347     For the veils of the soul therein,
348A time for labour and thought,
349     A time to serve and to sin;
350They gave him light in his ways,
351     And love, and a space for delight,
352And beauty and length of days,
353     And night, and sleep in the night.
354His speech is a burning fire;
355     With his lips he travaileth;
356In his heart is a blind desire,
357     In his eyes foreknowledge of death;
358He weaves, and is clothed with derision;
359     Sows, and he shall not reap;
360His life is a watch or a vision
361     Between a sleep and a sleep.


65] This is the first chorus in the drama. It celebrates the goddess of chastity; hunting, and the moon, i.e., Artemis or Diana. See the complete verse drama. Back to Line
66] The mother of months: Artemis, who controls the phases of the moon. Shelley calls her "the mother of months" in his Prometheus Unbound, IV. Back to Line
69] This story is used by Swinburne in "Itylus." Returning to Thrace, King Tereus, husband of Procne, ravished her sister Philomela and cut out her tongue. However, Philomela managed to tell her story in needlework. In revenge the sisters slew Itylus, Tereus's son by Procne, and served him up for Tereus to eat. This was at a place called Daulis (see "Itylus," line 48). The angry gods turned the protagonists into birds, Philomela into a nightingale and Procne into a swallow. Back to Line
74] Artemis, goddess of hunting and patron of unmarried girls. Back to Line
82] A manuscript version of these lines, reproduced in The Complete Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne, ed. Sir Edmund Gosse and Thomas James Wise (London: William Heinemann, 1926): I, 77, reads as follows:
Her who is more than love or than spring?
Wine shall we shed for her, wreaths shall we bring to her,
Life shall we give her, and fire shall we bring?
For her feet are fair in the wet sweet ways,
From the sea-bank to the sea-bays;
And the risen stars and the fallen cling to her
Back to Line
102] oat: reed-pipe. Back to Line
103] satyr: half-man, half-beast, a mythical creature of the woods. Back to Line
105] Pan: god of shepherds.
Bacchus: god of wine. Back to Line
108] Mænad, Bassarid, and Bacchanal (49) are female worshippers of Bacchus. Back to Line
111] chiastic (Greek, `set out diagonally'): the god is left in sight, and the maiden is screened. Back to Line
316] inversion as a figure of speech: Grief usually sheds tears, and Time usually has an hour-glass. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon; a tragedy (London: E. Moxon, 1865). end S956 A83 1865 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto)
RPO poem Editors: 
P. F. Morgan
RPO Edition: 
3RP 3.367.