A Song of Renunciation

(After A. C. S.)

Original Text: 
Owen Seaman, The Battle of the Bays (London: The Bodley Head, 1896): 1-4. OCLC Id: 1822279. Internet Archive.
2    When the down was as dew on my cheek,
3And for French I was bred on the ballad,
4    For Greek on the writers of Greek,--
6    Of "pleasure that winces and stings,"
7Of white women and wine that is bloody,
8    And similar things.
9Of Delight that is dear as Desi-er,
10    And Desire that is dear as Delight;
11Of the fangs of the flame that is fi-er,
12    Of the bruises of kisses that bite;
13Of embraces that clasp and that sever,
14    Of blushes that flutter and flee
15Round the limbs of Dolores, whoever
16    Dolores may be.
17I sang of false faith that is fleeting
18    As froth of the swallowing seas,
20    Is fatal to amorous fleas;
21Of the wanness of woe that is whelp of
22    The lust that is blind as a bat--
23By the help of my Muse and the help of
24    The relative THAT.
26    Of kings and the creatures of kings,
27I shouted on Freedom to shake her
28    Feet loose of the fetter that clings;
29Far rolling my ravenous red eye,
30    And lifting a mutinous lid,
31To all monarchs and matrons I said I
32    Would shock them--and did.
34    O "noble and nude and antique!"
35Unashamed in the "fearless old fashion"
36    Ere washing was done by the week;
37When the "roses and rapture" that girt you
38    Were visions of delicate vice,
39And the "lilies and languors of virtue"
40    Not nearly so nice.
41O delights of the time of my teething,
42    Félise, Fragoletta, Yolande!
43Foam-yeast of a youth in its seething
44    On blasted and blithering sand!
46    With blossoms that coil and decay,
47Ye are gone; ye are lost; ye are melted
50    Of "lithe and lascivious" throats;
51Long stript and extinct is the stubble
54    The bees have abortively swarmed;
55And Algernon's earlier morals
56    Are fairly reformed.
59I have babbled of babies and played a
60    New tune on the turn of their toes;
62    My books any virgin may buy;
63And I hear I am praised by a party
65When erased are the records, and rotten
66    The meshes of memory's net;
67When the grace that forgives has forgotten
68    The things that are good to forget;
69When the trill of my juvenile trumpet
70    Is dead and its echoes are dead;
72    And crown of my head!


1] A. C. S.: Algernon Charles Swinburne. This poem parodies his "Dolores" (see below, lines 15-16). Back to Line
5] Swinburne's outstanding original Poems and Ballads (1866), which included poems such as "Hymn to Proserpine," "Dolores," "The Garden of Proserpine," and "Laus Veneris" created a storm of indignant protests from prudish (and hypocritical) Victorians. Back to Line
19] Keating: Thomas Keating, a 19th-century chemist, and the "proprietary name of an insect powder" first made by him (OED). Back to Line
25] Panatheist: one who believes that God and the universe are one and the same (normally "pantheist" but extended by a syllable to fit the nine-foot line). Back to Line
33] turtle of the sea. Back to Line
45] Snake-crowned: like the Medusa. Back to Line
48] ices: frozen desserts of water or cream. Back to Line
49] bibulous: drinking-prone. Back to Line
52] oats: sexual adventures in one's deep past. Back to Line
53] sorrel: sourdock, a tart-tasting herb. Back to Line
57] Swinburne's poem "The Armada" (1888) commemorates the three-hundredth anniversary of Elizabeth's victory over the attempted Spanish invasion. Back to Line
58] Swinburne's ."The Jubilee, 1887." celebrates fiftieth anniversary of Queen Victoria's reign (June 20, 1887). Back to Line
61] Astarte: Greek goddess of sexuality, fertility, and battle. Back to Line
64] Something Mackay: Eric Mackay, an Englishman who pursued, unsuccessfully, Swinburne by post and in person to accept the dedication of a volume of poems. Swinburne rudely rebuffed his offer, Mackay went elsewhere, and the affair was publicized by a cartoon in the Pall Mall Gazette. See Coulson Kernahan, Swinburne as I Knew him (London: John Lane, 1919): 56-57. Back to Line
71] crumpet: "A soft cake made of flour, beaten egg, milk, and barm or baking-powder, mixed into batter, and baked on an iron plate" (OED). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: