Atalanta In Calydon (Chorus)

by Algernon Charles Swinburne

We have seen thee, O Love, thou art fair; thou art goodly, O Love; Thy wings make light in the air as the wings of a dove. Thy feet are as winds that divide the stream of the sea; Earth is thy covering to hide thee, the garment of thee. Thou art swift and subtle and blind as a flame of fire; Before the thee the laughter, behind thee the tears of desire; And twain go forth beside thee, a man with a maid; Her eyes are the eyes of a bride whom delight makes afraid; As the breath in the buds that stir is her bridal wreath: But Fate is the name of her; and his name is Death. For an evil blossom was born Of sea-foam and the frothing of blood, Blood-red and bitter of fruit, And the seed of it laughter and tears, And the leaves of it madness and scorn A bitter flower from the bud, Sprung of the sea without root, Sprung without graft from the years. The weft of the world was untorn That is woven of the day on the night, The hair of the hours was not white Nor the raiment of time over-worn, When a wonder, a world's delight, A perilous goddess was born; And the waves of the sea as she came Clove, and the foam at her feet, Fauning, rejoiced to bring forth A freshly blossom, a flame Filling the heavens with heat To the cold white ends of the north. And in the air the clamorous birds, And men upon earth that hear Sweet articulate words Sweetly divided apart, And in shallow channel and mere The rapid and footless herds, Rejoiced, being foolish of heart. For all they said upon earth, She is fair, she is white like a dove, And the life of the world in her breath Breathes, and is born at her birth; For they knew thee for mother of love, And knew thee not mother of death. What hadst thou to do being born, Mother, when winds were at ease, As a flower of the springtime of corn, As a flower of the foam of the seas? For bitter thou wast from thy birth, Aphrodite, a mother of strife; For before thee some rest was on earth, A little respite from tears, A little pleasure of life; For life was not then as thou art, But as one that waxeth in years Sweet-spoken, a fruitful wife; Earth had no thorn, and desire No sting, neither death any dart; What hadst thou to do among these, Thou, clothed with a burning fire, Thou, girt with sorrow of heart, Thou, sprung from the seed of the seas As an ear from a seed of corn, As a brand plucked forth of a pyre, As a ray shed forth of the morn, For division of soul and diseas, For a dart and a sting and a thorn! What ailed thee then to be born? Was there not evil enough, Mother, and anguish on earth Born with a man at his birth, Wastes underfoot, and above, Storm out of heaven, and dearth Shaken down from the shining thereof Wrecks from afar overseas And perils of shallow and firth, And tears that spring and increase In the barren places of mirth, That thou, having wings as a dove, Being girt with desire for a girth, That thou must come after these, That thou must lay on him love? Thou shouldst not so have been born: But death should have risen with thee, Mother, and visible fear, Grief, and the wringing of hands, And noise of many that mourn; The smitten bosom, the knee Bowed, and in each man's ear A cry as of perishing lands, A moan as of people in prison, A tumult of infinite griefs; And thunder of storm on the sands, And wailing of wives on the shore; And under thee newly arisen, Loud shoals and shipwrecking reefs, Fierce air and violent light: Sail rent and sundering oar, Darkness and noises of night Clashing of streams in the sea, Wave against wave as a sword, Clamor of currents, and foam; Rains making ruin on earth, Winds that wax ravenous and roam As wolves in a wolvish horde; Fruit growing faint in the tree, And blind things dead in their birth; Famine, and blighting of corn, When thy time was come to be born. All these we know of; but thee Who shall discern or declare? In the uttermost ends of the sea The light of thine eyelids and hair, The light of thy bosom as fire Between the wheel of the sun And the flying flames of the air? Wilt thou turn thee not yet nor have pity, But abide with despair and desire And the crying of armies undone, Lamentation of one with another, And breaking of city by city; The dividing of friend against friend, The severing of brother and brother; Wilt thou utterly bring to an end? Have mercy, mother!
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