A Sequence of Sonnets on the Death of Robert Browning

I1.
  The clearest eyes in all the world they read
.
  With sense more keen and spirit of sight more true
.
  Than burns and thrills in sunrise, when the dew
.
  Flames, and absorbs the glory round it shed,
.
  As they the light of ages quick and dead,
.
  Closed now, forsake us: yet the shaft that slew
.
  Can slay not one of all the works we knew,
.
  Nor death discrown that many-laurelled head.
.
  The works of words whose life seems lightning wrought,
.

  And moulded of unconquerable thought,
.

  And quickened with imperishable flame,
.

  Stand fast and shine and smile, assured that nought
.

  May fade of all their myriad-moulded fame,
.

  Nor England's memory clasp not Browning's name.[Composition Date:] December 13, 1889.II2.
  Death, what hast thou to do with one for whom
.
  Time is not lord, but servant? What least part
.
  Of all the fire that fed his living heart,
.
  Of all the light more keen that sundawn's bloom
.
  That lit and led his spirit, strong as doom
.
  And bright as hope, can aught thy breath may dart
.
  Quench? Nay, thou knowest he knew thee what thou art,
.
  A shadow born of terror's barren womb,
.
  That brings not forth save shadows. What art thou,
.

  To dream, albeit thou breathe upon his brow,
.

  That power on him is given thee,--that thy breath
.

  Can make him less than love acclaims him now,
.

  And hears all time sound back the word it saith?
.

  What part hast thou then in his glory, Death?III3.
  A graceless doom it seems that bids us grieve:
.
  Venice and winter, hand in deadly hand,
.
  Have slain the lover of her sunbright strand
.
  And singer of a stormbright Christmas Eve.
.
  A graceless guerdon we that loved receive
.
  For all our love, from that the dearest land
.
  Love worshipped ever. Blithe and soft and bland,
.
  Too fair for storm to scathe or fire to cleave,
.
  Shone on our dreams and memories evermore
.

  The domes, the towers, the mountains and the shore
.

  That gird or guard thee, Venice: cold and black
.

  Seems now the face we loved as he of yore.
.

  We have given thee love--no stint, no stay, no lack:
.

  What gift, what gift is this thou hast given us back?IV4.
  But he--to him, who knows what gift is thine,
.
  Death? Hardly may we think or hope, when we
.
  Pass likewise thither where to-night is he,
.
  Beyond the irremeable outer seas that shine
.
  And darken round such dreams as half divine
.
  Some sunlit harbour in that starless sea
.
  Where gleams no ship to windward or to lee,
.
  To read with him the secret of thy shrine.4.
  There too, as here, may song, delight, and love,
.

  The nightingale, the sea-bird, and the dove,
.

  Fulfil with joy the splendour of the sky
.

  Till all beneath wax bright as all above:
.

  But none of all that search the heavens, and try
.

  The sun, may match the sovereign eagle's eye.[Composition Date:] December 14[, 1889]
V5.
  Among the wondrous ways of men and time
.
  He went as one that ever found and sought
.
  And bore in hand the lamp-like spirit of thought
.
  To illume with instance of its fire sublime
.
  The dusk of many a cloud-like age and clime.
.
  No spirit in shape of light and darkness wrought,
.
  No faith, no fear, no dream, no rapture, nought
.
  That blooms in wisdom, naught that burns in crime,
.
  No virtue girt and armed and helmed with light,
.

  No love more lovely than the snows are white,
.

  No serpent sleeping in some dead soul's tomb,
.

  No song-bird singing from some live soul's height,
.

  But he might hear, interpret, or illume
.

  With sense invasive as the dawn of doom.VI6.
  What secret thing of splendour or of shade
.
  Surmised in all those wandering ways wherein
.
  Man, led of love and life and death and sin,
.
  Strays, climbs, or cowers, allured, absorbed, afraid,
.
  Might not the strong and sun-like sense invade
.
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Algernon Charles Swinburne

Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. more…

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