Nine Years Old

English: Reproduction of a photograph of Engli...

Reproduction of a photograph of English writer and poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Algernon Charles Swinburne

I.
Lord of light, whose shine no hands destroy,
God of song, whose hymn no tongue refuses,
Now, though spring far hence be cold and coy,
Bid the golden mouths of all the Muses
Ring forth gold of strains without alloy,
Till the ninefold rapture that suffuses
Heaven with song bid earth exult for joy,
Since the child whose head this dawn bedews is
Sweet as once thy violet-cradled boy.

II.
Even as he lay lapped about with flowers,
Lies the life now nine years old before us
Lapped about with love in all its hours;
Hailed of many loves that chant in chorus
Loud or low from lush or leafless bowers,
Some from hearts exultant born sonorous,
Some scarce louder-voiced than soft-tongued showers
Two months hence, when spring’s light wings poised o’er us
High shall hover, and her heart be ours.

III.
Even as he, though man-forsaken, smiled
On the soft kind snakes divinely bidden
There to feed him in the green mid wild
Full with hurtless honey, till the hidden
Birth should prosper, finding fate more mild,
So full-fed with pleasures unforbidden,
So by love’s lines blamelessly beguiled,
Laughs the nursling of our hearts unchidden
Yet by change that mars not yet the child.

IV.
Ah, not yet! Thou, lord of night and day,
Time, sweet father of such blameless pleasure,
Time, false friend who tak’st thy gifts away,
Spare us yet some scantlings of the treasure,
Leave us yet some rapture of delay,
Yet some bliss of blind and fearless leisure
Unprophetic of delight’s decay,
Yet some nights and days wherein to measure
All the joys that bless us while they may.

V.
Not the waste Arcadian woodland, wet
Still with dawn and vocal with Alpheus,
Reared a nursling worthier love’s regret,
Lord, than this, whose eyes beholden free us
Straight from bonds the soul would fain forget,
Fain cast off, that night and day might see us
Clear once more of life’s vain fume and fret:
Leave us, then, whate’er thy doom decree us,
Yet some days wherein to love him yet.

VI.
Yet some days wherein the child is ours,
Ours, not thine, O lord whose hand is o’er us
Always, as the sky with suns and showers
Dense and radiant, soundless or sonorous;
Yet some days for love’s sake, ere the bowers
Fade wherein his fair first years kept chorus
Night and day with Graces robed like hours,
Ere this worshipped childhood wane before us,
Change, and bring forth fruit—but no more flowers.

VII.
Love we may the thing that is to be,
Love we must; but how forego this olden
Joy, this flower of childish love, that we
Held more dear than aught of Time is holden—
Time, whose laugh is like as Death’s to see—
Time, who heeds not aught of all beholden,
Heard, or touched in passing—flower or tree,
Tares or grain of leaden days or golden—
More than wind has heed of ships at sea?

VIII.
First the babe, a very rose of joy,
Sweet as hope’s first note of jubilation,
Passes: then must growth and change destroy
Next the child, and mar the consecration
Hallowing yet, ere thought or sense annoy,
Childhood’s yet half heavenlike habitation,
Bright as truth and frailer than a toy;
Whence its guest with eager gratulation
Springs, and life grows larger round the boy.

IX.
Yet, ere sunrise wholly cease to shine,
Ere change come to chide our hearts, and scatter
Memories marked for love’s sake with a sign,
Let the light of dawn beholden flatter
Yet some while our eyes that feed on thine,
Child, with love that change nor time can shatter,
Love, whose silent song says more than mine
Now, though charged with elder loves and latter
Here it hails a lord whose years are nine.

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