Birthday Ode

by Algernon Charles Swinburne

August 6, 1891


Love and praise, and a length of days whose shadow cast upon time is light,
Days whose sound was a spell shed round from wheeling wings as of doves in flight,
Meet in one, that the mounting sun to-day may triumph, and cast out night.

Two years more than the full fourscore lay hallowing hands on a sacred head—
Scarce one score of the perfect four uncrowned of fame as they smiled and fled:
Still and soft and alive aloft their sunlight stays though the suns be dead.

Ere we were or were thought on, ere the love that gave us to life began,
Fame grew strong with his crescent song, to greet the goal of the race they ran,
Song with fame, and the lustrous name with years whose changes acclaimed the man.


Soon, ere time in the rounding rhyme of choral seasons had hailed us men,
We too heard and acclaimed the word whose breath was life upon England then—
Life more bright than the breathless light of soundless noon in a songless glen.

Ah, the joy of the heartstruck boy whose ear was opened of love to hear!
Ah, the bliss of the burning kiss of song and spirit, the mounting cheer
Lit with fire of divine desire and love that knew not if love were fear!

Fear and love as of heaven above and earth enkindled of heaven were one;
One white flame, that around his name grew keen and strong as the worldwide sun;
Awe made bright with implied delight, as weft with weft of the rainbow spun.


He that fears not the voice he hears and loves shall never have heart to sing:
All the grace of the sun-god's face that bids the soul as a fountain spring
Bids the brow that receives it bow, and hail his likeness on earth as king.

We that knew when the sun's shaft flew beheld and worshipped, adored and heard:
Light rang round it of shining sound, whence all men's hearts were subdued and stirred:
Joy, love, sorrow, the day, the morrow, took life upon them in one man's word.

Not for him can the years wax dim, nor downward swerve on a darkening way:
Upward wind they, and leave behind such light as lightens the front of May:
Fair as youth and sublime as truth we find the fame that we hail to-day.

Monadnock Valley Press > Swinburne