The Interpreters

by Algernon Charles Swinburne


Days dawn on us that make amends for many
When heaven and earth seem sweeter even than any
      Man's rhymes.

Light had not all been quenched in France, or quelled
      In Greece,
Had Homer sung not, or had Hugo held
      His peace.

Had Sappho's self not left her word thus long
      For token,
The sea round Lesbos yet in waves of song
      Had spoken.


And yet these days of subtler air and finer
When lovelier looks the darkness, and diviner
      The light—

The gift they give of all these golden hours,
      Whose urn
Pours forth reverberate rays or shadowing showers
      In turn—

Clouds, beams, and winds that make the live day's track
      Seem living—
What were they did no spirit give them back


Dead air, dead fire, dead shapes and shadows, telling
      Time nought;
Man gives them sense and soul by song, and dwelling
      In thought.

In human thought their being endures, their power
Else were their life a thing that each light hour

The years live, work, sigh, smile, and die, with all
      They cherish;
The soul endures, though dreams that fed it fall
      And perish.


In human thought have all things habitation;
      Our days
Laugh, lower, and lighten past, and find no station
      That stays.

But thought and faith are mightier things than time
      Can wrong,
Made splendid once with speech, or made sublime
      By song.

Remembrance, though the tide of change that rolls
      Wax hoary,
Gives earth and heaven, for song's sake and the soul's,
      Their glory.

July 16, 1885.

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