Madonna Mia

by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Under green apple-boughs
That never a storm will rouse,
My lady hath her house
   Between two bowers;
In either of the twain
Red roses full of rain;
She hath for bondwomen
   All kind of flowers.

She hath no handmaid fair
To draw her curled gold hair
Through rings of gold that bear
   Her whole hair's weight;
She hath no maids to stand
Gold-clothed on either hand;
In all the great green land
   None is so great.

She hath no more to wear
But one white hood of vair
Drawn over eyes and hair,
   Wrought with strange gold,
Made for some great queen's head,
Some fair great queen since dead;
And one strait gown of red
   Against the cold.

Beneath her eyelids deep
Love lying seems asleep,
Love, swift to wake, to weep,
   To laugh, to gaze;
Her breasts are like white birds,
And all her gracious words
As water-grass to herds
   In the June-days.

To her all dews that fall
And rains are musical;
Her flowers are fed from all,
   Her joy from these;
In the deep-feathered firs
Their gift of joy is hers,
In the least breath that stirs
   Across the trees.

She grows with greenest leaves,
Ripens with reddest sheaves,
Forgets, remembers, grieves,
   And is not sad;
The quiet lands and skies
Leave light upon her eyes;
None knows her, weak or wise,
   Or tired or glad.

None knows, none understands,
What flowers are like her hands;
Though you should search all lands
   Wherein time grows,
What snows are like her feet,
Though his eyes burn with heat
Through gazing on my sweet,
   Yet no man knows.

Only this thing is said;
That white and gold and red,
God's three chief words, man's bread
   And oil and wine,
Were given her for dowers,
And kingdom of all hours,
And grace of goodly flowers
   And various vine.

This is my lady's praise:
God after many days
Wrought her in unknown ways,
   In sunset lands;
This was my lady's birth;
God gave her might and mirth
And laid his whole sweet earth
   Between her hands.

Under deep apple-boughs
My lady hath her house;
She wears upon her brows
   The flower thereof;
All saying but what God saith
To her is as vain breath;
She is more strong than death,
   Being strong as love.

Monadnock Valley Press > Swinburne