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Studies in Song

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Five years beyond an hundred years have seenTheir winters, white as faith's and age's hue,Melt, smiling through brief tears that broke between,And hope's young conquering colours reared anew,Since, on the day whose edge for kings made keenSmote sharper once than ever storm-wind blew,A head predestined for the girdling greenThat laughs at lightning all the seasons through,Nor frost or change can sunderIts crown untouched of thunderLeaf from least leaf of all its leaves that grewAlone for brows too boldFor storm to sear of old,Elect to shine in time's eternal view,Rose on the verge of radiant lifeBetween the winds and sunbeams mingling love with strife. 2. The darkling day that gave its bloodred birthTo Milton's white republic undefiledThat might endure so few fleet years on earthBore in him likewise as divine a child;But born not less for crowns of love and mirth,Of palm and myrtle passionate and mild,The leaf that girds about with gentler girthThe brow steel-bound in battle, and the wildSoft spray that flowers aboveThe flower-soft hair of love;And the white lips of wayworn winter smiledAnd grew serene as spring'sWhen with stretched clouds like wingsOr wings like drift of snow-clouds massed and piledThe godlike giant, softening, spreadA shadow of stormy shelter round the new-born head. 3.

And o'er it brightening bowed the wild-haired hour,And touched his tongue with honey and with fire,And breathed between his lips the note of powerThat makes of all the winds of heaven a lyreWhose strings are stretched from topmost peaks that towerTo softest springs of waters that suspire,With sounds too dim to shake the lowliest flowerBreathless with hope and dauntless with desire:And bright before his faceThat Hour became a Grace,As in the light of their Athenian quireWhen the Hours before the sunAnd Graces were made one,Called by sweet Love down from the aerial gyreBy one dear name of natural joy,To bear on her bright breast from heaven a heaven-born boy. 4.

Ere light could kiss the little lids in sunderOr love could lift them for the sun to smite,His fiery birth-star as a sign of wonderHad risen, perplexing the presageful nightWith shadow and glory around her sphere and underAnd portents prophesying by sound and sight;And half the sound was song and half was thunder,And half his life of lightning, half of light:And in the soft clenched handShone like a burning brandA shadowy sword for swordless fields of fight,Wrought only for such lordAs so may wield the swordThat all things ill be put to fear and flightEven at the flash and sweep and gleamOf one swift stroke beheld but in a shuddering dream. 5.

Like the sun's rays that blind the night's wild beastsThe sword of song shines as the swordsman sings;From the west wind's verge even to the arduous east'sThe splendour of the shadow that it flingsMakes fire and storm in heaven above the feastsOf men fulfilled with food of evil things;Strikes dumb the lying and hungering lips of priests,Smites dead the slaying and ravening hands of kings;Turns dark the lamp's hot light,And turns the darkness brightAs with the shadow of dawn's reverberate wings;And far before its wayHeaven, yearning toward the day,Shines with its thunder and round its lightning rings;And never hand yet earlier playedWith that keen sword whose hilt is cloud, and fire its blade....