Poems and Ballads


From the french of the Vidame de Chartres.

Algernon Charles Swinburne

WHEN the fields catch flower
    And the underwood is green,
And from bower unto bower
    The songs of the birds begin,
    I sing with sighing between.
When I laugh and sing,
    I am heavy at heart for my sin;
I am sad in the spring
    For my love that I shall not win,
For a foolish thing.

This profit I have of my woe,
    That I know, as I sing,
I know he will needs have it so
    Who is master and king,
    Who is lord of the spirit of spring.
I will serve her and will not spare
    Till her pity awake
Who is good, who is pure, who is fair,
    Even her for whose sake
Love hath ta’en me and slain unaware.

O my lord, O Love,
    I have laid my life at thy feet;
Have thy will thereof,
    Do as it please thee with it,
    For what shall please thee is sweet.
I am come unto thee
    To do thee service, O Love;
Yet cannot I see
    Thou wilt take any pity thereof,
Any mercy on me.

But the grace I have long time sought
    Comes never in sight,
If in her it abideth not,
    Through thy mercy and might,
    Whose heart is the world’s delight.
Thou hast sworn without fail I shall die,
    For my heart is set
On what hurts me, I wot not why,
    But cannot forget
What I love, what I sing for and sigh.

She is worthy of praise,
    For this grief of her giving is worth
All the joy of my days
    That lie between death’s day and birth,
    All the lordship of things upon earth.
Nay, what have I said?
    I would not be glad if I could;
My dream and my dread
    Are of her, and for her sake I would
That my life were fled.

Lo, sweet, if I durst not pray to you,
    Then were I dead;
If I sang not a little to say to you,
    (Could it be said)
    O my love, how my heart would be fed;
Ah sweet who hast hold of my heart,
    For thy love’s sake I live,
Do but tell me, ere either depart,
    What a lover may give
For a woman so fair as thou art.

The lovers that disbelieve,
    False rumours shall grieve
And evil-speaking shall part.

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