Poems and Ballads

A Litany

Algernon Charles Swinburne

ἐν οὐρανῷ φαεννὰς
κρύψω παρ' ὑμὶν αὐγὰς,
μίας πρὸ νυκτὸς ἑπτὰ νύκτας ἕξετε, κ.τ.λ.
Anth. Sac.

ALL the bright lights of heaven
    I will make dark over thee;
One night shall be as seven
    That its skirts may cover thee;
I will send on thy strong men a sword,
    On thy remnant a rod;
Ye shall know that I am the Lord,
    Saith the Lord God.

All the bright lights of heaven
    Thou hast made dark over us;
One night has been as seven
    That its skirt might cover us;
Thou hast sent on our strong men a sword,
    On our remnant a rod;
We know that thou art the Lord,
    O Lord our God.

As the tresses and wings of the wind
    Are scattered and shaken,
I will scatter all them that have sinned,
    There shall none be taken;
As a sower that scattereth seed,
    So will I scatter them;
As one breaketh and shattereth a reed,
    I will break and shatter them.

As the wings and the locks of the wind
    Are scattered and shaken,
Thou hast scattered all them that have sinned,
    There was no man taken;
As a sower that scattereth seed,
    So hast thou scattered us;
As one breaketh and shattereth a reed,
    Thou hast broken and shattered us.

From all thy lovers that love thee
    I God will sunder thee;
I will make darkness above thee,
    And thick darkness under thee;
Before me goeth a light,
    Behind me a sword;
Shall a remnant find grace in my sight?
    I am the Lord.

From all our lovers that love us
    Thou God didst sunder us;
Thou madest darkness above us,
    And thick darkness under us;
Thou hast kindled thy wrath for a light,
    And made ready thy sword;
Let a remnant find grace in thy sight,
    We beseech thee, O Lord.

Wilt thou bring fine gold for a payment
    For sins on this wise?
For the glittering of raiment
    And the shining of eyes,
For the painting of faces
    And the sundering of trust,
For the sins of thine high places
    And delight of thy lust?

For your high things ye shall have lowly,
    Lamentation for song;
For, behold, I God am holy,
    I the Lord am strong;
Ye shall seek me and shall not reach me
    Till the wine-press be trod;
In that hour ye shall turn and beseech me,
    Saith the Lord God.

Not with fine gold for a payment,
    But with coin of sighs,
But with rending of raiment
    And with weeping of eyes,
But with shame of stricken faces
    And with strewing of dust,
For the sin of stately places
    And lordship of lust;

With voices of men made lowly,
    Made empty of song,
O Lord God most holy,
    O God most strong,
We reach out hands to reach thee
    Ere the wine-press be trod;
We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee,
    O Lord our God.

In that hour thou shalt say to the night,
    Come down and cover us;
To the cloud on thy left and thy right,
    Be thou spread over us;
A snare shall be as thy mother,
    And a curse thy bride;
Thou shalt put her away, and another
    Shall lie by thy side.

Thou shalt neither rise up by day
    Nor lie down by night;
Would God it were dark! thou shalt say;
    Would God it were light!
And the sight of thine eyes shall be made
    As the burning of fire;
And thy soul shall be sorely afraid
    For thy soul’s desire.

Ye whom your lords loved well,
    Putting silver and gold on you,
The inevitable hell
    Shall surely take hold on you;
Your gold shall be for a token,
    Your staff for a rod;
With the breaking of bands ye are broken,
    Saith the Lord God.

In our sorrow we said to the night,
    Fall down and cover us;
To the darkness at left and at right,
    Be thou shed over us;
We had breaking of spirit to mother
    And cursing to bride;
And one was slain, and another
    Stood up at our side.

We could not arise by day,
    Nor lie down by night;
Thy sword was sharp in our way,
    Thy word in our sight;
The delight of our eyelids was made
    As the burning of fire;
And our souls became sorely afraid
    For our soul’s desire.

We whom the world loved well,
    Laying silver and gold on us,
The kingdom of death and of hell
    Riseth up to take hold on us;
Our gold is turned to a token,
    Our staff to a rod;
Yet shalt thou bind them up that were broken,
    O Lord our God.

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