Tristram of Lyonesse and Other Poems


Algernon Charles Swinburne

CHILD, when they say that others
    Have been or are like you,
Babes fit to be your brothers,
    Sweet human drops of dew,
Bright fruit of mortal mothers,
    What should one say or do?

We know the thought is treason,
    We feel the dream absurd;
A claim rebuked of reason,
    That withers at a word:
For never shone the season
    That bore so blithe a bird.

Some smiles may seem as merry,
    Some glances gleam as wise,
From lips as like a cherry
    And scarce less gracious eyes;
Eyes browner than a berry,
    Lips red as morning’s rise.

But never yet rang laughter
    So sweet in gladdened ears
Through wall and floor and rafter
    As all this household hears
And rings response thereafter
    Till cloudiest weather clears.

When those your chosen of all men,
    Whose honey never cloys,
Two lights whose smiles enthrall men,
    Were called at your age boys,
Those mighty men, while small men,
    Could make no merrier noise.

Our Shakespeare, surely, daffed not
    More lightly pain aside
From radiant lips that quaffed not
    Of forethought’s tragic tide:
Our Dickens, doubtless, laughed not
    More loud with life’s first pride.

The dawn were not more cheerless
    With neither light nor dew
Than we without the fearless
    Clear laugh that thrills us through:
If ever child stood peerless,
    Love knows that child is you

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