Tristram of Lyonesse and Other Poems

Seven Years Old

Algernon Charles Swinburne


SEVEN white roses on one tree,
    Seven white loaves of blameless leaven,
Seven white sails on one soft sea,
Seven white swans on one lake’s lee,
     Seven white flowerlike stars in heaven,
All are types unmeet to be
     For a birthday’s crown of seven.


Not the radiance of the roses,
     Not the blessing of the bread,
Not the breeze that ere day grows is
Fresh for sails and swans, and closes
     Wings above the sun’s grave spread,
When the starshine on the snows is
     Sweet as sleep on sorrow shed,


Nothing sweetest, nothing best,
     Holds so good and sweet a treasure
As the love wherewith once blest
Joy grows holy, grief takes rest,
     Life, half tired with hours to measure,
Fills his eyes and lips and breast
     With most light and breath of pleasure


As the rapture unpolluted,
     As the passion undefiled,
By whose force all pains heart-rooted
Are transfigured and transmuted,
     Recompensed and reconciled,
Through the imperial, undisputed,
     Present godhead of a child.


Brown bright eyes and fair bright head,
     Worth a worthier crown than this is,
Worth a worthier song instead,
Sweet grave wise round mouth, full fed
     With the joy of love, whose bliss is
More than mortal wine and bread,
     Lips whose words are sweet as kisses,


Little hands so glad of giving,
     Little heart so glad of love,
Little soul so glad of living,
While the strong swift hours are weaving
    Light with darkness woven above,
Time for mirth and time for grieving,
    Plume of raven and plume of dove,


I can give you but a word
    Warm with love therein for leaven,
But a song that falls unheard
Yet on ears of sense unstirred
    Yet by song so far from heaven,
Whence you came the brightest bird,
    Seven years since, of seven times seven.

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