Songs Before Sunrise


Algernon Charles Swinburne

BECAUSE there is but one truth;
    Because there is but one banner;
        Because there is but one light;
Because we have with us our youth
    Once, and one chance and one manner
        Of service, and then the night;

Because we have found not yet
    Any way for the world to follow
        Save only that ancient way;
Whosoever forsake or forget,
    Whose faith soever be hollow,
        Whose hope soever grow grey;

Because of the watchwords of kings
    That are many and strange and unwritten,
        Diverse, and our watchword is one;
Therefore, though seven be the strings,
    One string, if the harp be smitten,
        Sole sounds, till the tune be done;

Sounds without cadence or change
    In a weary monotonous burden,
        Be the keynote of mourning or mirth;
Free, but free not to range;
    Taking for crown and for guerdon
        No man’s praise upon earth;

Saying one sole word evermore,
    In the ears of the charmed world saying,
        Charmed by spells to its death;
One that chanted of yore
    To a tune of the sword-sweep’s playing
        In the lips of the dead blew breath;

Therefore I set not mine hand
    To the shifting of changed modulations,
        To the smiting of manifold strings;
While the thrones of the throned men stand,
    One song for the morning of nations,
        One for the twilight of kings.

One chord, one word, and one way,
    One hope as our law, one heaven,
        Till slain be the great one wrong;
Till the people it could not slay,
    Risen up, have for one star seven,
        For a single, a sevenfold song.

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