Swinburne: A Literary Biography

By Georges Lafourcade | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER I
SEMEL ET SEMPER

Swinburne--Ashburnham! One seems to hear, on the threshold of the life of Swinburne, the sound of running brooks and the 'noise of many waters' which echo through so many pages of his poetry:

Bright and tawny, full of fun
And storm and sunlight, taking change and chance
With laugh on laugh of triumph--why, you know
How they plunge, pause, char, chide across the rocks
And chuckle along the rapids, till they breathe
And rest and pant and build some bright deep bath
For happy boys to dive in, and swim up,
And match the water's laughter.

But those names do not merely sound as the course of a Sussex or Northumberland stream. They stand as the symbol of a close connection with the soil of age-old provinces. Let this be to us a warning: the poet who delighted in the 'limitless north-eastern' and 'the strait south-western sea 'climbed their cliffs and galloped in the wind on their sounding strands, is not solely the sea-mews' wingless brother, some strange sea-god's changeling. A swimmer rather than a sailor, a lover of the billows breaking upon the shore, he is earth-born, and never disowned his mother. He knows the power of woods and hills, has learned from Proserpine as well as from Cymodoce, and is well up in the rites of Bacchus and of Pan. Let us not then

-1-

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