Software Nerd

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Swinburne's Dolores

Swinburne poems are simply a delight to read, for the poems themselves, and in admiration of the poet's craftsmanship. They must be read out loud.

Check out his poem titled "Dolores".

Swinburne contemplates love and lust -- actually, mainly lust. To put it in Objectivist terms, he explores the positives of the "body" side of that mind-body duality. The poem reads like a hymn to lust and bodily pleasure. While worshipping Dolores, the courtesan, Swinburne labels her "Our Lady of Pain", possibly seeing that she is only half the story. Yet, he knows she's important and complains about the Platonic Christian ethic that has sought to ban her, asking "What ailed us, O gods, to desert you ... For creeds that refuse and restrain"

Here are selected portions:

Cold eyelids that hide like a jewel
Hard eyes that grow soft for an hour;
The heavy white limbs, and the cruel
Red mouth like a venomous flower;
When these are gone by with their glories,
What shall rest of thee then, what remain,
O mystic and sombre Dolores,
Our Lady of Pain?
... ... ...
There are sins it may be to discover,
There are deeds it may be to delight.
What new work wilt thou find for thy lover,
What new passions for daytime or night?
What spells that they know not a word of
Whose lives are as leaves overblown?
What tortures undreamt of, unheard of,
Unwritten, unknown? .
.. ... ...
Hast thou told all thy secrets the last time,
And bared all thy beauties to one?
Ah, where shall we go then for pastime,
If the worst that can be has been done?
... ... ...
In a twilight where virtues are vices,
In thy chapels, unknown of the sun,
To a tune that enthralls and entices,
They were wed, and the twain were as one.
For the tune from thine altar hath sounded
Since God bade the world's work begin,
And the fume of thine incense abounded,
To sweeten the sin.
... ... ...
Thou shalt bind his bright eyes though he wrestle,
Thou shalt chain his light limbs though he strive;
In his lips all thy serpents shall nestle,
In his hands all thy cruelties thrive.
In the daytime thy voice shall go through him,
In his dreams he shall feel thee and ache;
Thou shalt kindle by night and subdue him
Asleep and awake
.... ... ...
They shall pass and their places be taken,
The gods and the priests that are pure,
They shall pass, and shalt thou not be shaken?
They shall perish, and shalt thou endure?
... ... ...
We shall see whether hell be not heaven,
Find out whether tares be not grain,
And the joys of the seventy times seven,
Our Lady of Pain.



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