Before the beginning of years....(Swinburne)


A.C. Swinburne (1837-1909), a famous English poet, was known for his works like: ‘Atalanta in Claydon’ (1865), Poems and Ballads I (1866), Songs Before Sunrise (1871), ‘Poems and Ballads II (1878), ‘Tristram of Lyonesse’ (1882), ‘Poems and Ballads III’ (1889) and the novel ‘Lesbia Brandon (published posthumously). But my purpose is not to quote his biographical details. I wished to share an extract from Swinburne’s famous ‘Atalanta in Claydon’. The following are the lines mouthed by the Chorus:
“BEFORE the beginning of years
There came to the making of man
Time, with a gift of tears;
Grief, with a glass that ran;
Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
Summer, with flowers that fell;
Remembrance fallen from heaven,
And madness risen from hell;
Strength without hands to smite;
Love that endures for a breath;
Night, the shadow of light,
And life, the shadow of death.
And the high gods took in hand
Fire, and the falling of tears,
And a measure of sliding sand
From under the feet of the years;
And froth and drift of the sea;
And dust of the labouring earth;
And bodies of things to be
In the houses of death and of birth...”

Wonderful!!! Loved every word of it! How truly the poet has depicted the philosophy of life, the short-lived nature of all goodies of life. We are here on this Earth for a while – and to balance and counter-balance all the pleasant things and bounties that life offers us. The poet mentions time and tears, pleasure and pain, summer with falling flowers, life with the shadow of death…and so on.
The depth of thought makes the lines all the more beautiful. It is the profoundness of thought and emotions that endeared me to this verse. I do hope you enjoy going through these lines and let us all attempt to interpret in a better way.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing the wisdom.It is profound and deep.Please always post such nuggets of enriching thoughts frequently

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  2. These lines have been with me since I was 18 or 19: they seem to ripen as I grow older....

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  3. These lines have been with me since I was 18 or 19: they seem to ripen and develop a fuller flavour as years go by...

    ReplyDelete
  4. These lines have been with me since I was 18 or 19: they seem to ripen as I grow older....

    ReplyDelete