by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837 - 1909)

Was it light that spake from the...
Language: English 
  Was it light that spake from the darkness,
       or music that shone from the word,
  When the night was enkindled with sound
       of the sun or the first-born bird?
Souls enthralled and entrammelled in bondage
       of seasons that fall and rise,
Bound fast round with the fetters of flesh,
       and blinded with light that dies,
Lived not surely till music spake,
       and the spirit of life was heard.

  Music, sister of sunrise, and herald of life to be,
  Smiled as dawn on the spirit of man,
       and the thrall was free.
Slave of nature and serf of time,
       the bondman of life and death,
Dumb with passionless patience that breathed
  but forlorn and reluctant breath,
Heard, beheld, and his soul made answer,
       and communed aloud with the sea.

  Morning spake, and he heard:
       and the passionate silent noon
  Kept for him not silence:
       and soft from the mounting moon
Fell the sound of her splendour,
       heard as dawn's in the breathless night,
Not of men but of birds whose note
       bade man's soul quicken and leap to light:
And the song of it spake, and the light and the darkness
       of earth were as chords in tune.

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Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

Text added to the website: 2009-01-27 00:00:00
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:03:05
Line count: 29
Word count: 198