Algernon Charles Swinburne: Anactoria

τίνος αὖ τὺ πειθοῖμὰψ σαγηνεύσας φιλόταταϗSappho

    My life is bitter with thy love; thine eyesBlind me, thy tresses burn me, thy sharp sighsDivide my flesh and spirit with soft sound,And my blood strengthens, and my veins abound.I pray thee sigh not, speak not, draw not breath;Let life burn down, and dream it is not death.I would the sea had hidden us, the fire(Wilt thou fear that, and fear not my desire?)Severed the bones that bleach, the flesh that cleaves,And let our sifted ashes drop like leaves.10I feel thy blood against my blood: my painPains thee, and lips bruise lips, and vein stings vein.Let fruit be crushed on fruit, let flower on flower,Breast kindle breast, and either burn one hour.Why wilt thou follow lesser loves? are thineToo weak to bear these hands and lips of mine?I charge thee for my life's sake, O too sweetTo crush love with thy cruel faultless feet,I charge thee keep thy lips from hers or his,Sweetest, till theirs be sweeter than my kiss:20Lest I too lure, a swallow for a dove,Erotion or Erinna to my love.
I would my love could kill thee; I am satiatedWith seeing the live, and fain would have thee dead.I would earth had thy body as fruit to eat,And no mouth but some serpent's found thee sweet.I would find grievous ways to have thee slain,Intense device, and superflux of pain;Vex thee with amorous agonies, and shakeLife at thy lips, and leave it there to ache;30Strain out thy soul with pangs too soft to kill,Intolerable interludes, and infinite ill;Relapse and reluctation of the breath,Dumb tunes and shuddering semitones of death.I am weary of all thy words and soft strange ways,Of all love's fiery nights and all his days,And all the broken kisses salt as brineThat shuddering lips make moist with waterish wine,And eyes the bluer for all those hidden hoursThat pleasure fills with tears and feeds from flowers,40Fierce at the heart with fire that half comes through,But all the flowerlike white stained round with blue;The fervent underlid, and that aboveLifted with laughter or abashed with love;Thine amorous girdle, full of thee and fair,And leavings of the lilies in thine hair.Yea, all sweet words of thine and all thy ways,And all the fruit of nights and flower of days,And stinging lips wherein the hot sweet brineThat Love was born of burns and foams like wine,50And eyes insatiable of amorous hours,Fervent as fire and delicate as flowers,Coloured like night at heart, but cloven throughLike night with flame, dyed round like night with blue,
Clothed with deep eyelids under and above —Yea, all thy beauty sickens me with love;Thy girdle empty of thee and now not fair,And ruinous lilies in thy languid hair.Ah, take no thought for Love's sake; shall this be,And she who loves thy lover not love thee?60Sweet soul, sweet mouth of all that laughs and lives,Mine is she, very mine; and she forgives.For I beheld in sleep the light that isIn her high place in Paphos, heard the kissOf body and soul that mix with eager tearsAnd laughter stinging through the eyes and ears;Saw Love, as burning flame from crown to feet,Imperishable, upon her storied seat;Clear eyelids lifted toward the north and south,A mind of many colours, and a mouth70Of many tunes and kisses; and she bowed,With all her subtle face laughing aloud,Bowed down upon me, saying, “Who doth thee wrong,Sappho?” but thou — thy body is the song,Thy mouth the music; thou art more than I,Though my voice die not till the whole world die;Though men that hear it madden; though love weep,Though nature change, though shame be charmed to sleep.Ah, wilt thou slay me lest I kiss thee dead?Yet the queen laughed from her sweet heart and said:80“Even she that flies shall follow for thy sake,And she shall give thee gifts that would not take,Shall kiss that would not kiss thee” (yea, kiss me)“When thou wouldst not” — when I would not kiss thee!
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