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05Jul

Poem of the week: Anima Anceps by Algernon Charles Swinburne

With a sharp and witty tongue, this melodious work reasons out the case against pious hypocrisy

Anima Anceps

Till death have broken
Sweet life’s love-token,
Till all be spoken
That shall be said,
What dost thou praying,
O soul, and playing
With song and saying,
Things flown and fled?
For this we know not –
That fresh springs flow not
And fresh griefs grow not
When men are dead;
When strange years cover
Lover and lover,
And joys are over
And tears are shed.

If one day’s sorrow
Mar the day’s morrow –
If man’s life borrow
And man’s death pay –
If souls once taken,
If lives once shaken,
Arise, awaken,
By night, by day –
Why with strong crying
And years of sighing,
Living and dying,
Fast ye and pray?
For all your weeping,
Waking and sleeping,
Death comes to reaping
And takes away.

Though time rend after
Roof-tree from rafter,
A little laughter
Is much more worth
Than thus to measure
The hour, the treasure,
The pain, the pleasure,
The death, the birth;
Grief, when days alter,
Like joy shall falter;
Song-book and psalter,
Mourning and mirth.
Live like the swallow;
Seek not to follow
Where earth is hollow
Under the earth.

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