Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Greece: Athens


By Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)

(From Erechtheus)

SUN, that hast lightened and loosed by thy might

Ocean and earth from the lordship of night,

Quickening with vision his eye that was veiled,

Freshening the force in her heart that had failed,

That sister fettered and blinded brother

Should have sight by thy grace and delight of each other,

Behold now and see

What profit is given them of thee;

What wrath has enkindled with madness of mind

Her limbs that were bounden, his face that was blind,

To be locked as in wrestle together, and lighten

With fire that shall darken thy fire in the sky,

Body to body and eye against eye

In a war against kind,

Till the bloom of her fields and her high hills whiten

With the foam of his waves more high.

For the sea-marks set to divide of old

The kingdoms to ocean and earth assigned,

The hoar sea-fields from the cornfield’s gold,

His wine-bright waves from her vineyards’ fold,

Frail forces we find

To bridle the spirit of gods, or bind

Till the heat of their hearts wax cold.

But the peace that was ’stablished between them to stand

Is rent now in twain by the strength of his hand,

Who stirs up the storm of his sons overbold

To pluck from fight what he lost of right,

By council and judgment of gods that spake

And gave great Pallas the strife’s fair stake,

The lordship and love of the lovely land,

The grace of the town that hath on it for crown

But a headband to wear

Of violets one-hued with her hair:

For the vales and the green high places of earth

Hold nothing so fair,

And the depths of the sea bear no such birth

Of the manifold births they bear.

Too well, too well was the great stake worth

A strife divine for the gods to judge,

A crowned god’s triumph, a foiled god’s grudge,

Though the loser be strong and the victress wise

Who played long since for so large a prize,

The fruitful, immortal, anointed, adored,

Dear city of men without master or lord,

Fair fortress and fortress of sons born free,

Who stand in her sight and in thine, O sun,

Slaves of no man, subjects of none;

A wonder enthroned on the hills and sea,

A maiden crowned with a fourfold glory

That none from the pride of her head may rend,

Violet and olive-leaf purple and hoary,

Song-wreath and story the fairest of fame,

Flowers that the winter can blast not or bend;

A light upon earth as the sun’s own flame,

A name as his name,

Athens, a praise without end.