Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From “Rosamond”

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Algernon Charles Swinburne 1837–1909

From “Rosamond”


Rosamond.Are you tir’d?

But I seem shameful to you, shame-worthy,

Contemnable of good women, being so bad,

So bad as I am. Yea, would God, would God,

I had kept my face from this contempt of yours.

Insolent custom would not anger me

So as you do; more clean are you than I,

Sweeter for gathering of the grace of God

To perfume some accomplish’d work in heaven?

I do not use to scorn, stay pure of hate,

Seeing how myself am scorn’d unworthily;

But anger here so takes me in the throat

I would speak now for fear it strangle me.

Here, let me feel your hair and hands and face;

I see not flesh is holier than flesh,

Or blood than blood more choicely qualified

That scorn should live between them. Better am I

Than many women; you are not over fair,

Nor delicate with some exceeding good

In the sweet flesh; you have no much tenderer soul

Than love is moulded out of for God’s use

Who wrought our double need; you are not so choice

That in the golden kingdom of your eyes

All coins should melt for service. But I that am

Part of the perfect witness for the world

How good it is; I chosen in God’s eyes

To fill the lean account of under men,

The lank and hunger-bitten ugliness

Of half his people; I who make fair heads

Bow, saying, “Though we be in no wise fair

We have touch’d all beauty with our eyes, we have

Some relish in the hand, and in the lips

Some breath of it,” because they saw me once;

I whose curl’d hair was as a strong stak’d net

To take the hunters and the hunt, and bind

Faces and feet and hands; a golden gin

Wherein the tawny-lidded lions fell,

Broken at ankle; I that am yet, ah yet,

And shall be till the worm hath share in me,

Fairer than love or the clean truth of God,

More sweet than sober customs of kind use

That shackle pain and stablish temperance;

I that have roses in my name, and make

All flowers glad to set their color by;

I that have held a land between twin lips

And turn’d large England to a little kiss;

God thinks not of me as contemptible;

And that you think me even a smaller thing

Than your own goodness and slight name of good,

Your special, thin, particular repute,—

I would some mean could be but clear to me

Not to contemn you.