Love and Sleep

By Algernon Charles Swinburne 1837–1909
Lying asleep between the strokes of night
    I saw my love lean over my sad bed,
    Pale as the duskiest lily’s leaf or head,
Smooth-skinned and dark, with bare throat made to bite,
Too wan for blushing and too warm for white,
    But perfect-coloured without white or red.
    And her lips opened amorously, and said –
I wist not what, saving one word – Delight.

And all her face was honey to my mouth,
    And all her body pasture to mine eyes;
         The long lithe arms and hotter hands than fire,
The quivering flanks, hair smelling of the south,
    The bright light feet, the splendid supple thighs
         And glittering eyelids of my soul’s desire.   

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Poet Algernon Charles Swinburne 1837–1909

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Love, Romantic Love, Desire

 Algernon Charles Swinburne

Biography

Swinburne was one of the most accomplished lyric poets of the Victorian era and was a preeminent symbol of rebellion against the conservative values of his time. The explicit and often pathological sexual themes of his most important collection of poetry, Poems and Ballads (1866), delighted some, shocked many, and became the dominant feature of Swinburne's image as both an artist and an individual. Nevertheless, critics have . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Romantic Love, Desire

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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