A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poem of the Day: Algernon Charles Swinburne

The Sundew 

A little marsh-plant, yellow green,
And pricked at lip with tender red.
Tread close, and either way you tread
Some faint black water jets between
Lest you should bruise the curious head.

A live thing maybe; who shall know?
The summer knows and suffers it;
For the cool moss is thick and sweet
Each side, and saves the blossom so
That it lives out the long June heat.

The deep scent of the heater burns
About it; breathless though it be,
Bow down and worship; more than we
Is the least flower whose life returns,
Least weed renascent in the sea.

We are vexed and cumbered in earth's sight
With wants, with many memories;
These see their mother what she is,
Glad-growing, till August leave more bright
The apple-colored cranberries.

Wind blows and bleaches the strong grass,
Blown all one way to shelter it
From trample of strayed kine, with feet
Felt heavier than the moorhen was,
Strayed up past patches of wild wheat.

You call it sundew: how it grows,
If with its color it have breath,
If life taste sweet to it, if death
Pain its soft petal, no man knows:
Man has no sight or sense that saith.

O red-lipped mouth of marsh-flower,
I have a secret halved with thee.
The name that is love's name to me
Though knowest, and the face of her
Who is my festival to see.

The hard sun, as thy petals knew,
Colored the heavy moss-water:
Thou wert not worth green midsummer
Nor fit to live to August blue,
O sundew, not remembering her.
--Algernon Charles Swinburne


Poets love to write poems to birds (Shelley's skylark, Keats's nightingale) and flowers (Wordsworth's daffodils). But leave it to kinky old Swinburne to glorify a carnivorous swamp-dwelling plant. And in a love poem.