The Swinburne

      • The Swinburne is a stanzaic form patterned after Before the Mirror by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909).The Swinburne is:
        • stanzaic, written in any number of septets.
        • metric, L1,L3,L5, & L6 are trimeter, L2 & L4 are dimeter, and L7 is pentameter.
        • rhymed ababccb dedeffe etc, L1 & L3 have feminine or falling rhyme.
This named form was documented by Judi Van Gorder, on her most wonderful resource site: Poetry Manum Opus, in a section about poetry form named after English poets.
Note: In addition to the specifications above, it is also required that the sixth syllable in Line 7 rhyme with lines 5 and 6.

Before the Mirror
I.
WHITE ROSE in red rose-garden
Is not so white;
Snowdrops that plead for pardon
And pine for fright
Because the hard East blows
Over their maiden rows

Grow not as this face grows from pale to bright.

Behind the veil, forbidden,
Shut up from sight,
Love, is there sorrow hidden,
Is there delight?
Is joy thy dower or grief,
White rose of weary leaf,

Late rose whose life is brief, whose loves are light?

Soft snows that hard winds harden
Till each flake bite
Fill all the flowerless garden
Whose flowers took flight
Long since when summer ceased,
And men rose up from feast,

And warm west wind grew east, and warm day night.

II.
“Come snow, come wind or thunder
High up in air,
I watch my face, and wonder
At my bright hair;
Nought else exalts or grieves
The rose at heart, that heaves

With love of her own leaves and lips that pair.

“She knows not loves that kissed her
She knows not where.
Art thou the ghost, my sister,
White sister there,
Am I the ghost, who knows?
My hand, a fallen rose,
Lies snow-white on white snows, and takes no care.
“I cannot see what pleasures
Or what pains were;
What pale new loves and treasures
New years will bear;
What beam will fall, what shower,
What grief or joy for dower;

But one thing knows the flower; the flower is fair.”

III.
Glad, but not flushed with gladness,
Since joys go by;
Sad, but not bent with sadness,
Since sorrows die;
Deep in the gleaming glass
She sees all past things pass,

And all sweet life that was lie down and lie.

There glowing ghosts of flowers
Draw down, draw nigh;
And wings of swift spent hours
Take flight and fly;
She sees by formless gleams,
She hears across cold streams,

Dead mouths of many dreams that sing and sigh.

Face fallen and white throat lifted,
With sleepless eye
She sees old loves that drifted,
She knew not why,
Old loves and faded fears
Float down a stream that hears

The flowing of all men’s tears beneath the sky.


Algernon Charles Swinburne
Example poem
Caretaker      (The Swinburne)
When forced to go and going
with all due haste,
you leave already knowing
there must be waste.
I never, as a boy
expected old man’s joy

at seeing an old toy I had misplaced.

The things you leave behind you
are not all done.
They’re simply tasks assigned to
another one.
When your life takes a turn
the habits you adjourn
may tickle Time who spurns a lack of fun.
© Lawrencealot – May 8, 2014
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