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Cleopatra Analysis

Author: Poetry of Algernon Charles Swinburne Type: Poetry Views: 285

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HER mouth is fragrant as a vine,

A vine with birds in all its boughs;

Serpent and scarab for a sign

Between the beauty of her brows

And the amorous deep lids divine.

Her great curled hair makes luminous

Her cheeks, her lifted throat and chin.

Shall she not have the hearts of us

To shatter, and the loves therein

To shred between her fingers thus?

Small ruined broken strays of light,

Pearl after pearl she shreds them through

Her long sweet sleepy fingers, white

As any pearl's heart veined with blue,

And soft as dew on a soft night.

As if the very eyes of love

Shone through her shutting lids, and stole

The slow looks of a snake or dove;

As if her lips absorbed the whole

Of love, her soul the soul thereof.

Lost, all the lordly pearls that were

Wrung from the sea's heart, from the green

Coasts of the Indian gulf-river;

Lost, all the loves of the world---so keen

Towards this queen for love of her.

You see against her throat the small

Sharp glittering shadows of them shake;

And through her hair the imperial

Curled likeness of the river snake,

Whose bite shall make an end of all.

Through the scales sheathing him like wings,

Through hieroglyphs of gold and gem,

The strong sense of her beauty stings,

Like a keen pulse of love in them,

A running flame through all his rings.

Under those low large lids of hers

She hath the histories of all time;

The fruit of foliage-stricken years;

The old seasons with their heavy chime

That leaves its rhyme in the world's ears.

She sees the hand of death made bare,

The ravelled riddle of the skies,

The faces faded that were fair,

The mouths made speechless that were wise,

The hollow eyes and dusty hair;

The shape and shadow of mystic things,

Things that fate fashions or forbids;

The staff of time-forgotten Kings

Whose name falls off the Pyramids,

Their coffin-lids and grave-clothings;

Dank dregs, the scum of pool or clod,

God-spawn of lizard-footed clans,

And those dog-headed hulks that trod

Swart necks of the old Egyptians,

Raw draughts of man's beginning God;

The poised hawk, quivering ere he smote,

With plume-like gems on breast and back;

The asps and water-worms afloat

Between the rush-flowers moist and slack;

The cat's warm black bright rising throat.

The purple days of drouth expand

Like a scroll opened out again;

The molten heaven drier than sand,

The hot red heaven without rain,

Sheds iron pain on the empty land.

All Egypt aches in the sun's sight;

The lips of men are harsh for drouth,

The fierce air leaves their cheeks burnt white,

Charred by the bitter blowing south,

Whose dusty mouth is sharp to bite.

All this she dreams of, and her eyes

Are wrought after the sense hereof.

There is no heart in her for sighs;

The face of her is more than love---

A name above the Ptolemies.

Her great grave beauty covers her

As that sleek spoil beneath her feet

Clothed once the anointed soothsayer;

The hallowing is gone forth from it

Now, made unmeet for priests to wear.

She treads on gods and god-like things,

On fate and fear and life and death,

On hate that cleaves and love that clings,

All that is brought forth of man's breath

And perisheth with what it brings.

She holds her future close, her lips

Hold fast the face of things to be;

Actium, and sound of war that dips

Down the blown valleys of the sea,

Far sails that flee, and storms of ships;

The laughing red sweet mouth of wine

At ending of life's festival;

That spice of cerecloths, and the fine

White bitter dust funereal

Sprinkled on all things for a sign;

His face, who was and was not he,

In whom, alive, her life abode;

The end, when she gained heart to see

Those ways of death wherein she trod,

Goddess by god, with Antony.


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