'A Year's Carols' by Algernon Charles Swinburne

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HAIL, January, that bearest here
On snowbright breasts the babe-faced year
That weeps and trembles to be born.
Hail, maid and mother, strong and bright,
Hooded and cloaked and shod with white,
Whose eyes are stars that match the morn.
Thy forehead braves the storm's bent bow,
Thy feet enkindle stars of snow.

Wan February with weeping cheer,
Whose cold hand guides the youngling year
Down misty roads of mire and rime,
Before thy pale and fitful face
The shrill wind shifts the clouds apace
Through skies the morning scarce may climb.
Thine eyes are thick with heavy tears,
But lit with hopes that light the year's.

Hail, happy March, whose foot on earth
Rings as the blast of martial mirth
When trumpets fire men's hearts for fray.
No race of wild things winged or finned
May match the might that wings thy wind
Through air and sea, through scud and spray.
Strong joy and thou were powers twin-born
Of tempest and the towering morn.

Crowned April, king whose kiss bade earth
Bring forth to time her lordliest birth
When Shakespeare from thy lips drew breath
And laughed to hold in one soft hand
A spell that bade the world's wheel stand,
And power on life, and power on death,
With quiring suns and sunbright showers
Praise him, the flower of all thy flowers.

Hail, May, whose bark puts forth full-sailed
For summer; May, whom Chaucer hailed
With all his happy might of heart,
And gave thy rosebright daisy-tips
Strange frarance from his amorous lips
That still thine own breath seems to part
And sweeten till each word they say
Is even a flower of flowering May.

Strong June, superb, serene, elate
With conscience of thy sovereign state
Untouched of thunder, though the storm
Scathe here and there thy shuddering skies
And bid its lightning cross thine eyes
With fire, thy golden hours inform
Earth and the souls of men with life
That brings forth peace from shining strife.

Hail, proud July, whose fervent mouth
Bids even be morn and north be south
By grace and gospel of thy word,
Whence all the splendour of the sea
Lies breathless with delight in thee
And marvel at the music heard
From the ardent silent lips of noon
And midnight's rapturous plenilune.

Great August, lord of golden lands,
Whose lordly joy through seas and strands
And all the red-ripe heart of earth
Strikes passion deep as life, and stills
The folded vales and folding hills
With gladness too divine for mirth,
The gracious glories of thine eyes
Make night a noon where darkness dies.

Hail, kind September, friend whose grace
Renews the bland year's bounteous face
With largess given of corn and wine
Through many a land that laughs with love
Of thee and all the heaven above,
More fruitful found than all save thine
Whose skies fulfil with strenuous cheer
The fervent fields that knew thee near.

October of the tawny crown,
Whose heavy-laden hands drop down
Blessing, the bounties of thy breath
And mildness of thy mellowing might
Fill earth and heaven with love and light
Too sweet for fear to dream of death
Or memory, while thy joy lives yet,
To know what joy would fain forget.

Hail, soft November, though thy pale
Sad smile rebuke the words that hail
Thy sorrow with no sorrowing words
Or gratulate thy grief with song
Less bitter than the winds that wrong
Thy withering woodlands, where the birds
Keep hardly heart to sing or see
How fair thy faint wan face may be.

December, thou whose hallowing hands
On shuddering seas and hardening lands
Set as a sacramental sign
The seal of Christmas felt on earth
As witness toward a new year's birth
Whose promise makes thy death divine,
The crowning joy that comes of thee
Makes glad all grief on land or sea.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Celebrating the Seasons: A Literary Analysis of Algernon Charles Swinburne's "A Year's Carols"

Algernon Charles Swinburne's "A Year's Carols" is a collection of poems that celebrates the different seasons of the year. Swinburne, a Victorian poet known for his lyrical and sensual poetry, uses vivid imagery and musical language to convey the beauty and significance of each season. In this literary analysis, we will explore the themes, style, and symbolism of "A Year's Carols" to understand Swinburne's poetic vision.

Overview of "A Year's Carols"

"A Year's Carols" is divided into four sections, each dedicated to a season. The first section, "The Springtide of Life," celebrates the arrival of spring and the renewal of nature. The second section, "The Summer of Life," portrays the warmth and joy of summertime. The third section, "The Autumn of Life," reflects on the transience and melancholy of autumn. The final section, "The Winter of Life," contemplates death and the passing of time.

Each section contains several poems, ranging from short lyrics to longer narratives. Swinburne employs various forms and meters, including sonnets, ballads, and free verse, to capture the essence of each season. The collection as a whole is marked by Swinburne's lush descriptions, musical language, and sensual imagery.

Themes in "A Year's Carols"

One of the central themes in "A Year's Carols" is the cyclical nature of time and the seasons. Swinburne portrays the passage of time as a natural and inevitable process, and each season as a stage in the cycle of life. From the new growth of spring to the decay of autumn, Swinburne shows how every season has its own beauty and significance, and how each one is connected to the others.

Another theme in "A Year's Carols" is the relationship between nature and human emotion. Swinburne often personifies nature, giving it human qualities and emotions. In "April," for example, he describes how the "wild sweet smell of the earth" awakens "long dead hopes" and "long lost dreams." Through such imagery, Swinburne suggests that the natural world is intimately connected to our own inner lives and emotions.

Love is another recurring theme in "A Year's Carols." Swinburne portrays love as a force that transcends time and seasons. In "Summer Dawn," he writes of a love that "outlasts change and time and death" and "shines through all things fair and base." Similarly, in "Autumn," he describes how love "lingers yet when summer days are gone" and how it "makes sweet music in the hearts of men."

Style and Symbolism in "A Year's Carols"

One of the defining features of Swinburne's poetry is his musical language and use of rhythm and sound. In "A Year's Carols," Swinburne employs a range of musical devices, from alliteration and assonance to repetition and rhyme. His use of sound is particularly effective in capturing the mood and atmosphere of each season. In "Spring in Tuscany," for example, he uses long, flowing lines and gentle sibilance to evoke a sense of peacefulness and serenity.

Swinburne's use of imagery is also notable in "A Year's Carols." He often employs sensual and vivid descriptions to create a rich and immersive world. In "A Forsaken Garden," for instance, he describes how "the ghosts of the flowers haunt every alley" and how "the shrunken box makes strange grey bowers." Such imagery creates a haunting and melancholic atmosphere that reflects the theme of transience and decay.

Symbolism is another important element in "A Year's Carols." Swinburne frequently uses natural symbols, such as flowers, birds, and trees, to convey deeper meanings. In "Spring in Tuscany," for example, he uses the image of the rose to represent love and beauty. In "Autumn," he uses the image of the falling leaf to symbolize mortality and the passage of time. Such symbols add depth and complexity to Swinburne's poetry and help to reinforce its themes and messages.


Algernon Charles Swinburne's "A Year's Carols" is a beautiful and evocative collection of poetry that celebrates the seasons of the year. Through rich language, vivid imagery, and musical rhythm, Swinburne portrays the cyclical nature of time and the relationship between nature and human emotion. His themes of love, transience, and the passage of time are conveyed through a range of poetic forms and styles. "A Year's Carols" is a testament to Swinburne's poetic vision and a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and delight readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry A Year's Carols: A Masterpiece of Victorian Poetry

Algernon Charles Swinburne, one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era, wrote Poetry A Year's Carols in 1872. This collection of poems is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry, showcasing Swinburne's exceptional talent for lyrical verse and his deep understanding of the human condition. In this article, we will delve into the themes, structure, and language of Poetry A Year's Carols, exploring why it remains a classic of English literature.


The poems in Poetry A Year's Carols are centered around the theme of time and the cyclical nature of life. Swinburne explores the passage of time through the changing seasons, the phases of the moon, and the progression of human life. He also touches on the themes of love, death, and the natural world, weaving them seamlessly into his poems.

One of the most prominent themes in the collection is the idea of rebirth and renewal. Swinburne celebrates the changing seasons and the promise of new life that comes with each one. In the poem "March," he writes:

"March, master of winds, bright minstrel and marshal of storms that enkindle The season of tempests and triumphs and passionate delights."

Here, Swinburne personifies March as a master of winds and a bright minstrel, celebrating the energy and vitality of the season. He goes on to describe the storms that enkindle the season, suggesting that they are a necessary part of the cycle of life and renewal.


The structure of Poetry A Year's Carols is unique and complex, reflecting Swinburne's mastery of form. The collection is divided into twelve sections, one for each month of the year. Each section contains a series of poems, ranging in length from a few lines to several pages.

The poems themselves are written in a variety of forms, including sonnets, ballads, and free verse. Swinburne's use of form is deliberate and purposeful, allowing him to explore different themes and moods within each section of the collection.


Swinburne's use of language in Poetry A Year's Carols is nothing short of breathtaking. His lyrical verse is filled with vivid imagery and sensory details, transporting the reader to the natural world he so beautifully describes.

In the poem "June," Swinburne writes:

"June, crowned with all the roses, Filled with all the singing of the birds, Drenched with all the dew of heaven, Shine and sway and swing the wide world round."

Here, Swinburne uses sensory language to evoke the sights, sounds, and smells of the month of June. The image of June being crowned with roses is particularly striking, suggesting that the month is a queen of nature, presiding over the beauty and abundance of the season.


In conclusion, Poetry A Year's Carols is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry, showcasing Swinburne's exceptional talent for lyrical verse and his deep understanding of the human condition. The collection explores the themes of time, rebirth, and renewal, using a unique and complex structure to weave together a series of poems that celebrate the changing seasons and the natural world.

Swinburne's use of language is nothing short of breathtaking, evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of the natural world with vivid imagery and sensory details. Poetry A Year's Carols remains a classic of English literature, a testament to Swinburne's enduring legacy as one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era.

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