Silent Sunday: Swinburne’s Grave

Swinburne is not one of the poets one hears much quoted today but in his time he was a force to be reckoned with as he upset the status quo being both a rebel and a radical.

Swinburne’s last resting place, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight

Swinburne was a radical character and an alcoholic, with leanings towards sado-masochism, who incensed many of his fellow Victorians, but the main problem for the Vicrorians was that he was an atheist. The poet’s funeral at Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight was also controversial as he left instructions that there was to be no Christian ceremony. However, against his wishes, some of the normal prayers were read out.
As a poet he was a skilful exponent of French verse forms and obscure poetic metres but he was frequently criticised for his concentration on musicality at the expense of sense. (Similar complaints were later levelled at Dylan Thomas.)   Browning famously referred to his work as being: ‘a fuzz of words’.

One of his supporters was Thomas Hardy who was much influenced by Swinburne’s atheism, and who in 1910 wrote A Singer Asleep whilst sitting next to Swinburne’s grave.

A short excerpt from one of Swinburne’s poems.
From too much hope of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving 
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river  
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

From The Garden of Proserpine
The last known photograph of Swinburne

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