The pantheistic BRAHMA has been parodied and misunderstood, although the title should make it plain that the speaker is not meant to be Emerson but the god of nature. In this poem, accident and design, life and death, are harmonized in the all-resolving paradox of existence.
If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.
They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.
The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good !
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.
by A. C. Swinburne
(From ‘A Concise Treasury of GREAT POEMS ’ by Louis Untermeyer – Pocket Books)
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837 – 1909) has been variously described than any other poet of his century. Edmund Gosse pictured him, with his thin body, waving red hair, and birdlike head, as a brilliant but ridiculous flamingo. T. Earle Welby likened him to a pagan apparition at a Victorian tea party.