Songs of the Springtides and Birthday Ode
Algernon Charles Swinburne
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We begin at Bonchurch, the Southern part of the Isle of Wight, where Swinburne, surrounded by High Church, Aristocratic Anglicans, began his life. First there was Sir John Swinburne, the poet’s grandfather, athiest, Jacobin, friend of French culture, who filled him with grand tales during walks around the family estate. His red-haired father, Admiral Charles Henry Swinburne, loathed the arts, literature, and music, but had a splendid capacity for invention and the adaptation of mechanical devices. Alas, Swinburne’s short stubby fingers could not manage the simplest of machines. In contrast, his mother, Lady Jane, daughter of the third Earl of Ashburnham, filled the young boy with all sort of thoughts from her readings in English, French, and Italian, thus setting the germ of his ideas were of literature rather than of life.