M any of the poet's presentations of man shipwrecked and cast away in the sea of time appear in the context of works that concern lost love. For him the belief that time destroys all love provides a central or paradigmatic situation that he expands to embrace all human life and activity. As he wrote in July 1875 with self-conscious cynicism to Joseph Knight about his own lyric "Before Parting" (1866), he found his emphasis upon the brevity of love far more honest and accurate than the views of other poets: "In an age when all other lyrists, from Tennyson to Rossetti, go in (metrically) for constancy and eternity of attachment and reunion in future lives, etc., etc., I limit love, honestly and candidly, to 24 hours." Swinburne takes essentially the same view in his early "Félise" (1866), whose epigraph, appropriately, is "Mais où sont lese neiges d'antan?" This dramatic monologue presents essentially the opposite situation to that found in "The Triumph of Time," which had appeared earlier in the same volume, the 1866 Poems and Ballads. In "Félise" the man abandons the woman, and rather than remain silent, as does the speaker in "The Triumph of Time," he explains to her that it is in the nature of thing that time wrecks all love and that, once over, such love is drowned forever. Such cynicism is poetically uncharacteristic of Swinburne, no matter how much he displays it in his letters, since his usual practice is to speak from the point of view of the suffering lover — which is to say from within the painful experience of being shipwrecked and cast away.


George P. Landow, "Shipwrecked and Cast Away in the Sea of Time," from Images of Crisis: Literary Iconology, 1750 to the Present, Boston and London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982, pp. 92-103

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