"Hope Thou Not Much, And Fear Thou Not At All"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Man's life, according to Swinburne, is a progression from the innocence and hope of youth to the corruption and despair of adulthood. Having rebelled against conventional customs and morality, Swinburne found that his fame was more often a notoriety that led to public denouncement than an admiration that led to an acceptance of his works; however, he attempted to live up to his bad reputation, although his weak physical condition turned such dissipation into long, very severe illnesses. By 1879 he was so near to death that only the paternal care of his friend Theodore Watts-Dunton was able to save his life. Under Watts-Dunton's care the wild young man who pursued dissipation to its bitter end became a quiet and conventional old man. In this poem, he describes youth from the vantage point of adulthood; while youth may hope and dream, the adult knows that such hopes will end in disappointment when the individual finally faces reality, an inevitable loss of dreams that no one should fear.

Then, when the soul leaves off to dream and yearn,
May truth first purge her eyesight to discern
What once being known leaves time no power to appal;
Till youth at last, ere yet youth be not, learn
The kind wise word that falls from years that fall–
"Hope thou not much, and fear thou not at all."