Ask nothing more of me

Ask nothing more of me

In Brief

Mulligan's words to the old milkwoman (“Ask nothing more of me, sweet. All I can give you I give”) and the “tender chant” that follows (“Heart of my heart, were it more, / More would be laid at your feet") quote the first four lines of a short poem by Swinburne, The Oblation (1871). It is sung by a man who has “love and no more,” and advances this one flaccid theme and no more. From Stephen's point of view, "Ask nothing more of me" could be Mulligan's theme song.

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The complete text of the poem is as follows:

Ask nothing more of me, sweet; 
All I can give you I give. 
Heart of my heart, were it more, 
More would be laid at your feet: 
Love that should help you to live, 
Song that should spur you to soar. 

All things were nothing to give 
Once to have sense of you more, 
Touch you and taste of you sweet, 
Think you and breathe you and live, 
Swept of your wings as they soar, 
Trodden by chance of your feet. 

I that have love and no more 
Give you but love of you, sweet: 
He that hath more, let him give; 
He that hath wings, let him soar; 
Mine is the heart at your feet 
Here, that must love you to live.

As Thornton observes, the song was set to music in Swinburne's lifetime by Theophile Marzials. Peter Thompson has done the same more recently.

JH 2011
Photograph of Algernon Charles Swinburne taken by the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, held in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Source: Wikimedia Commons.