Collected Poems, by Oscar Wilde

The Garden of Eros

[1890]

It is full summer now, the heart of June,

 Not yet the sun-burnt reapers are a-stir

Upon the upland meadow where too soon

 Rich autumn time, the season’s usurer,

Will lend his hoarded gold to all the trees,

And see his treasure scattered by the wild and spendthrift breeze.

Too soon indeed! yet here the daffodil,

 That love-child of the Spring, has lingered on

To vex the rose with jealousy, and still

 The harebell spreads her azure pavilion,

And like a strayed and wandering reveller

Abandoned of its brothers, whom long since June’s messenger

The missel-thrush has frighted from the glade,

 One pale narcissus loiters fearfully

Close to a shadowy nook, where half afraid

 Of their own loveliness some violets lie

That will not look the gold sun in the face

For fear of too much splendour — ah! methinks it is a place

Which should be trodden by Persephone

 When wearied of the flowerless fields of Dis!

Or danced on by the lads of Arcady!

 The hidden secret of eternal bliss

Known to the Grecian here a man might find,

Ah! you and I may find it now if Love and Sleep be kind.

There are the flowers which mourning Herakles

 Strewed on the tomb of Hylas, columbine,

Its white doves all a-flutter where the breeze

 Kissed them too harshly, the small celandine,

That yellow-kirtled chorister of eve,

And lilac lady’s-smock — but let them bloom alone and leave

Yon spired holly-hock red-crocketed

 To sway its silent chimes, else must the bee,

Its little bell-ringer, go seek instead

 Some other pleasaunce; the anemone

That weeps at daybreak, like a silly girl

Before her love, and hardly lets the butterflies unfurl

Their painted wings beside it — bid it pine

 In pale virginity; the winter snow

Will suit it better than those lips of thine

 Whose fires would but scorch it, rather go

And pluck that amorous flower which blooms alone,

Fed by the pander wind with dust of kisses not its own.

The trumpet-mouths of red convolvulus

 So dear to maidens, creamery meadow-sweet

Whiter than Juno’s throat and odorous

 As all Arabia, hyacinths the feet

Of Huntress Dian would be loath to mar

For any dappled fawn — pluck these, and those fond flowers which are

Fairer than what Queen Venus trod upon

 Beneath the pines of Ida, eucharis,

That morning star which does not dread the sun,

 And budding marjoram which but to kiss

Would sweeten Cytheraea’s lips and make

Adonis jealous — these for thy head — and for thy girdle take

Yon curving spray of purple clematis

 Whose gorgeous dye outflames the Tyrian King,

And fox-gloves with their nodding chalices,

 But that one narciss which the startled Spring

Let from her kirtle fall when first she heard

In her own woods the wild tempestuous song of summer’s bird,

Ah! leave it for a subtle memory

 Of those sweet tremulous days of rain and sun,

When April laughed between her tears to see

 The early primrose with shy footsteps run

From the gnarled oak-tree roots till all the wold,

Spite of its brown and trampled leaves, grew bright with shimmering gold.

Nay, pluck it too, it is not half so sweet

 As thou thyself, my soul’s idolatry!

And when thou art a-wearied at thy feet

 Shall oxlips weave their brightest tapestry,

For thee the woodbine shall forget its pride

And veil its tangled whorls, and thou shalt walk on daisies pied.

And I will cut a reed by yonder spring

 And make the wood-gods jealous, and old Pan

Wonder what young intruder dares to sing

 In these still haunts, where never foot of man

Should tread at evening, lest he chance to spy

The marble limbs of Artemis and all her company.

And I will tell you why the jacinth wears

 Such dread embroidery of dolorous moan,

And why the hapless nightingale forbears

 To sing her song at noon, but weeps alone

When the fleet swallow sleeps, and rich men feast,

And why the laurel trembles when she sees the lightening east.

And I will sing how sad Proserpina

 Unto a grave and gloomy Lord was wed,

And lure the silver-breasted Helena

 Back from the lotus meadows of the dead,

So shalt thou see that awful loveliness

For which two mighty Hosts met fearfully in war’s abyss!

And then I’ll pipe to thee that Grecian tale

 How Cynthia loves the lad Endymion,

And hidden in a gray and misty veil

 Hies to the cliffs of Latmos, once the Sun

Leaps from his ocean bed, in fruitless chase

Of those pale flying feet which fade away in his embrace.

And if my flute can breathe sweet melody,

 We may behold Her face who long ago

Dwelt among men by the Aegean sea,

 And whose sad house with pillaged portico

And friezeless wall and columns toppled down

Looms o’er the ruins of that fair and violet-cinctured town.

Spirit of Beauty! tarry still a-while,

 They are not dead, thine ancient votaries,

Some few there are to whom thy radiant smile

 Is better than a thousand victories,

Though all the nobly slain of Waterloo

Rise up in wrath against them! tarry still, there are a few,

Who for thy sake would give their manlihood

 And consecrate their being, I at least

Have done so, made thy lips my daily food,

 And in thy temples found a goodlier feast

Than this starved age can give me, spite of all

Its new-found creeds so skeptical and so dogmatical.

Here not Cephissos, not Ilissos flows,

 The woods of white Colonos are not here,

On our bleak hills the olive never blows,

 No simple priest conducts his lowing steer

Up the steep marble way, nor through the town

Do laughing maidens bear to thee the crocus-flowered gown.

Yet tarry! for the boy who loved thee best,

 Whose very name should be a memory

To make thee linger, sleeps in silent rest

 Beneath the Roman walls, and melody

Still mourns her sweetest lyre, none can play

The lute of Adonais, with his lips Song passed away.

Nay, when Keats died the Muses still had left

 One silver voice to sing his threnody,

But ah! too soon of it we were bereft

 When on that riven night and stormy sea

Panthea claimed her singer as her own,

And slew the mouth that praised her; since which time we walk alone,

Save for that fiery heart, that morning star

 Of re-arisen England, whose clear eye

Saw from our tottering throne and waste of war

 The grand Greek limbs of young Democracy

Rise mightily like Hesperus and bring

The great Republic! him at least thy love hath taught to sing,

And he hath been thee at Thessaly,

 And seen white Atalanta fleet of foot

In passionless and fierce virginity

 Hunting the tusked boar, his honeyed lute

Hath pierced the cavern of the hollow hill,

And Venus laughs to the one knee will bow before her still.

And he hath kissed the one of Proserpine,

 And sung the Galilaean’s requiem,

That wounded forehead dashed with blood and wine

 He hath discrowned, the Ancient Gods in him

Have found their last, most ardent worshipper,

And the Sign grows gray and dim before its conqueror

Spirit of Beauty! tarry with us still,

 It is not quenched the torch of poesy,

The star that shook above the Eastern hill

 Holds unassailed its argent armory

From all the gathering gloom and fretful fight —

O tarry with us still! for through the long and common night,

Morris, our sweet and simple Chaucer’s child,

 Dear heritor of Spenser’s tuneful reed,

With soft and sylvan pipe has oft beguiled

 The weary soul of man in troublous need,

And from the far and flowerless fields of ice

Has brought fair flowers meet to make an earthly paradise.

We know them all, Gudrun the strong man’s bride,

 Aslaug and Olafson we know them all,

How giant Grettir fought and Sigurd died,

 And what enchantment held the king in thrall

When lonely Brynhild wrestled with the powers

That war against all passion, ah! how oft through summer hours,

Long listless summer hours when the noon

 Being enamored of a damask rose

Forgets to journey westward, till the moon

 The pale usurper of its tribute grows

From a thin sickle to a silver shield

And chides its loitering car — how oft, in some cool grassy field

Far from the cricket-ground and noisy eight

 At Bagley, where the rustling bluebells come

Almost before the blackbird finds a mate

 And overstay the swallow, and the hum

Of many murmuring bees flits through the leaves,

Have I lain poring on the dreamy tales his fancy weaves,

And through their unreal woes and mimic pain

 Wept for myself, and so was purified,

And in their simple mirth grew glad again;

 For as I sailed upon that pictured tide

The strength and splendour of the storm was mine

Without the storm’s red ruin, for the singer is divine.

The little laugh of water falling down

 Is not so musical, the clammy gold

Close hoarded in the tiny waxen town

 Has less of sweetness in it, and the old

Half-withered reeds that waved in Arcady

Touched by his lips break forth again to fresher harmony.

Spirit of Beauty tarry yet a-while!

 Although the cheating merchants of the mart

With iron roads profane our lovely isle,

 And break on whirring wheels the limbs of Art,

Ay! though the crowded factories beget

The blind-worm Ignorance that slays the soul, O tarry yet!

For One at least there is — He bears his name

 From Dante and the seraph Gabriel —

Whose double laurels burn with deathless flame

 To light thine altar; He too loves thee well

Who saw old Merlin lured in Vivien’s snare,

And the white feet of angels coming down the golden stair,

Loves thee so well, that all the world for him

 A gorgeous-colored vestiture must wear,

And Sorrow take a purple diadem,

 Or else be no more Sorrow, and Despair

Gild its own thorns, and Pain, like Adon, be

Even in anguish beautiful; — such is the empery

Which painters hold, and such the heritage

 This gentle, solemn Spirit doth possess,

Being a better mirror of his age

 In all his pity, love, and weariness,

Than those who can but copy common things,

And leave the soul unpainted with its mighty questionings.

But they are few, and all romance has flown,

 And men can prophesy about the sun,

And lecture on his arrows — how, alone,

 Through a waste void the soulless atoms run,

How from each tree its weeping nymph has fled,

And that no more ‘mid English reeds a Naiad shows her head.

Methinks these new actaeons boast too soon

 That they have spied on beauty; what if we

Have analysed the rainbow, robbed the moon

 Of her most ancient, chastest mystery,

Shall I, the last Endymion, lose all hope

Because rude eyes peer at my mistress through a telescope!

What profit if this scientific age

 Burst through our gates with all its retinue

Of modern miracles! Can it assuage

 One lover’s breaking heart? what can it do

To make one life more beautiful, one day

More god-like in its period? but now the Age of Clay

Returns in horrid cycle, and the earth

 Hath borne again a noisy progeny

Of ignorant Titans, whose ungodly birth

 Hurls them against the august hierarchy

Which sat upon Olympus, to the Dust

They have appealed, and to that barren arbiter they must

Repair for judgment, let them, if they can,

 From Natural Warfare and insensate Chance,

Create the new ideal rule for man!

 Methinks that was not my inheritance;

For I was nurtured otherwise, my soul

Passes from higher heights of life to a more supreme goal.

Lo! while we spake the earth did turn away

 Her visage from the God, and Hecate’s boat

Rose silver-laden, till the jealous day

 Blew all its torches out: I did not note

The waning hours, to young Endymions

Time’s palsied fingers count in vain his rosary of suns! —

Mark how the yellow iris wearily

 Leans back its throat, as though it would be kissed

By its false chamberer, the dragon-fly,

 Who, like a blue vein on a girl’s white wrist,

Sleeps on that snowy primrose of the night,

Which ‘gins to flush with crimson shame, and die beneath the light.

Come let us go, against the pallid shield

 Of the wan sky the almond blossoms gleam,

The corn-crake nested in the unmown field

 Answers its mate, across the misty stream

On fitful wing the startled curlews fly,

And in his sedgy bed the lark, for joy that Day is nigh,

Scatters the pearled dew from off the grass,

 In tremulous ecstasy to greet the sun,

Who soon in gilded panoply will pass

 Forth from yon orange-curtained pavilion

Hung in the burning east, see, the red rim

O’ertops the expectant hills! it is the God! for love of him

Already the shrill lark is out of sight,

 Flooding with waves of song this silent dell —

Ah! there is something more in that bird’s flight

 Than could be tested in a crucible! —

But the air freshens, let us go — why soon

The woodmen will be here; how we have lived this night of June!

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/wilde/oscar/w67p/chapter9.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30