Collected Poems, by Oscar Wilde

Rosa Mystica



To drift with every passion till my soul

Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play,

Is it for this that I have given away

Mine ancient wisdom, and austere control? —

Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll

Scrawled over on some boyish holiday

With idle songs for pipe and virelay

Which do but mar the secret of the whole.

Surely that was a time I might have trod

The sunlit heights, and from life’s dissonance

Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God;

is that time dead? lo! with a little rod

I did but touch the honey of romance —

And must I lose a soul’s inheritance?


Tread lightly, she is near

 Under the snow,

Speak gently, she can hear

 The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair

 Tarnished with rust,

She that was young and fair

 Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,

 She hardly knew

She was a woman, so

 Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,

 Lie on her breast,

I vex my heart alone

 She is at rest.

Peace, Peace, she cannot hear

 Lyre or sonnet,

All my life’s buried here,

 Heap earth upon it.


Salve Saturnia Tellus

I reached the Alps: the soul within me burned

 Italia, my Italia, at thy name:

 And when from out the mountain’s heart I came

And saw the land for which my life had yearned,

I laughed as one who some great prize had earned:

 And musing on the story of thy fame

 I watched the day, till marked with wounds of flame

The turquoise sky to burnished gold was turned

The pine-trees waved as waves a woman’s hair,

 And in the orchards every twining spray

 Was breaking into flakes of blossoming foam:

But when I knew that far away at Rome

 In evil bonds a second Peter lay,

 I wept to see the land so very fair.


San Miniato

See, I have climbed the mountain side

 Up to this holy house of God,

 Where once that Angel-Painter trod

Who say the heavens opened wide,

And throned upon the crescent moon

 The Virginal white Queen of Grace —

 Mary! could I but see thy face

Death could not come at all too soon.

O crowned by God with thorns and pain!

 Mother of Christ! O mystic wife!

 My heart is weary of this life

And over-sad to sing again.

O crowned by, God with love and flame!

 O crowned by Christ the Holy One!

 O listen ere the searching sun

Show to the world my sin and shame.

Ave Maria Plena Gratia

Was this his coming! I had hoped to see

 A scene wondrous glory, as was told

 Of some great God who a rain of gold

Broke open bars and fell on Danae:

Or a dread vision as when Semele

 Sickening for love and unappeased desire

 Prayed to see God’s clear body, and the fire

Caught her white limbs and slew her utterly:

With such glad dreams I sought this holy place,

 And now with wondering eyes and heart I stand

 Before this supreme mystery of Love:

A kneeling girl with passionless pale face,

 An angel with a lily in his hand,

 And over both with outstretched wings the Dove.



Italia! thou art fallen, though with sheen

 Of battle-spears thy clamorous armies stride

 From the North Alps to the Sicilian tide!

Ay! fallen, though the nations hail thee Queen

Because rich gold in every town is seen,

 An on thy sapphire lake, in tossing pride

 Of wind-filled vans thy myriad galleys ride

Beneath one flag of red and white and green.

O Fair and Strong! O Strong and Fair in vain!

 Look southward where Rome’s desecrated town

 Lies mourning for her God-anointed King?

Look heavenward! shall God allow this thing?

 Nay! but some flame-girt Raphael shall come down,

And smite the Spoiler with the sword of pain.



I wandered in Scoglietto’s green retreat,

 The oranges on each o’erhanging spray

 Burned as bright lamps of gold to shame the day

Some startled bird with fluttering wings and fleet

Made snow of all the blossoms, at my feet

 Like silver moons the pale narcissi lay:

 And the curved waves that streaked the sapphire bay

Laughed i’ the sun, and life seemed very sweet.

Outside the young boy-priest passed singing clear,

 “Jesus the Son of Mary has been slain,

 O come and fill his sepulchre with flowers.”

Ah, God! Ah, God! those dear Hellenic hours

 Had drowned all memory of thy bitter pain,

 The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers, and the Spear.

Genoa, Holy Week

Rome Unvisited


The corn has turned from gray to red,

 Since first my spirit wandered forth

 From the drear cities of the north,

And to Italia’s mountains fled.

And here I set my face toward home,

 For all my pilgrimage is done,

 Although, methinks, yon blood-red sun

 Marshals the way to Holy Rome.

O Blessed Lady, who dost hold

 Upon the seven hills thy reign!

 O Mother without blot or stain,

Crowned with bright crowns of triple gold!

O Roma, Roma, at thy feet

 I lay this barren gift of song!

 For, ah! the way is steep and long

That leads unto thy sacred street.


And yet what joy it were for me

 To turn my feet unto the south,

 And journeying toward the Tiber mouth

To kneel again at Fiesole!

And wandering through the tangled pines

 That break the gold of Arno’s stream,

 To see the purple mist and gleam

Of morning on the Apennines.

By many a vineyard-hidden home,

 Orchard, and olive-garden gray,

 Till from the drear Campagna’s way

The seven hills bear up the dome!


A pilgrim from the northern seas —

 What joy for me to seek alone

 The wondrous Temple, and the throne

Of Him who holds the awful keys!

When, bright with purple and with gold,

 Come priest and holy Cardinal,

 And borne above the heads of all

The gentle Shepherd of the Fold.

O joy to see before I die

 The only God-anointed King,

 And hear the silver trumpets ring

A triumph as He passes by.

Or at the altar of the shrine

 Holds high the mystic sacrifice,

 And shows a God to human eyes

Beneath the veil of bread and wine.


For lo, what changes time can bring!

 The cycles of revolving years

 May free my heart from all its fears —

And teach my lips a song to sing.

Before yon field of trembling gold

 Is garnered into dusty sheaves,

 Or ere the autumn’s scarlet leaves

Flutter as birds adown the wold,

I may have run the glorious race,

 And caught the torch while yet aflame,

 And called upon the holy name

Of Him who now doth hide His face.


Urbs Sacra Aeterna

Rome! What a scroll of History thine has been!

 In the first days thy sword republican

 Ruled the whole world for many an age’s span:

Then of thy peoples thou wert crowned Queen,

Till in thy streets the bearded Goth was seen;

 And now upon thy walls the breezes fan

 (Ah, city crowned by God, discrowned by man!)

The hated flag of red and white and green.

When was thy glory! when in search for power

 Thine eagles flew to greet the double sun,

 And all the nations trembled at thy rod?

Nay, but thy glory tarried for this hour,

 When pilgrims kneel before the Holy One,

 The prisoned shepherd of the Church of God.


On Hearing the Dies Irae Sung in the Sistine Chapel

Nay, Lord, not thus! white lilies in the spring,

 Sad olive-groves, or sliver-breasted dove,

 Teach me more clearly of Thy life and love

Than terrors of red flame and thundering.

The empurpled vines dear memories of Thee bring:

 A bird at evening flying to its nest,

 Tells me of One who had no place of rest:

I think it is of Thee the sparrows sing.

Come rather on some autumn afternoon,

 When red and brown are burnished on the leaves,

 And the fields echo to the gleaner’s song,

Come when the splendid fulness of the moon

 Looks down upon the rows of golden sheaves,

 And reap Thy harvest: we have waited long.

Easter Day

The silver trumpets rang across the Dome:

 The people knelt upon the ground with awe:

 And borne upon the necks of men I saw,

Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.

Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,

 And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,

 Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:

In splendor and in light the Pope passed home.

My heart stole back across wide wastes of years

 To One who wandered by a lonely sea,

 And sought in vain for any place of rest:

“Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest,

 I, only I, must wander wearily,

And bruise My feet, and drink wine salt with tears.”

E Tenebris

Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach thy hand,

 For I am drowning in a stormier sea

 Than Simon on Thy lake of Galilee:

The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,

My heart is as some famine-murdered land,

 Whence all good things have perished utterly,

 And well I know my soul in Hell must lie

If I this night before God’s throne should stand.

“He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,

Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name

From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.”

Nay, peace, I shall behold before the night,

 The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,

 The wounded hands, the weary human face.

Vita Nuova

I stood by the unvintageable sea

 Till the wet waves drenched face and hair with spray,

 The long red fires of the dying day

Burned in the west; the wind piped drearily;

And to the land the clamorous gulls did flee:

 “Alas! “ I cried, “my life is full of pain,

 And who can garner fruit or golden grain,

From these waste fields which travail ceaselessly!”

My nets gaped wide with many a break and flaw

 Nathless I threw them as my final cast

 Into the sea, and waited for the end.

When lo! a sudden glory! and I saw

 The argent splendor of white limbs ascend,

 And in that joy forgot my tortured past.

Madonna Mia

A lily girl, not made for this world’s pain,

 With brown, soft hair close braided by her ears,

 And longing eyes half veiled by slumbrous tears

Like bluest water seen through mists of rain;

Pale cheeks whereon no love hath left its stain,

 Red underlip drawn in for fear of love,

 And white throat, whiter than the silvered dove,

Through whose wan marble creeps one purple vein.

Yet, though my lips shall praise her without cease,

 Even to kiss her feet I am not bold,

 Being o’ershadowed by the wings of awe.

Like Dante, when he stood with Beatrice

 Beneath the flaming Lion’s breast and saw

 The seventh Crystal, and the Stair of Gold.

The New Helen

Where hast thou been since round the walls of Troy

 The sons of God fought in that great emprise?

  Why dost thou walk our common earth again?

Hast thou forgotten that impassioned boy,

  His purple galley, and his Tyrian men,

 And treacherous Aphrodite’s mocking eyes?

For surely it was thou, who, like a star

 Hung in the silver silence of the night,

 Didst lure the Old World chivalry and might

Into the clamorous crimson waves of war!

Or didst thou rule the fire-laden moon?

 In amorous Sidon was thy temple built

  Over the light and laughter of the sea?

 Where, behind lattice scarlet-wrought and gilt,

  Some brown-limbed girl did weave thee tapestry,

 All through the waste and wearied hours of noon;

Till her wan cheek with flame of passion burned,

 And she rose up the sea-washed lips to kiss

Of some glad Cyprian sailor, safe returned

 From Calpe and the cliffs of Herakles!

No! thou art Helen, and none other one!

 It was for thee that young Sarpedon died,

  And Memnon’s manhood was untimely spent;

 It was for thee gold-crested Hector tried

With Thetis’ child that evil race to run,

  In the last year of thy beleaguerment;

Ay! even now the glory of thy fame

 Burns in those fields of trampled asphodel,

 Where the high lords whom Ilion knew so well

Clash ghostly shields, and call upon thy name.

Where hast thou been? in that enchanted land

 Whose slumbering vales forlorn Calypso knew,

  Where never mower rose to greet the day

 But all unswathed the trammeling grasses grew,

And the sad shepherd saw the tall corn stand

 Till summer’s red had changed to withered gray?

Didst thou lie there by some Lethaean stream

 Deep brooding on thine ancient memory,

The crash of broken spears, the fiery gleam

 From shivered helm, the Grecian battle-cry?

Nay, thou were hidden in that hollow hill

 With one who is forgotten utterly,

  That discrowned Queen men call the Erycine;

 Hidden away that never might’st thou see

  The face of her, before whose mouldering shrine

To-day at Rome the silent nations kneel;

Who gat from joy no joyous gladdening,

  But only Love’s intolerable pain,

  Only a sword to pierce her heart in twain,

Only the bitterness of child-bearing.

The lotos-leaves which heal the wounds of Death

 Lie in thy hand; O, be thou kind to me,

  While yet I know the summer of my days;

For hardly can my tremulous lips draw breath

  To fill the silver trumpet with thy praise,

 So bowed am I before thy mystery;

So bowed and broken on Love’s terrible wheel,

 That I have lost all hope and heart to sing,

 Yet care I not what ruin time may bring

If in thy temple thou wilt let me kneel.

Alas, alas, thou wilt not tarry here,

 But, like that bird, the servant of the sun,

  Who flies before the north wind and the home.

So wilt thou fly our evil land and drear,

  Back to the tower of thine old delight,

  And the red lips of young Euphorion;

Nor shall I ever see thy face again,

 But in this poisonous garden must I stay,

Crowning my brows with the thorn-crown of pain,

 Till all my loveless life shall pass away.

O Helen! Helen! Helen! Yet awhile,

 Yet for a little while, O tarry here,

  Till the dawn cometh and the shadows flee!

For in the gladsome sunlight of thy smile

 Of heaven or hell I have no thought or fear,

  Seeing I know no other god but thee:

No other god save him, before whose feet

 In nets of gold the tired planets move,

 The incarnate spirit of spiritual love

Who in thy body holds his joyous seat.

Thou wert not born as common women are!

 But, girt with silver splendor of the foam,

  Didst from the depths of sapphire seas arise!

And at thy coming some immortal star,

  Bearded with flame, blazed in the Eastern skies;

 And waked the shepherds on thine island home.

Thou shalt not die! no asps of Egypt creep

 Close at thy heels to taint the delicate air;

 No sullen-blooming poppies stain thy hair,

Those scarlet heralds of eternal sleep.

Lily of love, pure and inviolate!

 Tower of ivory! red rose of fire!

  Thou hast come down our darkness to illume:

For we, close-caught in the wide nets of Fate,

 Wearied with waiting for the World’s Desire,

  Aimlessly wandered in the house of gloom.

Aimlessly sought some slumberous anodyne

 For wasted lives, for lingering wretchedness,

Till we beheld thy re-arisen shrine,

 And the white glory of thy loveliness.

Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:15