Collected Poems, by Oscar Wilde

The Fourth Movement


Le Reveillon

The sky is laced with fitful red,

The circling mists and shadows flee,

The dawn is rising from the sea,

Like a white lady from her bed.

And jagged brazen arrows fall

Athwart the feathers of the night,

And a long wave of yellow light

Breaks silently on tower and hall,

And spreading wide across the wold

Wakes into flight some fluttering bird,

And all the chestnut tops are stirred,

And all the branches streaked with gold.

At Verona

How steep the stairs within Kings’ houses are

For exile-wearied feet as mine to tread,

And O how salt and bitter is the bread

Which falls from this Hound’s table—better far

That I had died in the red ways of war,

Or that the gate of Florence bare my head,

Than to live thus, by all things comraded

Which seek the essence of my soul to mar.

“Curse God and die: what better hope than this?

He hath forgotten thee in all the bliss

Of his gold city, and eternal day”—

Nay peace: behind my prison’s blinded bars

I do possess what none can take away,

My love, and all the glory of the stars.


Is it thy will that I should wax and wane,

Barter my cloth of gold for hodden gray,

And at thy pleasure weave that web of pain

Whose brightest threads are each a wasted day?

Is it thy will—Love that I love so well—

That my Soul’s House should be a tortured spot

Wherein, like evil paramours, must dwell

The quenchless flame, the worm that dieth not?

Nay, if it be thy will I shall endure,

And sell ambition at the common mart,

And let dull failure be my vestiture,

And sorrow dig its grave within my heart.

Perchance it may be better so—at least

I have not made my heart a heart of stone,

Nor starved my boyhood of its goodly feast,

Nor walked where Beauty is a thing unknown.

Many a man hath done so; sought to fence

In straitened bonds the soul that should be free,

Trodden the dusty road of common sense,

While all the forest sang of liberty,

Not marking how the spotted hawk in flight

Passed on wide pinion through the lofty air,

To where the steep untrodden mountain height

Caught the last tresses of the Sun God’s hair.

Or how the little flower he trod upon,

The daisy, that white-feathered shield of gold,

Followed with wistful eyes the wandering sun

Content if once its leaves were aureoled.

But surely it is something to have been

The best beloved for a little while,

To have walked hand in hand with Love, and seen

His purple wings flit once across thy smile.

Ay! though the gorged asp of passion feed

On my boy’s heart, yet have I burst the bars,

Stood face to face with Beauty, known indeed

The Love which moves the Sun and all the stars!

Quia Multum Amavi

Dear heart I think the young impassioned priest

When first he takes from out the hidden shrine

His God imprisoned in the Eucharist,

And eats the Bread, and drinks the Dreadful Wine,

Feels not such awful wonder as I felt

When first my smitten eyes beat full on thee,

And all night long before thy feet I knelt

Till thou wert wearied of Idolatry.

Ah! had’st thou liked me less and loved me more,

Through all those summer days of joy and rain,

I had not now been sorrow’s heritor,

Or stood a lackey in the House of Pain.

Yet, though remorse, youth’s white-faced seneschal

Tread on my heels with all his retinue,

I am most glad I loved thee—think of all

The sums that go to make one speedwell blue!

Silentium Amoris

As oftentimes the too resplendent sun

Hurries the pallid and reluctant moon

Back to her sombre cave, ere she hath won

A single ballad from the nightingale,

So doth thy Beauty make my lips to fail,

And all my sweetest singing out of tune.

And as at dawn across the level mead

On wings impetuous some wind will come,

And with its too harsh kisses break the reed

Which was its only instrument of song,

So my too stormy passions work me wrong,

And for excess of Love my Love is dumb.

But surely unto thee mine eyes did show

Why I am silent, and my lute unstrung;

Else it were better we should part, and go,

Thou to some lips of sweeter melody,

And I to nurse the barren memory

Of unkissed kisses, and songs never sung.

Her Voice

The wild bee reels from bough to bough

With his furry coat and his gauzy wing.

Now in a lily-cup, and now

Setting a jacinth bell a-swing,

In his wandering;

Sit closer love: it was here I trow

I made that vow,

Swore that two lives should be like one

As long as the sea-gull loved the sea,

As long as the sunflower sought the sun—

It shall be, I said, for eternity

‘Twixt you and me!

Dear friend, those times are over and done,

Love’s web is spun.

Look upward where the poplar trees

Sway and sway in the summer air,

Here in the valley never a breeze

Scatters the thistledowns, but there

Great winds blow fair

From the mighty murmuring mystical seas,

And the wave-lashed leas.

Look upward where the white gull screams

What does it see that we do not see?

Is that a star? or the lamp that gleams

On some outward voyaging argosy—

Ah! can it be

We have lived our lives in land of dreams!

How sad it seems.

Sweet, there is nothing left to say

But this, that love is never lost.

Keen winter stabs the breasts of May

Whose crimson roses burst his frost,

Ships tempest-tossed

Will find a harbour in some bay,

And so we may.

And there is nothing left to do

But to kiss once again, and part,

Nay, there is nothing we should rue,

I have my beauty—you your Art.

Nay, do not start,

One world was not enough for two

Like me and you.

My Voice

Within this restless, hurried, modern world

We took our heart’s full pleasure—You and I,

And now the white sails of our ship are furled,

And spent the lading of our argosy.

Wherefore my cheeks before their time are wan,

For very weeping is my gladness fled

Sorrow hath paled my lip’s vermilion,

And Ruin draws the curtains of my bed.

But all this crowded life has been to thee

No more than lyre, or lute, or subtle spell

Of viols, or the music of the sea

That sleeps, a mimic echo, in the shell.

Taedium Vitae

To stab my youth with desperate knife, to wear

This paltry age’s gaudy livery,

To let each base hand filch my treasury,

To mesh my soul within a woman’s hair,

And be mere Fortune’s lackeyed groom—I swear,

I love it not! these things are less to me

Than the thin foam that frets upon the sea,

Less than the thistle-down of summer air

Which hath no seed: better to stand aloof

Far from these slanderous fools who mock my life

Knowing me not, better the lowliest roof

Fit for the meanest hind to sojourn in,

Than to go back to that hoarse cave of strife

Where my white soul first kissed the mouth of sin.

Last updated Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 15:21