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Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde
1854 - 1900
The Irish born Wilde, in 1871, attended Trinity College, Dublin; there he won a Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek, and was elected to a Queen's Scholarship. He went on to Oxford taking a scholarship at Magdalen. Writing plays, he captured a wide audience in England; his dialogue was marked with skill and ingenuity. The wearing of long hair and idiosyncratic dress, and other mannerisms, such as the carrying of flowers in his hand while he lectured, tagged Wilde as an eccentric. He was a homosexual, and was tried and found "guilty" of it, and spent two years in prison at hard labour on account of it. In what turned out to be a very celebrated case, Wilde brought an abortive legal action in 1895 against the Marquis of Queensberry (Queensberry had objected to Wilde's association with his son Lord Alfred Douglas). He was exiled to Paris, there to die a broken man. Wilde's most noteworthy piece of fiction is The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891); as a play write, he will be remembered for "The Importance Of Being Earnest" (1899). For you out there who interested in things legal, then read The Trials of Oscar Wilde, H. Montgomery Hyde of the Middle Temple, ed., with introduction (92 pp.) by Hyde and a foreword (8 pp.) by Sir Travers Humphreys; Ills.; (London: Wm. Hodge, 1948).
|The Grave of Shelley|
The Grave of Shelley
Like burn-out torches by a sick man’s bed
Gaunt cypress-trees stand round the sun-bleached stone;
Here doth the little night-owl make here throne;
And lizard show his jewelled head.
And, where the chaliced poppies flame to red,
In the still chamber of yon pyramid
Surely some Old-World Sphinx lurks darkly hid,
Grim warder of this pleausaunce of the dead.
Ah! sweet indeed to rest within te womb
Of Earth, great mother of eternal sleep,
But sweeter far for thee a restless tomb
In where the tall ships founder in the glooms
Against the rocks of some wave-shattered steep.
Symphony in Yellow
An omnibus across the bridge
Crawls like a yellow butterfly,
And, here and there, a passer-by
Shows like a little restless midge.
Big barges full of yellow hoy
Are moored against the shadow wharf
And like a yellow silken scarf,
The thick fog hangs along the quay.
The yellow leaves begin to fade
And flutter from the Temple elms
And at my feet the pale green Thames
Lies like a rod of rippled jade.
Impression du Matin
The Thames nocturne of blue and gold
Changed to a Harmony in grey:
A barge with ochre-coloured hay
Dropt from the wharf: and chill and cold
The yellow fog came creeping down
The bridges, till the houses walls
Seemed changed to shadows and St. Paul’s
Loomed like a bubble o’er the town.
Then suddenly arose the clang
Of waking life; the streets were stirred
With country wagons: and a bird
Flew to the glistening roofs and sang.
But one pale woman all alone,
The daylight kissing her wan hair,
Loitered beneath the gas lamps’ flair,
With lips of flame and heart of stone.
HOW steep the stairs within Kings’ houses
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.
O well for him who lives at ease
Sonnet on the Massacre of the Christians in Bulgaria
CHRIST, dost thou live indeed? or are thy
Still straightened in their rock-hewn sepulchre?
And was thy Rising only dreamed by Her
Whose love of thee for all her sin atones?
For here the air is horrid with men’s groans,
The priests who call upon thy name are slain,
Dost thou not hear the bitter wail of pain
From those whose children lie upon the stones?
Come down, O Son of God! incestuous gloom
Curtains the land, and through the starless night
Over thy Cross the Crescent moon I see!
If thou in very truth didst burst the tomb
Come down, O Son of Man! and show thy might,
Lest Mahomet be crowned instead of Thee!
MILTON! I think
thy spirit hath passed away
From these white cliffs, and high-embattled towers;
This gorgeous fiery-coloured world of ours
Seems fallen into ashes dull and grey,
And the age changed unto a mimic play
Wherein we waste our else too-crowded hours
For all our pomp and pageantry and powers :
We are but fit to delve the common clay,
Seeing this little isle on which we stand,
This England, this sea-lion of the sea,
By ignorant demagogues is held in fee,
Who love her not: Dear God! is this the land
Which bare a triple empire in her hand
When Cromwell spake the word Democracy!
On the Recent Sale by Auction of Keat's Love-Letters
These are the letters which Endymion wrote
To one he loved in secret and apart,
And now the brawlers of the auction-mart
Bargain and bid for each poor blotted note,
Aye! for each separate pulse of passion quote
The merchant's price! I think they love not art
Who break the crystal of a poet's heart,
That small and sickly eyes may glare or gloat.
Is it not said, that many years ago,
In a far Eastern town some soldiers ran
With torches through the midnight, and began
To wrangle for mean raiment, and to throw
Dice for the garments of a wretched man,
Not knowing the God's wonder, or his woe?
TO stab my youth with desperate knives,
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
As one who poring on a Grecian urn
Scans the fair shapes some Attic hand hath made,
God with slim goddes, goodly man with maid,
And for their beauty’s sake is loth to turn
And face the obvious day, must I not yearn
For many a secret moon of indolent bliss,
When in the midmost shrine of Artemis
I see thee standing, antique-limed, and stern?
And yet – methink I’d rather see thee play
That serpent of old Nile, whose witchery
Made Emperors drunken, - come, great Egypt, shake
Our stage with all thy mimic pageants! Nay,
I am grown sick of unreal passions, make
The world thine Actium, me thine Antony!
I stood by the uvintageable 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, an waited for the end.
When lo! a sudden glory! ad I saw
From the black waters of my tortured past
The argent splendour of white limbs ascend!
© 2000 Elena and Yacov Feldman