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Serenade -- Oscar Wilde

Carrying on with the theme...

Guest poem sent in by Suchitra
(Poem #658) Serenade
 The western wind is blowing fair
   Across the dark Ægean sea,
 And at the secret marble stair
   My Tyrian galley waits for thee.
 Come down! the purple sail is spread,
   The watchman sleeps within the town,
 O leave thy lily-flowered bed,
   O Lady mine come down, come down!

 She will not come, I know her well,
   Of lover's vows she hath no care,
 And little good a man can tell
   Of one so cruel and so fair.
 True love is but a woman's toy,
   They never know the lover's pain,
 And I who loved as loves a boy
   Must love in vain, must love in vain.

 O noble pilot tell me true
   Is that the sheen of golden hair?
 Or is it but the tangled dew
   That binds the passion-flowers there?
 Good sailor come and tell me now
   Is that my Lady's lily hand?
 Or is it but the gleaming prow,
   Or is it but the silver sand?

 No! no! 'tis not the tangled dew,
   'Tis not the silver-fretted sand,
 It is my own dear Lady true
   With golden hair and lily hand!
 O noble pilot steer for Troy,
   Good sailor ply the labouring oar,
 This is the Queen of life and joy
   Whom we must bear from Grecian shore!

 The waning sky grows faint and blue,
   It wants an hour still of day,
 Aboard! aboard! my gallant crew,
   O Lady mine away! away!
 O noble pilot steer for Troy,
   Good sailor ply the labouring oar,
 O loved as only loves a boy!
   O loved for ever evermore!
-- Oscar Wilde

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, the son of an
eye-surgeon and a literary hostess and writer (known under the pseudonym
"Speranza"). After studying at Trinity College, Dublin, Wilde went to
Magdalen College, Oxford, where he achieved a double first and won the
Newdigate prize for a poem "Ravenna".

While at Oxford he became notorious for his flamboyant wit, talent, charm
and aestheticism, and this reputation soon won him a place in London
society. Bunthorne, the Fleshly Poet in Gilbert and Sullivan's opera
Patience was widely thought to be a caricature of Wilde (though in fact it
was intended as a skit of Rossetti) and Wilde seems to have consciously
styled himself on this figure.

In 1882 Wilde gave a one year lecture tour of America, visiting Paris in
1883 before returning to New York for the opening of his first play Vera. In
1884 he married and had two sons, for whom he probably wrote his first book
of fairy tales, The Happy Prince. The next decade was his most prolific and
the time when he wrote the plays for which he is best remembered. His
writing and particularly his plays are epigramatic and witty and Wilde was
not afraid to shock.

This period was also haunted by accusations about his personal life, chiefly
prompted by the Marquess of Queensberry's fierce opposition to the intense
friendship between Wilde and her son, Lord Alfred. These accusations
culminated in 1895 in Wilde's imprisonment for homosexual offences.

While in prison, Wilde was declared bankrupt, and after his release he lived
on the generosity of friends. From prison he wrote a long and bitter letter
to Lord Alfred, part of which was afterwards published as De Profundis, but
after his release he wrote nothing but the poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol.


Oscar Wilde's works online at

A comprehensive biography at

40 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Julian Tepper said...

Here is an excellent account of what befell Wilde.

[broken link]


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