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Oscar Wilde (1854–1900).  Poems.  1881.

52. Panthea


NAY, let us walk from fire unto fire, 
  From passionate pain to deadlier delight,— 
I am too young to live without desire, 
  Too young art thou to waste this summer night 
Asking those idle questions which of old         5
Man sought of seer and oracle, and no reply was told. 
  
For, sweet, to feel is better than to know, 
  And wisdom is a childless heritage, 
One pulse of passion—youth’s first fiery glow,— 
  Are worth the hoarded proverbs of the sage:  10
Vex not thy soul with dead philosophy, 
Have we not lips to kiss with, hearts to love, and eyes to see! 
  
Dost thou not hear the murmuring nightingale 
  Like water bubbling from a silver jar, 
So soft she sings the envious moon is pale,  15
  That high in heaven she is hung so far 
She cannot hear that love-enraptured tune,— 
Mark how she wreathes each horn with mist, yon late and labouring moon. 
  
White lilies, in whose cups the gold bees dream, 
  The fallen snow of petals where the breeze  20
Scatters the chestnut blossom, or the gleam 
  Of boyish limbs in water,—are not these 
Enough for thee, dost thou desire more? 
Alas! the Gods will give nought else from their eternal store. 
  
For our high Gods have sick and wearied grown  25
  Of all our endless sins, our vain endeavour 
For wasted days of youth to make atone 
  By pain or prayer or priest, and never, never, 
Hearken they now to either good or ill, 
But send their rain upon the just and the unjust at will.  30
  
They sit at ease, our Gods they sit at ease, 
  Strewing with leaves of rose their scented wine, 
They sleep, they sleep, beneath the rocking trees 
  Where asphodel and yellow lotus twine, 
Mourning the old glad days before they knew  35
What evil things the heart of man could dream, and dreaming do. 
  
And far beneath the brazen floor they see 
  Like swarming flies the crowd of little men, 
The bustle of small lives, then wearily 
  Back to their lotus-haunts they turn again  40
Kissing each other’s mouths, and mix more deep 
The poppy-seeded draught which brings soft purple-lidded sleep. 
  
There all day long the golden-vestured sun, 
  Their torch-bearer, stands with his torch a-blaze, 
And when the gaudy web of noon is spun  45
  By its twelve maidens through the crimson haze 
Fresh from Endymion’s arms comes forth the moon, 
And the immortal Gods in toils of mortal passions swoon. 
  
There walks Queen Juno through some dewy mead 
  Her grand white feet flecked with the saffron dust  50
Of wind-stirred lilies, while young Ganymede 
  Leaps in the hot and amber-foaming must, 
His curls all tossed, as when the eagle bare 
The frightened boy from Ida through the blue Ionian air. 
  
There in the green heart of some garden close  55
  Queen Venus with the shepherd at her side, 
Her warm soft body like the briar rose 
  Which would be white yet blushes at its pride, 
Laughs low for love, till jealous Salmacis 
Peers through the myrtle-leaves and sighs for pain of lonely bliss.  60
  
There never does that dreary north-wind blow 
  Which leaves our English forests bleak and bare, 
Nor ever falls the swift white-feathered snow, 
  Nor doth the red-toothed lightning ever dare 
To wake them in the silver-fretted night  65
When we lie weeping for some sweet sad sin, some dead delight. 
  
Alas! they know the far Lethæan spring, 
  The violet-hidden waters well they know, 
Where one whose feet with tired wandering 
  Are faint and broken may take heart and go,  70
And from those dark depths cool and crystalline 
Drink, and draw balm, and sleep for sleepless souls, and anodyne. 
  
But we oppress our natures, God or Fate 
  Is our enemy, we starve and feed 
On vain repentance—O we are born too late!  75
  What balm for us in bruisèd poppy seed 
Who crowd into one finite pulse of time 
The joy of infinite love and the fierce pain of infinite crime. 
  
O we are wearied of this sense of guilt, 
  Wearied of pleasure’s paramour despair,  80
Wearied of every temple we have built, 
  Wearied of every right, unanswered prayer, 
For man is weak; God sleeps: and heaven is high: 
One fiery-coloured moment: one great love; and lo! we die. 
  
Ah! but no ferry-man with labouring pole  85
  Nears his black shallop to the flowerless strand, 
No little coin of bronze can bring the soul 
  Over Death’s river to the sunless land, 
Victim and wine and vow are all in vain, 
The tomb is sealed; the soldiers watch; the dead rise not again.  90
  
We are resolved into the supreme air, 
  We are made one with what we touch and see, 
With our heart’s blood each crimson sun is fair, 
  With our young lives each spring-impassioned tree 
Flames into green, the wildest beasts that range  95
The moor our kinsmen are, all life is one, and all is change. 
  
With beat of systole and of diastole 
  One grand great life throbs through earth’s giant heart, 
And mighty waves of single Being roll 
  From nerve-less germ to man, for we are part 100
Of every rock and bird and beast and hill, 
One with the things that prey on us, and one with what we kill. 
  
From lower cells of waking life we pass 
  To full perfection; thus the world grows old: 
We who are godlike now were once a mass 105
  Of quivering purple flecked with bars of gold, 
Unsentient or of joy or misery, 
And tossed in terrible tangles of some wild and wind-swept sea. 
  
This hot hard flame with which our bodies burn 
  Will make some meadow blaze with daffodil, 110
Ay! and those argent breasts of thine will turn 
  To water-lilies; the brown fields men till 
Will be more fruitful for our love to-night, 
Nothing is lost in nature, all things live in Death’s despite. 
  
The boy’s first kiss, the hyacinth’s first bell, 115
  The man’s last passion, and the last red spear 
That from the lily leaps, the asphodel 
  Which will not let its blossoms blow for fear 
Of too much beauty, and the timid shame 
Of the young bride-groom at his lover’s eyes,—these with the same 120
  
One sacrament are consecrate, the earth 
  Not we alone hath passions hymeneal, 
The yellow buttercups that shake for mirth 
  At daybreak know a pleasure not less real 
Than we do, when in some fresh-blossoming wood 125
We draw the spring into our hearts, and feel that life is good. 
  
So when men bury us beneath the yew 
  Thy crimson-stainèd mouth a rose will be, 
And thy soft eyes lush bluebells dimmed with dew, 
  And when the white narcissus wantonly 130
Kisses the wind its playmate, some faint joy 
Will thrill our dust, and we will be again fond maid and boy. 
  
And thus without life’s conscious torturing pain 
  In some sweet flower we will feel the sun, 
And from the linnet’s throat will sing again, 135
  And as two gorgeous-mailèd snakes will run 
Over our graves, or as two tigers creep 
Through the hot jungle where the yellow-eyed huge lions sleep 
  
And give them battle! How my heart leaps up 
  To think of that grand living after death 140
In beast and bird and flower, when this cup, 
  Being filled too full of spirit, bursts for breath, 
And with the pale leaves of some autumn day 
The soul earth’s earliest conqueror becomes earth’s last great prey. 
  
O think of it! We shall inform ourselves 145
  Into all sensuous life, the goat-foot Faun, 
The Centaur, or the merry bright-eyed Elves 
  That leave their dancing rings to spite the dawn 
Upon the meadows, shall not be more near 
Than you and I to nature’s mysteries, for we shall hear 150
  
The thrush’s heart beat, and the daisies grow, 
  And the wan snowdrop sighing for the sun 
On sunless days in winter, we shall know 
  By whom the silver gossamer is spun, 
Who paints the diapered fritillaries, 155
On what wide wings from shivering pine to pine the eagle flies. 
  
Ay! had we never loved at all, who knows 
  If yonder daffodil had lured the bee 
Into its gilded womb, or any rose 
  Had hung with crimson lamps its little tree! 160
Methinks no leaf would ever bud in spring, 
But for the lovers’ lips that kiss, the poets’ lips that sing. 
  
Is the light vanished from our golden sun, 
  Or is this dædal-fashioned earth less fair, 
That we are nature’s heritors, and one 165
  With every pulse of life that beats the air? 
Rather new suns across the sky shall pass, 
New splendour come unto the flower, new glory to the grass. 
  
And we two lovers shall not sit afar, 
  Critics of nature, but the joyous sea 170
Shall be our raiment, and the bearded star 
  Shoot arrows at our pleasure! We shall be 
Part of the mighty universal whole, 
And through all æons mix and mingle with the Kosmic Soul! 
  
We shall be notes in that great Symphony 175
  Whose cadence circles through the rhythmic spheres, 
And all the live World’s throbbing heart shall be 
  One with our heart, the stealthy creeping years 
Have lost their terrors now, we shall not die, 
The Universe itself shall be our Immortality! 180


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