Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
Young Charmides
By Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)
 
(From Charmides, 1881)

IN melancholy moonless Acheron,
  Far from the goodly earth and joyous day,
Where no spring ever buds, nor ripening sun
  Weighs down the apple trees, nor flowery May
Chequers with chestnut blooms the grassy floor,        5
Where thrushes never sing, and piping linnets mate no more,
 
There by a dim and dark Lethæan well
  Young Charmides was lying, wearily
He plucked the blossoms from the asphodel,
  And with its little rifled treasury        10
Strewed the dull waters of the dusky stream,
And watched the white stars founder, and the land was like a dream,
 
When as he gazed into the watery glass
  And through his brown hair’s curly tangles scanned
His own wan face, a shadow seemed to pass        15
  Across the mirror, and a little hand
Stole into his, and warm lips timidly
Brushed his pale cheeks, and breathed their secret forth into a sigh.
 
Then turned he round his weary eyes and saw,
  And ever nigher still their faces came,        20
And nigher ever did their young mouths draw
  Until they seemed one perfect rose of flame,
And longing arms around her neck he cast,
And felt her throbbing bosom, and his breath came hot and fast,
 
And all his hoarded sweets were hers to kiss,        25
  And all her maidenhood was his to slay,
And limb to limb in long and rapturous bliss
  Their passion waxed and waned,—O why essay
To pipe again of love too venturous reed!
Enough, enough that Eros laughed upon that flowerless mead.        30
 
Too venturous poesy O why essay
  To pipe again of passion! fold thy wings
O’er daring Icarus and bid thy lay
  Sleep hidden in the lyre’s silent strings,
Till thou hast found the old Castalian rill,        35
Or from the Lesbian waters plucked drowned Sappho’s golden quill!
 
Enough, enough that he whose life had been
  A fiery pulse of sin, a splendid shame,
Could in the loveless land of Hades glean
  One scorching harvest from those fields of flame        40
Where passion walks with naked unshod feet
And is not wounded,—ah! enough that once their lips could meet
 
In that wild throb when all existences
  Seemed narrowed to one single ecstasy
Which dies through its own sweetness and the stress        45
  Of too much pleasure, ere Persephone
Had bade them serve her by the ebon throne
Of the pale God who in the fields of Enna loosed her zone.
 
 
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