by: Oscar Wilde
- O that gaunt House of Art which
lacks for naught
- Of all the great things men have saved from Time,
- The withered body of a girl was brought
- Dead ere the world's glad youth had touched its prime,
- And seen by lonely Arabs lying hid
- In the dim womb of some black pyramid.
- But when they had unloosed the linen band
- Which swathed the Egyptian's body,--lo! was found
- Closed in the wasted hollow of her hand
- A little seed, which sown in English ground
- Did wondrous snow of starry blossoms bear
- And spread rich odours through our spring-tide air.
- With such strange arts this flower did allure
- That all forgotten was the asphodel,
- And the brown bee, the lily's paramour,
- Forsook the cup where he was wont to dwell,
- For not a thing of earth it seemed to be,
- But stolen from some heavenly Arcady.
- In vain the sad narcissus, wan and white
- At its own beauty, hung across the stream,
- The purple dragon-fly had no delight
- With its gold dust to make his wings a-gleam,
- Ah! no delight the jasmine-bloom to kiss,
- Or brush the rain-pearls from the eucharis.
- For love of it the passionate nightingale
- Forgot the hills of Thrace, the cruel king,
- And the pale dove no longer cared to sail
- Through the wet woods at time of blossoming,
- But round this flower of Egypt sought to float,
- With silvered wing and amethystine throat.
- While the hot sun blazed in his tower of blue
- A cooling wind crept from the land of snows,
- And the warm south with tender tears of dew
- Drenched its white leaves when Hesperos up-rose
- Amid those sea-green meadows of the sky
- On which the scarlet bars of sunset lie.
- But when o'er wastes of lily-haunted field
- The tired birds had stayed their amorous tune,
- And broad and glittering like an argent shield
- High in the sapphire heavens hung the moon,
- Did no strange dream or evil memory make
- Each tremulous petal of its blossoms shake?
- Ah no! to this bright flower a thousand years
- Seemed but the lingering of a summer's day,
- It never knew the tide of cankering fears
- Which turn a boy's gold hair to withered grey,
- The dread desire of death it never knew,
- Or how all folk that they were born must rue.
- For we to death with pipe and dancing go,
- Now would we pass the ivory gate again,
- As some sad river wearied of its flow
- Through the dull plains, the haunts of common men,
- Leaps lover-like into the terrible sea!
- And counts it gain to die so gloriously.
- We mar our lordly strength in barren strife
- With the world's legions led by clamorous care,
- It never feels decay but gathers life
- From the pure sunlight and the supreme air,
- We live beneath Time's wasting sovereignty,
- It is the child of all eternity.
POEMS BY OSCAR WILDE
'Athanasia' was originally published
in Time (1879). It was revised for Poems (1881).