Oscar Wilde

Here you will find the Long Poem Charmides of poet Oscar Wilde


HE was a Grecian lad, who coming home
 With pulpy figs and wine from Sicily
 Stood at his galley's prow, and let the foam
 Blow through his crisp brown curls unconsciously,
 And holding wave and wind in boy's despite
 Peered from his dripping seat across the wet and stormy night

 Till with the dawn he saw a burnished spear
 Like a thin thread of gold against the sky,
 And hoisted sail, and strained the creaking gear,
 And bade the pilot head her lustily 
 Against the nor'west gale, and all day long
 Held on his way, and marked the rowers' time with measured song,

 And when the faint Corinthian hills were red
 Dropped anchor in a little sandy bay,
 And with fresh boughs of olive crowned his head,
 And brushed from cheek and throat the hoary spray,
 And washed his limbs with oil, and from the hold
 Brought out his linen tunic and his sandals brazen-soled,

 And a rich robe stained with the fishes' juice
 Which of some swarthy trader he had bought 
 Upon the sunny quay at Syracuse,
 And was with Tyrian broideries inwrought,
 And by the questioning merchants made his way
 Up through the soft and silver woods, and when the labouring day

 Had spun its tangled web of crimson cloud,
 Clomb the high hill, and with swift silent feet
 Crept to the fane unnoticed by the crowd
 Of busy priests, and from some dark retreat
 Watched the young swains his frolic playmates bring
 The firstling of their little flock, and the shy shepherd fling

 The crackling salt upon the flame, or hang
 His studded crook against the temple wall
 To Her who keeps away the ravenous fang
 Of the base wolf from homestead and from stall;
 And then the clear-voiced maidens 'gan to sing,
 And to the altar each man brought some goodly offering,

 A beechen cup brimming with milky foam,
 A fair cloth wrought with cunning imagery
 Of hounds in chase, a waxen honey-comb
 Dripping with oozy gold which scarce the bee 
 Had ceased from building, a black skin of oil
 Meet for the wrestlers, a great boar the fierce and white-tusked

 Stolen from Artemis that jealous maid
 To please Athena, and the dappled hide
 Of a tall stag who in some mountain glade
 Had met the shaft; and then the herald cried,
 And from the pillared precinct one by one
 Went the glad Greeks well pleased that they their simple vows had

 And the old priest put out the waning fires
 Save that one lamp whose restless ruby glowed 
 For ever in the cell, and the shrill lyres
 Came fainter on the wind, as down the road
 In joyous dance these country folk did pass,
 And with stout hands the warder closed the gates of polished brass.

 Long time he lay and hardly dared to breathe,
 And heard the cadenced drip of spilt-out wine,
 And the rose-petals falling from the wreath
 As the night breezes wandered through the shrine,
 And seemed to be in some entrancèd swoon
 Till through the open roof above the full and brimming moon

 Flooded with sheeny waves the marble floor,
 When from his nook upleapt the venturous lad,
 And flinging wide the cedar-carven door
 Beheld an awful image saffron-clad
 And armed for battle! the gaunt Griffin glared
 From the huge helm, and the long lance of wreck and ruin flared

 Like a red rod of flame, stony and steeled
 The Gorgon's head its leaden eyeballs rolled,
 And writhed its snaky horrors through the shield,
 And gaped aghast with bloodless lips and cold
 In passion impotent, while with blind gaze
 The blinking owl between the feet hooted in shrill amaze.

 The lonely fisher as he trimmed his lamp
 Far out at sea off Sunium, or cast
 The net for tunnies, heard a brazen tramp
 Of horses smite the waves, and a wild blast
 Divide the folded curtains of the night,
 And knelt upon the little poop, and prayed in holy fright.

 And guilty lovers in their venery
 Forgat a little while their stolen sweets, 
 Deeming they heard dread Dian's bitter cry;
 And the grim watchmen on their lofty seats
 Ran to their shields in haste precipitate,
 Or strained black-bearded throats across the dusky parapet.

 For round the temple rolled the clang of arms,
 And the twelve Gods leapt up in marble fear,
 And the air quaked with dissonant alarums
 Till huge Poseidon shook his mighty spear,
 And on the frieze the prancing horses neighed,
 And the low tread of hurrying feet rang from the cavalcade.

 Ready for death with parted lips he stood,
 And well content at such a price to see
 That calm wide brow, that terrible maidenhood,
 The marvel of that pitiless chastity,
 Ah! well content indeed, for never wight
 Since Troy's young shepherd prince had seen so wonderful a sight.

 Ready for death he stood, but lo! the air
 Grew silen