Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SEN ARTYSTY; OR, THE ARTIST'S DREAM (FROM HELENA MODJESKA), by OSCAR WILDE

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First Line: I too have had my dreams: ay, known indeed
Last Line: And the red wounds of thorns upon my brow.
Alternate Author Name(s): Finga, O'flahertie Wills
Subject(s): Actors & Actresses; Modjesta, Helen (1840-1909)

I too have had my dreams: ay, known indeed
The crowded visions of a fiery youth
Which haunt me still.

* * * *

Methought that once I lay,
Within some garden-close, what time the Spring
Breaks like a bird from Winter, and the sky
Is sapphire-vaulted. The pure air was soft,
And the deep grass I lay on soft as air.
The strange and secret life of the young trees
Swelled in the green and tender bark, or burst
To buds of sheathed emerald; violets
Peered from their nooks of hiding, half afraid
Of their own loveliness; the vermeil rose
Opened its heart, and the bright star-flower
Shone like a star of morning. Butterflies,
In painted liveries of brown and gold,
Took the shy bluebells as their pavilions
And seats of pleasaunce; overhead a bird
Made snow of all the blossoms as it flew
To charm the woods with singing: the whole world
Seemed waking to delight!
And yet -- and yet --.
My soul was filled with leaden heaviness:
I had no joy in Nature; what to me,
Ambition's slave, was crimson-stained rose,
Or the gold-sceptred crocus? The bright bird
Sang out of tune for me, and the sweet flowers
Seemed but a pageant, and an unreal show
That mocked my heart; for, like the fabled snake
That stings itself to anguish, so I lay,
Self-tortured, self-tormented.
The day crept
Unheeded on the dial, till the sun
Dropt, purple-sailed, into the gorgeous East,
When, from the fiery heart of that great orb,
Came One whose shape of beauty far outshone
The most bright vision of this common earth.
Girt was she in a robe more white than flame,
Or furnace-heated brass; upon her head
She bare a laurel crown, and like a star
That falls from the high heaven suddenly,
Passed to my side.
Then kneeling low, I cried,
'O much-desired! O long-waited for!
Immortal Glory! Great world-conqueror!
O let me not die crownless; once, at least,
Let thine imperial laurels bind my brows,
Ignoble else. Once let the clarion-note
And trump of loud ambition sound my name,
And for the rest I care not.'
Then to me,
In gentle voice, the angel made reply:
'Child ignorant of the true happiness,
Nor knowing life's best wisdom, thou wert made
For light, and love, and laughter; not to waste
Thy youth in shooting arrows at the sun,
Or nurturing that ambition in thy soul
Whose deadly poison will infect thy heart,
Marring all joy and gladness! Tarry here,
In the sweet confines of this garden-close,
Whose level meads and glades delectable
Invite for pleasure; the wild bird that wakes
These silent dells with sudden melody
Shall be thy playmate; and each flower that blows
Shall twine itself unbidden in thy hair --
Garland more meet for thee than the dread weight
Of Glory's laurel-wreath.'
'Ah! fruitless gifts,'
I cried, unheeding of her prudent word,
'Are all such mortal flowers, whose brief lives
Are bounded by the dawn and setting sun.
The anger of the noon can wound the rose,
And the rain rob the crocus of its gold;
But thine immortal coronal of Fame,
Thy crown of deathless laurel, this alone
Age cannot harm, nor winter's icy tooth
Pierce to its hurt, nor common things profane.'
No answer made the angel, but her face
Dimmed with the mists of pity.
Then methought
That from mine eyes, wherein ambition's torch
Burned with its latest and most ardent flame,
Flashed forth two level beams of straightened light,
Beneath whose fulgent fires the laurel crown
Twisted and curled, as when the Sirian star
Withers the ripening corn, and one pale leaf
Fell on my brow; and I leapt up and felt
The mighty pulse of Fame, and heard far off
The sound of many nations praising me!

* * * *

One fiery-coloured moment of great life!
And then -- how barren was the nations' praise!
How vain the trump of Glory! Bitter thorns
Were in that laurel leaf, whose toothed barbs
Burned and bit deep till fire and red flame
Seemed to feed full upon my brain, and make
The garden a bare desert.
With wild hands
I strove to tear it from my bleeding brow,
But all in vain; and with a dolorous cry
That paled the lingering stars before their time,
I waked at last, and saw the timorous dawn
Peer with grey face into my darkened room,
And would have deemed it a mere idle dream
But for this restless pain that gnaws my heart,
And the red wounds of thorns upon my brow.

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