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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

LIBERTATIS SACRA FAMES, by                 Poet's Biography


"Libertatis Sacra Fames" is a sonnet by Oscar Wilde written in 1881 that explores the themes of political governance, liberty, and democracy. The title, translated from Latin, means "Sacred Hunger for Freedom". Wilde, a prominent figure in the aesthetic movement of the late 19th century, frequently incorporated social and political themes into his work..

Provenance and Context: As a prominent literary figure of the 19th century, Wilde lived through a time of political upheaval and change, both in his home country of Ireland and abroad. "Libertatis Sacra Fames" was likely influenced by these events, reflecting Wilde's own views on governance, anarchy, and the cost of freedom.

Content and Themes: In this sonnet, Wilde explores the dichotomy between democratic and autocratic governance. He initially professes a preference for a republican state where "every man is Kinglike and no man / Is crowned above his fellows". However, he then expresses concern over demagogues who could potentially exploit a state of liberty, leading to anarchy and the loss of freedom.

Wilde concludes the sonnet by expressing disdain for those who cause unrest and rebellion without a worthy cause, leading to the decay of arts, culture, honor, and reverence under their rule. The poem suggests a skepticism of revolutions led by ignorant individuals who could potentially abuse their power and disrupt the balance of society.

Poetic Devices: The sonnet is rich with imagery and metaphor, creating a vivid picture of the potentially disastrous consequences of ill-considered rebellion. For instance, Wilde describes the potential rulers as those who "plant the red flag upon the piled-up street," indicating the chaos and bloodshed that can result from misguided revolutions.

The personification of treason and murder in the last two lines further underscores the potential consequences of a poorly led revolt. The sonnet concludes with a powerful image of murder walking with "silent bloody feet," a potent symbol of the unspoken violence that can accompany political upheaval.

Conclusion: In "Libertatis Sacra Fames," Oscar Wilde presents a nuanced and skeptical view of political revolutions and the concept of absolute liberty. While acknowledging the appeal of a state where all men are equal, he warns of the potential pitfalls of a misdirected quest for freedom. This sonnet offers a thoughtful reflection on the complexities of political governance, highlighting Wilde's ability to weave social and political commentary into his poetry.


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