YOUNG CHARMIDES

N 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,
Where thrushes never sing, and piping linnets mate no more,

There by a dim and dark Lethaean well
Young Charmides was lying, wearily
He plucked the blossoms from the asphodel,
And with its little rifled treasury
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
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,
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,
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.

To 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 Castilian rill,
Or from the Lesbian waters plucked down Sappho’s golden quill!

Enough, enough that he whose life had been
A fiery pulse of sin, a splendid shame,
Could in thy loveless land of Hades glean
One scorching harvest from those fields of flame
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
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.

by: Oscar Wilde “Young Charmides” is reprinted from Poetica Erotica. Ed. T.R. Smith. New York: Crown Publishers, 1921.

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