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OSCAR WILDEi FIVE FUGITIVE POEMS By Bobby Fong (Berea College) Most modern editions of Wilde's poetry have simply reprinted from the body of poems first assembled by Robert Ross.^ And since Ross, with three exceptions, confined the collected edition to poems published during Wilde's lifetime, the many unpublished poems in manuscript have been given short shrift. One reason for the neglect is clear enough! such poems are generally regarded as unfinished. The majority are in various stages of composition, and even those holographs without corrections might have been revised had Wilde found the opportunity. Any future scholarly edition should include such poems, but popular editions, intent on presenting Wilde as he chose to be seen, have with some justice excluded those drafts which never left the workshop. My concern at present, however, is with five poems which did circulate during Wilde's lifetime. One had been published with Wilde's approval but was overlooked by Ross; a second was submitted to a literary magazine but never published; the other three were given to friends and acquaintances. In each instance, Wilde voluntarily offered the poem to a public, whether that public was the reading audience, the editor of the magazine, or an individual admirer. These poems were "for the record." Made public, they became, for better or worse, official expressions of his sentiments and his artistry. As such, they commend themselves to our attention. The earliest of the five is "Lotus Land," one of two sonnets Wilde submitted to Robert Yelverton Tyrrell, editor of Kottabos. The other was "Tacitis senescimus annis," an early version of "Désespoir." Neither contribution was ever published, but Tyrrell kept the poems. The manuscripts were sold at Sotheby's in 1927, and "Lotus Land" was eventually acquired by the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. Admittedly, Tyrrell was wise not to publish "Lotus Land," for the poem is an aesthetic miscalculation! Lotus Land3 The sultry noon is amorous for rain; The golden bee, the lily's paramour, Sleeps in the lily-bell, which doth allure And bind its lovers with a honied chain; How still it is', no passionate note of pain Comes from the tawny songstress of the brake, And in the polished mirror of the lake My purple mountains see themselves again. 0 sad, and sweet, and silent', surely here A man might dwell apart from troublous fear, Watching the bounteous seasons as they go From lusty spring to winter; - Yet you say That there is War in Europe on this day? Red War and Ravenous? Can this be so! 0. F. O'F. W. W. Illaunroe, Though the language is overdone and clichéd, Wilde makes effective use of sibilants in conveying a sense of Illaunroe's languid peace. Furthermore, the bare mention of^"War in Europe" captures the still-insubstantial intrusion of violence into paradise. But the poem comes this far only to hiccup. The wide-eyed amazement of "Can this be so'." is painful in its unintentional hilarity, destroying the mood and disappointing all expectation. Nevertheless, "Lotus Land" helps us to trace its author's beginnings as a sonneteer. Wilde regularly submitted poetry to Kottabos while a student at Magdalen College, but he used "0. F. O'F. W. W." (Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde), which included all the middle initials bestowed him by his parents, only in 1876-77· Moreover, Christopher Millard, who under the pseudonym Stuart Mason compiled the Bibliography of Oscar Wilde. has dated the companion sonnet "Tacitis senescimus annis" 1876.5 Following Millard's lead, I conclude that the "War in Europe" must have been that between the Turks and the Serbian rebels which officially began in July, I876. The insurrection was one in a series of attempts by the Balkan principalities to challenge Turkish domination of the area (an earlier uprising that May in Bulgaria resulted in Turkish atrocities that would provoke Gladstone's famous pamphlets), and the threat of Russian involvement had all Europe on edge. The reverberations must have reached the family fishing lodge at Illaunroe, Galway, where Wilde was staying in August. Since his first published sonnet, "A Night Vision," appeared in Kottabos for Hilary term, I877, "Lotus...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 7-16
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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