Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
The Dryad
By Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)
 
(From Charmides, 1881)

I WAS the Attic shepherd’s trysting place,
  Beneath my shadow Amaryllis lay,
And round my trunk would laughing Daphnis chase
  The timorous girl, till tired out with play
She felt his hot breath stir her tangled hair,        5
And turned, and looked, and fled no more from such delightful snare.
 
Then come away unto my ambuscade
  Where clustering woodbine weaves a canopy
For amorous pleasaunce, and the rustling shade
  Of Paphian myrtles seems to sanctify        10
The dearest rites of love, there in the cool
And green recesses of its farthest depth there is a pool,
 
The ouzel’s haunt, the wild bee’s pasturage,
  For round its rim great creamy lilies float
Through their flat leaves in verdant anchorage,        15
  Each cup a white-sailed golden-laden boat
Steered by a dragon-fly,—be not afraid
To leave this wan and wave-kissed shore, surely the place was made
 
For lovers such as we, the Cyprian Queen,
  One arm around her boyish paramour,        20
Strays often there at eve, and I have seen
  The moon strip off her misty vestiture
For young Endymion’s eyes, be not afraid,
The panther feet of Dian never tread that secret glade.
 
Nay if thou wil’st, back to the beating brine,        25
  Back to the boisterous billow let us go,
And walk all day beneath the hyaline
  Huge vault of Neptune’s watery portico,
And watch the purple monsters of the deep
Sport in ungainly play, and from his lair keen Xiphias leap.        30
 
For if my mistress find me lying here
  She will not ruth of gentle pity show,
But lay her boat-spear down, and with austere
  Relentless fingers string the cornel bow,
And draw the feathered notch against her breast,        35
And loose the archèd cord, ay, even now upon the quest
 
I hear her hurrying feet,—awake, awake,
  Thou laggard in love’s battle! once at least
Let me drink deep of passion’s wine, and slake
  My parchèd being with the nectarous feast        40
Which even Gods affect! O come Love come,
Still we have time to reach the cavern of thine azure home.
 
Scarce had she spoken when the shuddering trees
  Shook, and the leaves divided, and the air
Grew conscious of a God, and the grey seas        45
  Crawled backward, and a long and dismal blare
Blew from some tasselled horn, a sleuth-hound bayed,
And like a flame a barbèd reed flew whizzing down the glade.
 
And where the little flowers of her breast
  Just brake into their milky blossoming,        50
This murderous paramour, this unbidden guest,
  Pierced and struck deep in horrid chambering,
And ploughed a bloody furrow with its dart,
And dug a long red road, and cleft with wingèd death her heart.
 
Sobbing her life out with a bitter cry        55
  On the boy’s body fell the Dryad maid,
Sobbing for incomplete virginity,
  And raptures unenjoyed, and pleasures dead,
And all the pain of things unsatisfied,
And the bright drops of crimson youth crept down her throbbing side.        60
 
Ah! pitiful it was to hear her moan,
  And very pitiful to see her die
Ere she had yielded up her sweets, or known
  The joy of passion, that dread mystery
Which not to know is not to live at all,        65
And yet to know is to be held in death’s most deadly thrall.
 
 
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