Monday, June 25, 2007

E Tenebris

by Oscar Wilde

Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach thy hand,
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God's throne should stand.
"He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel's smitten height."
Nay, peace, I shall behold, before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
The wounded hands, the weary human face.

* * *

The title of this poem means "Out of (the) Darkness." Oscar Wilde is one of the most famous (or infamous) literary converts, livng a life of dissolution and sin before converting near the end of his life to the Catholic Church.

The poem conveys in many sharp images what it is like to live in sin. This serves as an excellent counter for those who glorify sin as freedom or pleasure: there is really no happiness in it. A sinful soul is full of darkness, and in the end it comes to realize its own misery.

Another voice enters the poem, mocking the speaker with the idea that Christ does not hear him, as Baal did not hear his prophets when Elijah set up his contest with them on Mount Carmel. But the speaker rejects this voice, expressing that he will see "before the night" (perhaps symbolizing death) a Savior who will redeem him.


Santiago said...

Which book?

Sheila said...

Um, Kings, I think ... I'm not 100% certain, but I think Elijah and Elisha were in the book of Kings.

Ibid said...

Its a sonnet, isn't it?

Santiago said...

No, I mean which book of Wilde's.

Sheila said...

Ibid: Yes, Petrarchan.

Santiago: I've no idea; I found it in an anthology. You could probably find out with an Internet search.