Here’s a lyrical offering from poet and priest John Gray, who was born on this day in 1866 and at least partly inspired Oscar Wilde’s best-known character, Dorian Gray. It comes from Silverpoints, a collection of poetry published in 1893 which exemplified the influence exerted on Decadence by the great French Symbolist poets, whose work Gray also translated into English. This selection, florid in theme and form, both inspired by and dedicated to Paul Verlaine, is entitled “Heart’s Demesne”, “demesne” meaning “land or territory subject to a ruler” and thus related to “domain” (according to the OED):
Listen, bright lady, thy deep Pansie eyes
Made never answer when my eyes did pray,
Than with those quaintest looks of blank surprise.
But my love longing has devised a way
To mock thy living image, from thy hair
To thy rose toes and keep thee by alway.
My garden’s face is oh! so maidly fair,
With limbs all tapering and with hues all fresh;
Thine are the beauties all that flourish there.
Amaranth, fadeless, tells me of thy flesh.
Briar rose knows thy cheek, the Pink thy pout.
Bunched kisses dangle from the Woodbine mesh.
I love to loll, when Daisy stars peep out,
And hear the music of my garden dell,
Hollyhock’s laughter and the Sunflowers shout.
And many whisper things I dare not tell.