The Grave of Shelley by Oscar Wilde
“The Grave of Shelley” is a poignant poem by playwright, poet, novelist Oscar Wilde, featured in his poetry collection Poems. In this piece, Wilde pays tribute to Percy Bysshe Shelley, the renowned Romantic poet. Wilde adopts a tone of reverence and introspection in this poem, exploring themes of artistic legacy and the transient nature of life and fame. The elegiac tone of the poem reflects Wilde’s admiration for Shelley, both as a poet and as a symbol of artistic beauty and idealism. For those interested in exploring more of Wilde’s poetic works, Poems is available online at PageVio.
1. The Grave of Shelley
Like burnt-out torches by a sick man’s bed
Gaunt cypress-trees stand round the sun-bleached stone;
Here doth the little night-owl make her throne,
And the slight lizard show his jewelled head.
And, where the chaliced poppies flame to red,
In the still chamber of yon pyramid
Surely some Old-World Sphinx lurks darkly hid,
Grim warder of this pleasaunce of the dead.
Ah! sweet indeed to rest within the womb
Of Earth, great mother of eternal sleep,
But sweeter far for thee a restless tomb
In the blue cavern of an echoing deep,
Or where the tall ships founder in the gloom
Against the rocks of some wave-shattered steep.
2. The Grave of Shelley Analysis
“The Grave of Shelley” evokes imagery and themes related to death, nature, and the contrast between tranquility and unrest in the context of the afterlife. Let’s break it down:
“Like burnt-out torches by a sick man’s bed”
This simile sets a somber mood, comparing extinguished torches, which signify the end of light or life, to the atmosphere surrounding a sick person’s bed, implying the imminent approach of death.
“Gaunt cypress-trees stand round the sun-bleached stone”
Cypress trees are often associated with mourning and graveyards. Their presence around a sun-bleached stone, presumably a tombstone, reinforces the theme of death and decay.
Here doth the little night-owl make her throne, And the slight lizard show his jewelled head
These lines bring attention to small creatures inhabiting this place of death, suggesting that life continues in different forms even in places associated with death.
And, where the chaliced poppies flame to red, In the still chamber of yon pyramid
The reference to red poppies and pyramids may symbolize sleep or eternal rest (poppies are often associated with sleep due to their opiate properties), and the pyramids evoke ancient burial practices.
Surely some Old-World Sphinx lurks darkly hid, Grim warder of this pleasaunce of the dead
The Sphinx, a symbol from ancient Egyptian mythology, often associated with riddles and guarding sacred spaces, is depicted as a mysterious, almost menacing guardian of the dead.
Ah! sweet indeed to rest within the womb / Of Earth, great mother of eternal sleep
This line romanticizes the idea of being buried in the earth, seeing it as a return to a motherly embrace and eternal rest.
But sweeter far for thee a restless tomb / In the blue cavern of an echoing deep
Contrasting the previous line, this suggests that a more fitting resting place might be somewhere more dynamic or mysterious, like the ocean depths.
Or where the tall ships founder in the gloom / Against the rocks of some wave-shattered steep
The poem concludes with an image of ships crashing against rocks, evoking a sense of drama and unrest, contrasting the tranquility of the grave.
Overall, the poem reflects on the nature of death, contrasting the peacefulness of a traditional grave with more restless, possibly adventurous, final resting places. It captures the tension between a desire for peace after death and a yearning for continued existence or remembrance in a more dramatic or enduring manner.
Size: 8″ x 12″ (2:3 ratio)
Copyright information: For personal use only
Note: Actual poster background color is white. For the sample poster, the background is made gray for illustration purpose.
If you find pleasure in “The Grave of Shelley,” you might also appreciate delving into other poems written by Oscar Wilde.