Le Panneau, by Oscar Wilde

Woman with little girl, Mankayen Garden
Woman with little girl, Mankayen Garden (c.1890)

Under the title “Fantaisies Décoratives,” Oscar Wilde published in Lady’s Pictorial, Christmas Number 1887, two poems: “Le Panneau” and “Les Ballons.” In a letter to the illustrator John Bernard Partridge, postmarked September 24, 1887, he wrote that the poem “Le Panneau” is “a suggestion for a design for a Japanese panel” and that “the girl under the rose tree is Japanese.”

Le Panneau
by Oscar Wilde

Under the rose-tree’s dancing shade
There stands a little ivory girl,
Pulling the leaves of pink and pearl
With pale green nails of polished jade.

The red leaves fall upon the mould,
The white leaves flutter, one by one,
Down to a blue bowl where the sun,
Like a great dragon, writhes in gold.

The white leaves float upon the air,
The red leaves flutter idly down,
Some fall upon her yellow gown,
And some upon her raven hair.

She takes an amber lute and sings,
And as she sings a silver crane
Begins his scarlet neck to strain,
And flap his burnished metal wings.

She takes a lute of amber bright,
And from the thicket where he lies
Her lover, with his almond eyes,
Watches her movements in delight.

And now she gives a cry of fear,
And tiny tears begin to start:
A thorn has wounded with its dart
The pink-veined sea-shell of her ear.

And now she laughs a merry note:
There has fallen a petal of the rose
Just where the yellow satin shows
The blue-veined flower of her throat.

With pale green nails of polished jade,
Pulling the leaves of pink and pearl,
There stands a little ivory girl
Under the rose-tree’s dancing shade.

Source: The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, Volume I, Poems and Poems in Prose, B. Fong and K. Beckson (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press (2000). A hypertext version can be found on Wikisource.

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