Lionel Johnson (1867-1902)
It is generally believed that the "Destroyer of a Soul" was Oscar Wilde. The soul was that of Lord Alfred Douglas. Johnson had introduced the two. Johnson's verse is often described as deliberately old-fashioned, orderly, precise, and classical. These qualities seem especially apparent in The Age of a Dream (which is in hexameter) and ran counter to the Impressionist/Decadent movement of the 1890s. Perhaps ironically, he died of a stroke after falling off a barstool in 1902.
- The Destroyer of a Soul
- Doctor Major
- The Age of a Dream
The Destroyer of a Soul
- I hate you with a necessary hate.
- First, I sought patience: passionate was she:
- My patience turned in very scorn of me,
- That I should dare forgive a sin so great,
- As this, through which I sit disconsolate;
- Mourning for that live soul, I used to see;
- Soul of a saint, whose friend I used to be:
- Till you came by! a cold, corrupting, fate.
- Why come you now? You, whom I cannot cease
- With pure and perfect hate to hate? Go, ring
- The death-bell with a deep, triumphant toll!
- Say you, my friend sits by me still? Ah, peace!
- Call you this thing my friend? this nameless thing?
- This living body, hiding its dead soul?
To Dr. Birbeck Hill
- Why, no Sir! If a barren rascal cries,
- That he is most in love with pleasing woe,
- 'Tis plain, Sir! what to think of him: We know
- The dog lies; and the dog, too, knows he lies.
- Sir! if he's happy, he will dry his eyes,
- And stroll at Vauxhall for an hour or so:
- If he's unhappy, it were best he go
- Hang himself straight, nor pester us with sighs.
- Enough, Sir! Let us have no more of it:
- Your friend is little better than a Whig.
- But you and I, Sir, who are men of wit,
- Laugh at the follies of a canting prig.
- Let those who will, Sir! to such whims submit:
- No, Sir! we'll to the Mitre: Frank! my wig.
The Age of a Dream
To Christopher Whall
- Imageries of dream reveal a gracious age:
- Black armour, falling lace, and altar lights at morn.
- The courtesy of Saints, their gentleness and scorn,
- Lights on an earth more fair, than shone from Plato's page:
- The courtesy of knights, fair calm and sacred rage:
- The courtesy of love, sorrow for love's sake borne.
- Vanished, those high conceits! Desolate and forlorn,
- We hunger against hope for that lost heritage.
- Gone now, the carven work! Ruined, the golden shrine!
- No more the glorious organs pour their voice divine;
- No more rich frankincense drifts through the Holy Place:
- Now from the broken tower, what solemn bell still tolls,
- Mourning what piteous death? Answer, O saddened souls!
- Who mourn the death of beauty and the death of grace.