Original poem reprinted online here: "A Vision" by Oscar Wilde
Originally read: May 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: Oscar Wilde
From the beginning I noticed two things. One, that the poem is an Elizabethan sonnet. Two, I tried my best to pin the images to allusions. Why? The poem doesn't make sense to me if the lines don't allude to certain things. But at the same time, I have to take the poem as is if I can't pinpoint the allusion.
For example the first line, "Two crowned Kings, and One that stood alone" is a very narrative and heavy line. First, there are kings, and second the focus in the "One" that stood alone. Past me wrote "Dante?" But that doesn't make sense because Dante wasn't a king, nor did he aspire to be one.
The entire time Past Me thought Antigone reading the description. But this isn't the case. The focus is of the third "one" (not the third king past me wrote). And look at the forlorn description this "one" has, "with sad eyes as one uncomforted, / And wearied with man's never-ceasing moan" I'm not too sure what "man's never-ceasing moan" refers to. Yes, there's the inclusion of "sin" but of what sin? What is the sin that can't be atone, "sweet long lips with tears and kisses fed"?
And here's where the punctuation of Antigone hit, "And at his feet I marked his broken stone," There's a sense of Antigone here, but this is wrong. The intent is similar, burying someone close, but not the actions. Where Antigone had dust, this speaker is more eulogizing the "one" with "lillies, dove-like to his knees."
So now what? Well this poem, up to this point, still has an elegiac quality to it. There's the "one" who is not remembered but only by the speaker. I could think this way about the poem.
Until this line, "I cried to Beatrice, 'Who are these?'" There's only one Beatrice that I know of in literature and that (again) refers to Dante. But that doesn't necessarily make the "I" speaker Dante. What the speaker could refer to Beatrice as the muse to make an elegy. At this point, the speaker is trying to write the elegy, but it isn't coming together -- very broad, too mournful as if trying to escape the personal.
And the allusions at the couplet, "'Aeschylos first, the second Sophokles, / And last (wide stream of tears!) Euripides'" These lines refer to what "Beatrice" answers. Looking back the "two crowned kings, and 'One'" could refer to these playwrights. But that's when the allusion starts to take over the poem. Does the speaker consider "Euripides" as the "one"? And if so, why the separation of the two?
This is to say that there's a lot going into the poem where, I feel, the poem is dependent on the allusions (more so at the end) which lead to confusion. Also this could be Oscar Wilde trolling and tounge-in-cheek mocking the three playwrights as ambiguous kings. This wouldn't surprise me either.