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Oscar Wilde

(To Sarah Bernhardt)

How vain and dull this common world must seem
To such a One as thou, who should'st have talked
At Florence with Mirandola, or walked
Through the cool olives of the Academe:
Thou should'st have gathered reeds from a green stream
For Goat-foot Pan's shrill piping, and have played
With the white girls in that Phaeacian glade
Where grave Odysseus wakened from his dream.

Ah! surely once some urn of Attic clay
Held thy wan dust, and thou hast come again
Back to this common world so dull and vain,
For thou wert weary of the sunless day,
The heavy fields of scentless asphodel,
The loveless lips with which men kiss in Hell.

The reason Wilde wrote this poem to Sarah Bernhardt was because she usually played Racine's Phedre, a French classic about Greek figures. The list of characters goes as follows:
Thesee: King of Athens, son of Egee, raped Antiope resulting in the birth of Hippolyte, married to Phedre.
Phedre: Wife of Thesee, mother of two, loves Hippolyte.
Hippolyte: Son of Thesee and Antiope, in love with Aricie.
Aricie: Daughter of Egee's sister (making her cousins with Thesee), in love with Hippolyte.
Antiope: Queen of the Amazones.
Theramene: Gouvernor of Hippolyte.
Oenone: Phedre's confident.
Ismene:Aricie's confident.

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