OFT have we trod the vales of Castaly
  And heard sweet notes of sylvan music blown
  From antique reeds to common folk unknown:
And often launched our bark upon that sea
Which the nine Muses hold in empery,
  And ploughed free furrows through the wave and foam,
  Nor spread reluctant sail for more safe home
Till we had freighted well our argosy.
Of which despoilèd treasures these remain,
  Sordello's passion, and the honied line
Of young Endymion, lordly Tamburlaine
  Driving his pampered jades, and more than these,
The seven-fold vision of the Florentine,
  And grave-browed Milton's solemn harmonies.
- Oscar Wilde
Published in Rosa Mystica, Poem in 1881, the title of this poem refers to Baruch Spinoza's, a 17th century religious philosopher and his doctrine of amor Dei intellectualis. His belief is that the ultimate aim for humankind is the intellectual love of God or the amor Dei intellectualis, which is equivalent to knowledge of God, that this knowledge of the natural causal order is the only true 'religion' and a route to freedom. It is through this untiring bond of devotion that enables man to attain his greatest achievements by creating an intellectual bond of affection.

In Bill Moyers interview with Joseph Campbell they discuss and compare the many myths and religions of the world. While Wilde interprets and likens these ideas of myth and theological faith among the poets and their work asAmor Intellectualis. Campbell takes this complex idea and does a beautiful job of boiling it all down to one concept. In his discussion Moyers asks:

    ......aren't many visionaries and even leaders and heroes close to the edge of neuroticism?

    " Yes they are," replies Campbell and gives the following example: "The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience – that is the hero’s deed....The reference of the metaphor in religious traditions is to something transcendent that is not literally any thing. (By)....reading the words in terms of prose instead of in terms of poetry, reading the metaphor in terms of the denotation instead of the connotation."

    To which Moyers comments: And poetry gets to the unseen reality.

    Campbell explains some more: "That which is beyond even the concept of reality, that which transcends all thought. The myth puts you there all the time, gives you a line to connect with that mystery which you are.

    Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And that’s what it is. The nature is your nature, and all of these wonderful poetic images of mythology are referring to something in you. When your mind is simply trapped by the image out there so that you never make the reference to yourself, you have misread the image.

    The inner world is the world of your requirements and your energies and your structure and your possibilities that meets the outer world. And the outer world is the field of your incarnation. That’s where you are. You've got to keep both going. As Novalis said, "The seat of the soul is there where the inner and outer worlds meet."

    Then Campbell sums up: "Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off. And if you don't get it here, you won't get it anywhere."

Campbell is saying, "Eternity is now.".

Arthur Symons composed a brief essay on Wilde within a year of his death, titled An Atrist in Attitudes: Oscar Wilde. Symons begins with Wilde's life seventeen years after Amor Intellectualis was published, with the events in Wilde's life after the publication of his The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) and describes what he thought Wilde had in mind when he created his poetry and prose:

    His intellect was dramatic, and the whole man was not so much a personality as an attitude. Without being a sage, he maintained the attitude of a sage; without being a poet, he maintained the attitude of a poet; without being an artist, he maintained the attitude of an artist.....Every soul had its own secret, and was secluded from the soul which had gone before it or was to come after it. And this showman of souls was not always aware that he was juggling with real things, for to him they were no more than the coloured glass balls which the juggler keeps in the air, catching them one after another. For the most part the souls were content to be playthings; now and again they took a malicious revenge, and became so real that even the juggler was aware of it. But when they became too real he had to go on throwing them into the air and catching them, even though the skill of the game had lost its interest for him. But as he never lost his self-possession, his audience, the world, did not see the difference.
'Eternity is now' and 'Art for arts sake' are the two ideas Wilde juggles well in this poem. It can be broken into two stanzas. The first, an octet concerns eternity and mythos in a joyful presencing. Castaly was the spring sacred to the muses on Mount Parnassus; sylvan is a mythological woods. Euphony begins now in a magical forest and sets sail upon a large merchant ship ,argosy guided by the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology who presided, empery, over their song and poetry.

The second stanza, a sestet in which Wilde calls forth the names of Sordello, an early thirteenth-century troubadour and the subject of Robert Browning's famous study of a poetic soul in his 1840 poem, young Endymion about the perpetual youth of Greek myth and the subject John Keats poem by the same. There is the lordly Tamburlaine from Tamburlaine the Great (1590)," by Christopher Marlowe and the seven-fold vision of the Florentine are Dante Alighieri's picture of the seven levels of The Inferno. Wilde finishes his poem with the soft echoes of John Milton's ageless losing first and then regaining of Paradise.

Joseph Campbell reduces Paradise to, and Milton would probably agree, ' that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms, cuts off.' The experience of God is beyond description, yet man is still compelled to try. Campbell replies to Moyers comment, "Eden was not, Eden will be." and puts it into plain perspective explaining, "Eden is. The kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it."

Novallis said, "Poetry dissolves the being of others in its own," and it's Oscar Wilde's own heroic allegiance which drives him to look to his fellow poets and sees that comprehension starts in the presence of eternity and is visible, not from the poets themselves, but from their manifestations.


Blair, Bob:

Extracts from The Power of Myth:


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