Last Updated 20 Apr 2022

Impression de Voyage

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This poem “Impression De Voyage” by Oscar Wilde is in the sonnet form ABBA-ACCA-DEFFED. All in all though it really is just about the voyage, the poet took everything into account. The 14 lines stanza of the poem is composed in iambic pentameter and with a complex rhyme scheme. The Poet uses sounds in the sestet at the end. The imagery is nice (sapphire/opal/red sun upon the sea). There is the imagery of nature, sea and ship. Wilde presents ship imagery through various images like; steep prow, hoisted sail, the mast, creek and the stern. All these images symbolize a voyage or a journey perhaps a journey from life to death.

Ship actually symbolizes refuge and sea is the symbol of danger. The color of the sun is red and it is going to set in the west. This image of “red sun upon the seas to ride” symbolize life’s journey towards death. “Lycaon’s snowy peak” is also symbolizing death and sterility. At the same instance the poet is mentioning the images ; flower strewn hills, blowing fair wind, blue lands, and olive grove, they all symbolize life. The use of auditory images; “flapping of the sail, the wind was blowing, ripple of the water, ripple of girl’s laughter”, these create aural impressions, symbolizing life, activity and energy.

Thus life has juxtaposed with death by using contrasting images. The poet has used different colors to describe the beauty of nature. "Nature" meant many things to the Romantics. This poem is as true of Romantic landscape painting as of Romantic nature poetry. Romantic nature poetry is essentially poetry of meditation. Oscar Wilde has romanticized the nature in this poem. The landscape of the sea and the sky/ burned like a heated opal through the air”, establishes temporal and spatial distance between the enthusiastic visitor and the “fabled” Greece of myth and romance.

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The sapphire/ blue color of the sea is juxtaposed with heated opal/red sky. Blue color is the color of heaven. It is the color of equilibrium and impartiality (being the color devoid of all "heat"). It is the color that symbolizes; Peace, tranquility, cold, calm, stability, harmony, unity, cleanliness, order. While red is the color of fire. It symbolizes the extreme of activity, Excitement, energy, passion, love, desire, speed, strength, power, heat, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence, and all things intense and passionate.

The colors symbolizing peace and tranquility have juxtaposed with colors symbolizing aggression, passion and danger. According to Empidocles’ theory of plurality “psyche is the mixture of opposites. Good and bad both exist together in the world” Thus Wilde has brought the contrasting images together in order to show plurality in life. The repetition of the words” The flapping of” in the lines 10 and 11 shows the balance between opposites which exist in nature side by side. The tone of the poet is tender and mood is of excitement and enthusiasm.

This poem could have been written by Lord Byron, because it is his style that Wilde copies. In this poem we have got the topic of Greece as a fabulous place. It seems that in “Impression De Voyage”, the French Impressionism term in the title appears misplaced, for in establishing a mythological setting (by mentioning Zakynthos, Olive grove, Ithaca’s cliff, Lycaon’s snowy peak and hills of Arcady”), Wilde abandons any attempt at depicting ‘impressions’; instead he describes a voyage to Greece, a return to the world of the flower-strewn hills of Arcady.

It can also be considered that the title of this poem misleads, for a description of the voyage (including the’ ripple of girls’ laughter at the stern’) supersedes the effect of briefly experienced fleeting images. In the final line “I stood upon the soil of Greece at last” the speaker perhaps experiences an imaginative voyage into the mythological past.

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