The silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.
Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
In splendour and in light the Pope passed home.
My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
'Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest.
I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.'
This is ‘Easter Day,’ which Oscar Wilde wrote while on a visit to Rome in the last year of his life. Wilde had every reason to find himself at odds with splendid authority borne on the necks of men, and I like to be reminded that this puts him in company with Christ.
In the last week of Jesus’ short life, his conflict with the religious authorities - a conflict that began with his first acts of miraculous healing - escalates to the point where they have him lynched; their own glory so threatened by this footsore preacher that they render him up to the theatrical vengeance of Imperial Rome.
Easter, as Wilde standing in St Peter’s Square suddenly saw, was a clash between homeless divinity and gilded authority. Between light and splendour.