Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

"Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal" is a sonnet poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It was first published in 1847, in The Princess: A Medley.

The poem has been set to music several times, including settings by Benjamin Britten,[1] Roger Quilter,[2] Ned Rorem,[3][4]Mychael Danna[5] and Paul Mealor.[6] It also appeared as a song in the 2004 film Vanity Fair (based on Thackeray's novel from 1848), sung by the character Becky Sharp.

Writer and poet Oscar Wilde included a reference to Tennyson's poem in the last paragraph of his essay The Decay of Lying: "The final revelation is that Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art. But of this I think I have spoken at sufficient length. And now let us go out on the terrace, where 'droops the milk-white peacock [56/57] like a ghost', while the evening star 'washes the dusk with silver'. At twilight nature becomes a wonderfully suggestive effect, and is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets. Come! We have talked long enough."

Michel Faber adapted the first line of Tennyson's poem for his novel set in Victorian London, The Crimson Petal and the White, published in 2002.

Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;

Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;

Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:

The firefly wakens: waken thou with me.

Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,

And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,

And all thy heart lies open unto me.

Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves

A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,

And slips into the bosom of the lake:

So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip

Into my bosom and be lost in me.


  1. ^ BRITTEN: Sinfonietta / Serenade / Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal / Nocturne. BIS-CD-540.
  2. ^ Roger Quilter 1877 - 1953.
  3. ^ Susan Graham - Songs of Ned Rorem. Erato 80222.
  4. ^ Prince Consort: Ned Rorem – On an echoing road. Linn Records CKD 342.
  5. ^ James Southall: Vanity Fair: Danna out-Doyles Doyle in impressive period score.
  6. ^ Con Anima Chamber Choir: Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal.