The Dole of the King’s Daughter by Oscar Wilde

In “The Dole of the King’s Daughter” Oscar Wilde shows that when someone manipulates a person’s heart with dishonest intentions, the manipulator faces consequences for toying with someone’s feelings. In the poem, a princess misuses her power to wreak havoc, leading to the deaths of everyone who was captivated by her romancing spell.

The Dole of the King’s Daughter


Seven stars in the still water,
And seven in the sky;
Seven sins on the King’s daughter,
Deep in her soul to lie.Red roses at her feet,
(Roses are red in her red-gold hair)
And O where her bosom and girdle meet
Red roses are hidden there.

Fair is the knight who lieth slain
Amid the rush and reed,
See the lean fishes that are fain
Upon dead men to feed.

Sweet is the page that lieth there,
(Cloth of gold is goodly prey,)
See the black ravens in the air,
Black, O black as the night are they.

What do they there so stark and dead?
(There is blood upon her hand)
Why are the lilies flecked with red?
(There is blood on the river sand.)

There are two that ride from the south to the east,
And two from the north and west,
For the black raven a goodly feast,
For the King’s daughter to rest.

There is one man who loves her true,
(Red, O red, is the stain of gore!)
He hath duggen a grave by the darksome yew,
(One grave will do for four.)

No moon in the still heaven,
In the black water none,
The sins on her soul are seven,
The sin upon his is one.

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Analysis of Wilde’s “The Dole of the King’s Daughter”

The name of Oscar Wilde can not be viewed separate from the aesthetic movement of the 1880s and 1890s of England. Wilde’s popularity is primarily based on four or five plays. One play, “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a classic of comic theatre. His only novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was viewed as a flawed piece of work, but played an important role in much of his recognition. Early in his career as a writer, Wilde published several poems, including “The Dole of the King’s Daughter.”

Wilde creates a dark and melancholy meaning in “The Dole of the King’s Daughter,” and uses symbolism to convey his theme that the feeling of excitement and passion associated with love leads to death – be it emotional or physical. There are different suitors for a princess in the poem. The suitors are a page, a knight, and four men from every direction. The page wears a “cloth of gold,” and is murdered by a raven after he falls for the woman’s luscious scheme.

Wilde symbolizes the page’s innocence through the gold cloth, and shows that the woman robbed him of it.  Similarly, the knight was a fair man, but he fell victim to the woman’s sexuality. Wilde uses the imagery of red roses around the princess’s body, suggesting that her sexuality is her power. The other men also meet with their own demise. For all these deaths, “there is blood upon her hand.” The last one is the “man who loves her true.” The princess is not aware of this man’s true love because she is overwhelmed by the chaos of the bloodbath. This leads the man to the point of suicide, causing the seventh sin.

The princess is now guilty of the seven dead – an allusion to the seven sins of the Bible. Wilde shows that since she abused her beautiful features to lure men in, the tragic princess will be damned in eternal hell and that there will be no salvation for her.

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