Hi Everyone, and welcome to Monday's Poetry Paradise.
Today I am sharing the poetry of Oscar Wilde. Born in Ireland in 1856, Wilde is widely known for writing stories and plays and fairytales, full of irony and sharp social observation. His poetry appears to be not so widely read, and is worth visiting, I think.
Wilde's poetry, in my opinion, demonstrates the same social awareness of his other mediums, with an added depth and reverence for humanity, life, death and the beauty he discovered in his travels around the world.
The tenderness with which he writes of Italy in particular is evocative of warmth and beauty, as evidenced in the piece:
A lily-girl, not made for this world's pain,
With brown, soft hair close braided by her ears,
And longing eyes half veiled by slumberous tears
Like bluest water seen through mists of rain:
Pale cheeks whereon no love hath left its stain,
Red underlip drawn in for fear of love,
And white throat, whiter than the silvered dove,
Through whose wan marble creeps one purple vein.
Yet, though my lips shall praise her without cease,
Even to kiss her feet I am not bold,
Being o'ershadowed by the wings of awe,
Like Dante, when he stood with Beatrice
Beneath the flaming Lion's breast and saw
The seventh Crystal, and the Stair of Gold.
The Ballad of Reading Gaol is a poem detailing the grim reality of life in a Victorian prison. Wilde was imprisoned in Reading Gaol during his 30's, and died not long after his release. Following is an excerpt:
With slouch and swing around the ring
We trod the Fools' Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
The Devils' Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
Make a merry masquerade.
We tore the tarry rope to shreds
With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
And clattered with the pails.
We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
Terror was lying still.
So still it lay that every day
Crawled like a weed-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
We passed an open grave.
With yawning mouth the horrid hole
Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
To the thirsty asphalt ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
Some prisoner had to swing.
Right in we went, with soul intent
On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
Went shuffling through the gloom:
And each man trembled as he crept
Into his numbered tomb.
This comment on the prison system of the time is self explanatory, and demonstrates the power of Wilde's genius and versatility as one of the greatest writers of his time.