Oscar Wilde's birthday

According to Google today, it is Oscar's birthday. I mention this, not only because he was born almost exactly one hundred years before me, but because I like him. For those who do not already know, I did the dissertation for my honours degree on Oscar Wilde and it nearly got me a Damien. The picture is a drawing I did some years ago.

I have probably seen as much Oscariana as Shakespeare - quite a bit - and the reasons are complicated to say the least. If you try and disassociate an artist from their context, you get problems. It is not that their art is not free-standing, it is that life imitates art and vice versa and in Oscar's case he was a paradigm of that. His work is almost inseparable from his life. Merely take Earnest or Dorian, and you can tell at a glance that it was Oscar, in another room. In that context he was clever, but when he did drop the poses and the flam he was a genius. Homos love writing about themselves, but Oscar was able to suspend narcissism at times to deliver works which will stand forever as timeless and for everyman. Here is Requiescat. He wrote it as a homage to his sister Isolda, who died in childhood. For me, there never was anything so pure and so devoid of authorial greed and so heartfelt. And so right.

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life's buried here,
Heap earth upon it.

1 comment:

sugplum said...

'Homos like writing about themselves...' hmm, slight bit of a broad brush, but thoughts on the poem, I totally concur.