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The Ballad of Reading Gaol

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This dramatically illustrated collector's edition marks the centenary of Oscar Wilde's release from prison in 1898 and the publication of his anguished poetic masterpiece. One hundred years after his release from Reading Gaol, the life and work of Oscar Wilde has lost none of its fascination. In his day, his wit and writings enchanted and scandalized society in equal measu This dramatically illustrated collector's edition marks the centenary of Oscar Wilde's release from prison in 1898 and the publication of his anguished poetic masterpiece. One hundred years after his release from Reading Gaol, the life and work of Oscar Wilde has lost none of its fascination. In his day, his wit and writings enchanted and scandalized society in equal measure; his downfall came at the height of his powers. Devastated by his notorious trial for indecency, imprisoned for ``homosexual offenses,'' he was to spend two ruinous years in solitary confinement. As he was later to tell Andre Gide, Reading Gaol ``was not fit for dogs. I thought I would go mad.'' The Ballad was written from personal experience, and there was to be no more writing after this. As Wilde observed: ``Something is killed in me.'' Bankrupt, disgraced, and in exile, Wilde was to die not long after his release at the age of 46. His final resting place is the cemetery of Pere Lachaise in Paris. His tomb bears an inscription from The Ballad of Reading Gaol: ``And alien tears will fill for him/Pity's long broken urn/For his mourners will be outcast men/And outcasts always mourn.'' This commemorative edition of the poem is illustrated with the powerfully moving wood engravings of Garrick Palmer. 48 pp 5 x 8 8 wood engravings


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This dramatically illustrated collector's edition marks the centenary of Oscar Wilde's release from prison in 1898 and the publication of his anguished poetic masterpiece. One hundred years after his release from Reading Gaol, the life and work of Oscar Wilde has lost none of its fascination. In his day, his wit and writings enchanted and scandalized society in equal measu This dramatically illustrated collector's edition marks the centenary of Oscar Wilde's release from prison in 1898 and the publication of his anguished poetic masterpiece. One hundred years after his release from Reading Gaol, the life and work of Oscar Wilde has lost none of its fascination. In his day, his wit and writings enchanted and scandalized society in equal measure; his downfall came at the height of his powers. Devastated by his notorious trial for indecency, imprisoned for ``homosexual offenses,'' he was to spend two ruinous years in solitary confinement. As he was later to tell Andre Gide, Reading Gaol ``was not fit for dogs. I thought I would go mad.'' The Ballad was written from personal experience, and there was to be no more writing after this. As Wilde observed: ``Something is killed in me.'' Bankrupt, disgraced, and in exile, Wilde was to die not long after his release at the age of 46. His final resting place is the cemetery of Pere Lachaise in Paris. His tomb bears an inscription from The Ballad of Reading Gaol: ``And alien tears will fill for him/Pity's long broken urn/For his mourners will be outcast men/And outcasts always mourn.'' This commemorative edition of the poem is illustrated with the powerfully moving wood engravings of Garrick Palmer. 48 pp 5 x 8 8 wood engravings

30 review for The Ballad of Reading Gaol

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Favourite poetry has a tendency to make sudden appearances in my head when I least expect it. I don't know how many times I have read the Ballad of Reading Gaol, but it is often enough for me to feel shame I don't know it by heart yet. I annoyingly often quote the catch line "yet each man kills the things he loves", and it strikes me as true both in the deeper sense of family dysfunction and in the more shallow waters of breaking your favourite coffee mug by accident. It strikes me as wise in t Favourite poetry has a tendency to make sudden appearances in my head when I least expect it. I don't know how many times I have read the Ballad of Reading Gaol, but it is often enough for me to feel shame I don't know it by heart yet. I annoyingly often quote the catch line "yet each man kills the things he loves", and it strikes me as true both in the deeper sense of family dysfunction and in the more shallow waters of breaking your favourite coffee mug by accident. It strikes me as wise in the absurd way life plays a crooked game of cards with us. We may be guilty of one thing, and punished for another... Today I found myself comparing Wilde with Orwell, in a rather heated discussion with students who are reading 1984 as a class novel. I seemed to have completely forgotten the love story between Winston and Julia, and the way it was impossible not to kill each other in the process of getting entangled in the political dystopia of thoughtcrime and doublethink. And I heard myself tell the complicated story of Wilde and his miscalculations and his failure to silence a bully by shooting back at him. I found myself telling my students the story of fake news and real truth and broken spirits that was the result of Wilde's duel with Bosie's father, and I thought of modern politics and our current mess. There is no longer any validity to the question "right or wrong". The only question left to answer seems to be who is wrong in which way, and for what reason. Oscar Wilde was certainly wrong in trying to fend off Queensberry by suing him for libel, but it is understandable why he did so, and his time in prison for homosexuality is no less brutal for being caused by his miscalculation. He killed the lifestyle he loved by trying to protect it from attacks. The absolutist stupidity always wins over the complicated life story, and he should have known that: IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. "Some love too little, some too long, Some sell, and others buy; Some do the deed with many tears, And some without a sigh: For each man kills the thing he loves, nbsp; Yet each man does not die."

  2. 4 out of 5

    İntellecta

    “Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword! Some kill their love when they are young, And some when they are old; Some strangle with the hands of Lust, Some with the hands of Gold: "The kindest use a knife, because The dead so soon grow Some love too little, some too long, Some sell, and others buy; Some do the deed with many tears, And some without a sigh: For each man “Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword! Some kill their love when they are young, And some when they are old; Some strangle with the hands of Lust, Some with the hands of Gold: "The kindest use a knife, because The dead so soon grow Some love too little, some too long, Some sell, and others buy; Some do the deed with many tears, And some without a sigh: For each man kills the thing he loves, Yet each man does not die.” Page: 9

  3. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    This is my 4th time to read Oscar Wilde and the more I read his works, the more he becomes one of my favorite writers. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was a married man and he had two children. Yet, he had homosexual affairs. His sexual preference, considered lewd and taboo during the Victorian era, led him to his incarceration in a town prison or gaol in Reading, England. That explains the title. In the prison, he witnessed the execution of a man who killed his wife while drunk. A year later, when he wa This is my 4th time to read Oscar Wilde and the more I read his works, the more he becomes one of my favorite writers. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was a married man and he had two children. Yet, he had homosexual affairs. His sexual preference, considered lewd and taboo during the Victorian era, led him to his incarceration in a town prison or gaol in Reading, England. That explains the title. In the prison, he witnessed the execution of a man who killed his wife while drunk. A year later, when he was out of his cell, he wrote this sad and haunting poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol and it was so famous, his friends put some passages from it on his epitaph (tombstone). The effect of this poem to me was that for almost a week, I stopped reading. I could not stop the scenes in the poem that kept playing in my head: a dead wife whose throat is slit by a knife. The drunk husband standing in the corner of the room shocked amidst the eerie silence regretting what he did. The same man being led to his execution while Wilde looking at murderer's "bitter" eyes. That adjective in quotation comes from the famous passage from the poem: "Yet each man kills the thing he loves By each let this be heard. Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word. The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword! We all do this right? Not killing our love ones with a sword of course but hurting the people we love. Sometimes we want to test how they would react because we know they will not stop loving us. Sometimes, it is our sheer foolishness. Or maybe, just like the man who actually killed his wife, he was just drunk. Prior to joining Goodreads in 2009, I did not know anything about Oscar Wilde but when I read his heartbreaking memoir De Profundis (4 stars), I immediately read The Happy Prince and Other Tales (3 stars) followed right away by his most famous work, The Picture of Dorian Gray (3 stars). I liked them all but I am always curious about the "dark" side (not that homosexuality is dark but it is normally not put in the open so there goes my interest) of an author's mind. So with the previous knowledge of Oscar Wilde's life story (his downfall because of his incarceration) I read this poem slowly and so those scenes got imprinted in my mind and stayed there for almost a week that I could not understand what was going on while trying to read the other books in my currently-reading shelf. That's how powerful this poem is. It is haunting. The vivid description of the gaol. The cries of a man thrown into the jail waiting for his death. The pleas of Wilde and his surrender to God. Wilde used to be flamboyant, happy, famous and rich suffering from hunger and spite of the town's people. The brilliant author not being allowed even a pen and paper to write his thoughts. Only because he committed homosexual affairs. Oscar Wilde, your fault was this: you were born at the wrong time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Loretta

    A tremendously sad and dark poem. I could definitely feel Wilde's pain and sorrow. Beautifully written. Five big stars! A tremendously sad and dark poem. I could definitely feel Wilde's pain and sorrow. Beautifully written. Five big stars!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Maria Espadinha

    A Killer named Jealousy A man who murdered his wife in an act of uncontrollable jealousy was sentenced to death by hanging, and yet ... “all men kill the thing they love” Is that true? Do we kill the ones we love? I don’t see it as a rule, but a possibility: How manny relationships have been broken by jealousy? Jealousy pops in, hate comes along and bitterness does the dirty work!... What once was beautiful is now a wreckage, poisoned to death 💀 by the rage of Jealousy! ☹️ It looks like Jealousy is the A Killer named Jealousy A man who murdered his wife in an act of uncontrollable jealousy was sentenced to death by hanging, and yet ... “all men kill the thing they love” Is that true? Do we kill the ones we love? I don’t see it as a rule, but a possibility: How manny relationships have been broken by jealousy? Jealousy pops in, hate comes along and bitterness does the dirty work!... What once was beautiful is now a wreckage, poisoned to death 💀 by the rage of Jealousy! ☹️ It looks like Jealousy is the real killer, after all! A killer that will never be hanged!...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Piyangie

    This is a beautiful and moving poem by Oscar Wild. Based on personal observation and experience of his time in Reading jail, Wild wrote this sad and haunting poem while living in exile. I have not read any poems by Wild, so this is my first experience. I have known him for an excellent playwright and recently discovered him as a great essayist. Now I'm discovering a great poet in him too. This poem is mainly based on an execution that took place while he was in the prison. Making it the center o This is a beautiful and moving poem by Oscar Wild. Based on personal observation and experience of his time in Reading jail, Wild wrote this sad and haunting poem while living in exile. I have not read any poems by Wild, so this is my first experience. I have known him for an excellent playwright and recently discovered him as a great essayist. Now I'm discovering a great poet in him too. This poem is mainly based on an execution that took place while he was in the prison. Making it the center of theme, Wild goes on to expose the dire conditions of prison life, the despair of its inmates, the degradation and the shame that he personally felt at being imprisoned. The sincere and passionate expression with which he says it all is heartbreaking. I read the whole poem with blurry eyes and a quivering voice (I do recite them when I read poems). This work showed me an entire different literary side of Oscar Wild. I have for the most part associated him with wit, sarcasm and his thoughtful and philosophical insights. But what I saw in this work is the raw display of emotion and absolute sincerity. His personal experience has poured so much of feeling in to this poem and it is no exaggeration when I say it is one of the most emotional poems that I have read. Ballad of Reading Gaol was his last work and there were no more writing before his death. Being impoverished, degraded and utterly shamed, it is said that Wild had stated that "something killed in me" as the reason for not producing any more work after this poem. It is really a pity, for Wild is one of the best literary products of 19th century. And it is very sad to think that a brilliant mind and a wonderfully gifted artist came to such a pathetic end.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Florencia

    I never saw a man who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue Which prisoners call the sky... * The man had killed the thing he loved And so he had to die. Yet each man kills the thing he loves * What word of grace in such a place Could help a brother's soul? * And wondered why men knelt to pray Who never prayed before. * For he who live more lives than one More deaths than one must die. To suffer while witnessing the prisoner's hell or the one who mourns the life the first one took I never saw a man who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue Which prisoners call the sky... * The man had killed the thing he loved And so he had to die. Yet each man kills the thing he loves * What word of grace in such a place Could help a brother's soul? * And wondered why men knelt to pray Who never prayed before. * For he who live more lives than one More deaths than one must die. To suffer while witnessing the prisoner's hell or the one who mourns the life the first one took away. This must be one of the most haunting poems I've read this year. Deeply memorable lines, delicious musicality; highly charged, evocative images that repeat themselves in the land where each day is like a year - a gem born amidst tragedy. Aug 7, 18 * Later on my blog.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sue K H

    I never would have thought that I'd love macabre poetry but I guess between this and Edgar Allen Poe, I most certainly do. I absolutely loved this dark poem. Wilde is reflecting on his time in prison as he and other prisoners watch the final process of another prisoner's hanging sentence for killing his wife. He describes his first thoughts of watching the prisoner walk towards his death, not yet knowing what the prisoner's crime was. "I never saw a man who looked With such a wistful eye Upon t I never would have thought that I'd love macabre poetry but I guess between this and Edgar Allen Poe, I most certainly do. I absolutely loved this dark poem. Wilde is reflecting on his time in prison as he and other prisoners watch the final process of another prisoner's hanging sentence for killing his wife. He describes his first thoughts of watching the prisoner walk towards his death, not yet knowing what the prisoner's crime was. "I never saw a man who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue Which prisoners call the sky, And at every drifting cloud that went With sails of silver by. I walked, with other souls in pain, Within another ring, And was wondering if the man had done A great or little thing, When a voice behind me whispered low, ‘That fellow’s got to swing.’ " As the poem goes on, it's clear that in addition to being about prisoners, crime and societies treatment of criminals, it's also a powerful allegorical exploration of sin and forgiveness. "Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword! He doesn't mean this literally of course, but that we all disappoint the ones we love (including God) in some way or another, and in so doing kill bits of that love. At least that's my interpretation anyway. The poem is ultimately hopeful, but I won't share all the good parts. That would be impossible because I loved every bit of this poem. I'll be reading more of Wilde's poetry.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Abubakar Mehdi

    The very name Oscar Wilde is synonymous with wit and intelligence, and of course the best that the Victorian literature has to offer. But this is not the whole story, as most of us know, Wilde was convicted of homosexual offences in 1895 and sentenced to two years' hard labour in prison. For a man of his fame, intelligence and standing, this was a death sentence. After his release, Wilde spent most of his life in France and it is there that he wrote this poem. He suggested that it be published i The very name Oscar Wilde is synonymous with wit and intelligence, and of course the best that the Victorian literature has to offer. But this is not the whole story, as most of us know, Wilde was convicted of homosexual offences in 1895 and sentenced to two years' hard labour in prison. For a man of his fame, intelligence and standing, this was a death sentence. After his release, Wilde spent most of his life in France and it is there that he wrote this poem. He suggested that it be published in Reynold's Magazine, "because it circulates widely among the criminal classes – to which I now belong – for once I will be read by my peers – a new experience for me.” In this 109 stanza long poem, He decries the modern prison system and the dehumanizing effect it has on the inmates. He saw the devastating psychological effect it has not only on the condemned, but also on those who condemn them in the name of justice. Eventually, it was the hanging of an inmate accused of killing his wife that affected him the most and lead to the creation of this masterpiece. Wilde identified with him, and in him he saw his own fate, gloomy and irredeemable. But what surprised me the most were the religious connotations that kept on appearing within the stanzas that were most unlike his usual style. The futility of life and love that dawned on him during his prison years are clearly reflected in the ballad, he repeatedly pictures himself and the inmates as the cast outs who are thrown out by the society, condemned and damned. It is heartbreaking to see a man as lively and intelligent as Wilde ending up the way he did. There is so much pain in these lines, that to feel indifferent to his suffering is beyond ones control. “Yet each man kills the thing he loves By each let this be heard. Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word. The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword!” Wilde lived only 2 more years after his release and that too, in exile as an unknown no-body. A passage from the poem was chosen as the epitaph on Wilde's tomb; “And alien tears will fill for him, Pity's long-broken urn, For his mourners will be outcast men, And outcasts always mourn.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    This is definitely not the Wilde many people are familiar with- here he eschews the characteristic wit in favour of a sorrowful, dark lament about prison life and the concept of prison in general. This poem isn't in the vein of some of Wilde's more well-known works and honestly, it's all the better for it. Read the poem here and read more about Wilde's time in prison here. This is definitely not the Wilde many people are familiar with- here he eschews the characteristic wit in favour of a sorrowful, dark lament about prison life and the concept of prison in general. This poem isn't in the vein of some of Wilde's more well-known works and honestly, it's all the better for it. Read the poem here and read more about Wilde's time in prison here.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Magdalen

    And all men kill the thing they love, By all let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword! Oscar Wilde will never cease to impress me. This poem in one word is a masterpiece. Oscar was a genius.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jaya

    “Some love too little, some too long, Some sell, and others buy; Some do the deed with many tears, And some without a sigh: For each man kills the thing he loves, Yet each man does not die... Not a person who finds appeal in a poems often. But this, this is something else. This is the song of desolation of a man condemned. This is what I listened to immediately after I finished reading it Read by Rupert Everett, read to the prisoners of the Reading Prison, where Wilde was incarcerated and the v “Some love too little, some too long, Some sell, and others buy; Some do the deed with many tears, And some without a sigh: For each man kills the thing he loves, Yet each man does not die... Not a person who finds appeal in a poems often. But this, this is something else. This is the song of desolation of a man condemned. This is what I listened to immediately after I finished reading it Read by Rupert Everett, read to the prisoners of the Reading Prison, where Wilde was incarcerated and the very place he wrote this poem.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    The list of writers from the Victorian Era features some of the greatest of all time. From Dickens and Thackeray, to Browning and Tennyson, to Eliot and the Brontes. But the most interesting of the lot for me would be Oscar Wilde, the one I would most like to meet if I could. What a brilliant writer. He wrote novels, plays, and poetry, and did it with a wit and style that is uniquely his own. But this poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, was one of his best works. It is haunting, and moving, and sa The list of writers from the Victorian Era features some of the greatest of all time. From Dickens and Thackeray, to Browning and Tennyson, to Eliot and the Brontes. But the most interesting of the lot for me would be Oscar Wilde, the one I would most like to meet if I could. What a brilliant writer. He wrote novels, plays, and poetry, and did it with a wit and style that is uniquely his own. But this poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, was one of his best works. It is haunting, and moving, and sad, and it is so different from what we come to expect from him. But he wrote this from personal experience, and you can feel his individual pain, and sorrow, and fear within the lines of the poem.

  14. 5 out of 5

    leynes

    --- And alien tears will fill for him Pity's long broken urn, For his mourners will be outcast men, And outcasts always mourn. --- I'm neither man nor outcast, Oscar, yet I mourn for you. Thank you for everything, son. <3 --- And alien tears will fill for him Pity's long broken urn, For his mourners will be outcast men, And outcasts always mourn. --- I'm neither man nor outcast, Oscar, yet I mourn for you. Thank you for everything, son. <3

  15. 4 out of 5

    Fergus

    Q: Is being condemned of a once-upon-a-time-felony at the merely SUBJECTIVE imputation of guilt therefore itself a CRIME? A: “Elementary, my dear Watson (mumbles in Watson’s ear)...” - “Dash it all, Holmes! I take your assessment quite deucedly to heart! Forsooth, you would cut us ALL to the very quick... have you no COUTH?!” (See O.W.’s attached reiteration of his - Oscar Wilde’s - guilt in his grand finale. Better yet, read the whole brief work in the public domain, everywhere left on the planet Q: Is being condemned of a once-upon-a-time-felony at the merely SUBJECTIVE imputation of guilt therefore itself a CRIME? A: “Elementary, my dear Watson (mumbles in Watson’s ear)...” - “Dash it all, Holmes! I take your assessment quite deucedly to heart! Forsooth, you would cut us ALL to the very quick... have you no COUTH?!” (See O.W.’s attached reiteration of his - Oscar Wilde’s - guilt in his grand finale. Better yet, read the whole brief work in the public domain, everywhere left on the planet where Good Books are still Free.) Well then. OK. Enough half-hearted attempts at humour... Let’s put it THIS way: IS Wilde right? Do we REALLY kill the one we love, and if so... HOW? Let’s say we’re watching TV, late at night, when the others in your life are safely tucked in. Just reruns. Dumb, stupid reruns, which we’ve maybe seen a zillion times. But you’ve GOT to get your mind off your looney-tunes office! Then your sleepy daughter appears, distraught. “Daddy, I had an ac-... er, ac-ci-dent!” You hardly bat an eye. “Later, honey. Just go back to sleep. OK? You’ll probably feel better in the morning...” “But, Daddy...” Too late, kid. Now you’re chuckling over Hawkeye and Radar’s dumb antics. You hardly bat an eye when she disappears upstairs. Before you call it a night, you FINALLY go to tuck her in. Her bed’s rumpled and empty. And it’s SOAKED. She’s curled up in a corner, shivering and shaking. You let her down badly. And you KILLED a part of her fragile soul tonight. *** There are Other ways we kill the ones we love. With our smartphones, extensions of our nervous hands. With our greed. With our downright hypocrisy. It goes on and on. But: We would rather be ruined than Changed. But we HAVE to climb on the Cross of the Moment, and Let our Illusions Die. We’ll then see that love is no illusion. It’s REAL for So Many. So DON’T be the wiseacre that rains on their parade!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Satyajeet

    "No need to waste the foolish tear, Or heave the windy sigh: The man had killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die. And all men kill the thing they love, By all let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word... "No need to waste the foolish tear, Or heave the windy sigh: The man had killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die. And all men kill the thing they love, By all let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Oscar Wilde’s final poem is famously connected to his time spent in Reading Gaol in 1896, where he served two years for “gross indecency with men.” Fully aware of the penalties for homosexuality in 1890s England, Wilde married and had two sons. But in 1891, Wilde began an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, a young British poet and aristocrat 16 years his junior. Douglas’ father, the Marquess of Queensberry, was outraged by the relationship and sought to expose Wilde. Wilde reacted by filing a libel Oscar Wilde’s final poem is famously connected to his time spent in Reading Gaol in 1896, where he served two years for “gross indecency with men.” Fully aware of the penalties for homosexuality in 1890s England, Wilde married and had two sons. But in 1891, Wilde began an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, a young British poet and aristocrat 16 years his junior. Douglas’ father, the Marquess of Queensberry, was outraged by the relationship and sought to expose Wilde. Wilde reacted by filing a libel suit against the Marquess and it was from this action that his own trial and conviction sprang. The Ballad of Reading Gaol is more than an indictment of the system which sent Wilde to jail, however. It is a treatise on what it is to suffer incarceration, the inadequacies of both the society and its religious arm to forgive or sympathize with the incarcerated, and the hopelessness of love to save any man from suffering. Its most famous lines: Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word. The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword. say a great deal about both the feelings of betrayal Wilde was experiencing and his recognition that the betrayal was worse than the punishment coldly inflicted by the judicial system. There are serious religious overtones to the poem, in which many references to the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ are referenced. In the above stanza, one cannot help immediately conjuring the kiss of Judas. Since the major premise of the poem is that of a man convicted of murder and being hanged, it is ironic to see Wilde tie the murder to love and passion; the punishment to a complete lack of feeling or understanding of humanity. It is the prisoners, themselves, who fall on their knees in prayer for the soul of this man, it is the other sinners who plead with God for his intercession; for the righteous, or those who set themselves up to be so, cannot feel the pain on any level at all. Even the priest is just a man who hands out tracts. He is happy to lay the corpse and move on. The dehumanizing of the imprisoned is so complete that even after they are dead they are denied the comfort of flowers on their graves. In fact, the true purpose of the denial is so that no other prisoner might see the flowers blooming and take hope from the fact that beauty, or perhaps forgiveness, exists. There is to be no hope, for this is meant to erase the humanity of the men; so that the lucky man is the one executed and killed only once, as those who are held are erased, spiritually killed, daily.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Huda Aweys

    It was a great poem , I like it :) ! This is a link to read it http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/ba... It is sweet to dance to violins When Love and Life are fair: To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes Is delicate and rare: But it is not sweet with nimble feet To dance upon the air! Like two doomed ships that pass in storm We had crossed each other’s way: But we made no sign, we said no word, We had no word to say; For we did not meet in the holy night, But in the shameful day. Some do the deed with ma It was a great poem , I like it :) ! This is a link to read it http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/ba... It is sweet to dance to violins When Love and Life are fair: To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes Is delicate and rare: But it is not sweet with nimble feet To dance upon the air! Like two doomed ships that pass in storm We had crossed each other’s way: But we made no sign, we said no word, We had no word to say; For we did not meet in the holy night, But in the shameful day. Some do the deed with many tears, And some without a sigh: For each man kills the thing he loves, Yet each man does not die. For oak and elm have pleasant leaves That in the spring-time shoot: But grim to see is the gallows-tree, With its adder-bitten root, And, green or dry, a man must die Before it bears its fruit! The loftiest place is that seat of grace For which all worldlings try: But who would stand in hempen band Upon a scaffold high, And through a murderer’s collar take His last look at the sky? And all men kill the thing they love, By all let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The end of Oscar Wilde’s life is tragic to contemplate. This poem that he wrote, this last offering is terribly sad, but provides a certain balm. I can only hope writing it helped him a little. I loved the tone of the poem. As the story plods along, you see from his eyes and feel what it must have been like to be imprisoned. What I most appreciated was how he handled the theme of hypocrisy. He seems to be saying if we are all guilty, if “each man kills the thing he loves,” and if the God the soc The end of Oscar Wilde’s life is tragic to contemplate. This poem that he wrote, this last offering is terribly sad, but provides a certain balm. I can only hope writing it helped him a little. I loved the tone of the poem. As the story plods along, you see from his eyes and feel what it must have been like to be imprisoned. What I most appreciated was how he handled the theme of hypocrisy. He seems to be saying if we are all guilty, if “each man kills the thing he loves,” and if the God the society professes to worship is so forgiving, why are these men treated this way? “This too I know—and wise it were If each could know the same— That every prison that men build Is built with bricks of shame, And bound with bars lest Christ should see How men their brothers maim.”

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...

    The Ballad of Reading Gaol is the last work by Wilde, which is sad for many reasons. The first is that Wilde claimed that something in him was killed by his incarceration and the second is that he is one of the best and brightest writers of his era. Everything he wrote is smart, unique, and careful. He is witty, funny, critical. And this poem is nuanced and beautiful. It is based on Wilde's personal experience while incarcerated in Reading jail. After his release he lived in exile and wrote this The Ballad of Reading Gaol is the last work by Wilde, which is sad for many reasons. The first is that Wilde claimed that something in him was killed by his incarceration and the second is that he is one of the best and brightest writers of his era. Everything he wrote is smart, unique, and careful. He is witty, funny, critical. And this poem is nuanced and beautiful. It is based on Wilde's personal experience while incarcerated in Reading jail. After his release he lived in exile and wrote this sad and evocative poem which is mostly about an execution that took place while he was in the prison. He divulges the dire conditions of prison life, and his personal humiliation and shame from his imprisonment. I listened to the poem, read by Rupert Everett within the walls of the Reading jail. It is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03XpN... Prior to this I have read Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray which is smart, sarcastic and philosophical, and his play The Importance of Being Earnest which is witty and funny as hell. But this poem is so much more emotional and profound. It touches your heart. The entire video is only 22 minutes long, so anyone can have enough time for this gem.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Milena

    Oscar Wilde wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol after having spent two years in Reading prison for his homosexual relationship with a young man. From this traumatic experience Wilde emerged a destroyed man, who vented his anguish in this last magnificent work, and sought in spirituality a way to find peace. He condemned the inhuman conditions in which the prisoners were held: miserable men who were even denied the comfort of religion. He wrote the poem in the form of a popular ballad as if he wanted Oscar Wilde wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol after having spent two years in Reading prison for his homosexual relationship with a young man. From this traumatic experience Wilde emerged a destroyed man, who vented his anguish in this last magnificent work, and sought in spirituality a way to find peace. He condemned the inhuman conditions in which the prisoners were held: miserable men who were even denied the comfort of religion. He wrote the poem in the form of a popular ballad as if he wanted to sing to people in the streets the story of human hypocrisy; to sing of Reading gaol that should have been a place of rehabilitation, but actually was only a place of punishment, a place that produced outcasts or prays for the scaffold, a hell on earth. I found in the following lines, some of the main concepts of the work: …what should Human Pity do Pent up in Murdere’s Hole? What word of grace in such a place Could help a brother’s soul? Oscar Wilde died two years later, leaving the world deprived of one of the finest voices of literature.

  22. 5 out of 5

    booklady

    Discovered this incredible poem when I was reading an article about Humility. As an example the author used Oscar Wilde's fall from celebrity and ease into shame and suffering in the Reading Prison. This Ballad of the same name describes some of the horrors of that place which Wilde experienced first hand. I know prisons today are still harsh, but then they were beyond anything imaginable. Wilde's experience there led to his conversion. Discovered this incredible poem when I was reading an article about Humility. As an example the author used Oscar Wilde's fall from celebrity and ease into shame and suffering in the Reading Prison. This Ballad of the same name describes some of the horrors of that place which Wilde experienced first hand. I know prisons today are still harsh, but then they were beyond anything imaginable. Wilde's experience there led to his conversion.

  23. 4 out of 5

    GoldGato

    I love, love, love this poem. I love, love, love this edition (early 1900s, leather-bound). I love, love, love the fact that Oscar Wilde wrote this cry from a prison cell. Yes, I love this work of art. Nor does Terror walk at noon The subject of the poem was guilty, admitting to the police that he had killed his wife. Yet, trooper Charles Thomas Woolridge of the Royal Horse Guards, will live forever thanks to Wilde's pen. The man had killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die. Book Season = Year I love, love, love this poem. I love, love, love this edition (early 1900s, leather-bound). I love, love, love the fact that Oscar Wilde wrote this cry from a prison cell. Yes, I love this work of art. Nor does Terror walk at noon The subject of the poem was guilty, admitting to the police that he had killed his wife. Yet, trooper Charles Thomas Woolridge of the Royal Horse Guards, will live forever thanks to Wilde's pen. The man had killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die. Book Season = Year Round (petal by petal)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lidia Mascaró

    Ahhhhhhhhh!!! Okay. I know I just talked about Wilde's poems but this one over here is on an entirely different level. Would give it ten stars if I could. It is an absolute masterpiece, he is an absolute masterpiece, made me shed some tears here and there (that might be because I truly love the man with a burning passion but never-mind that), raised every hair on my skin. So a little bit of context for those who might need it: Oscar Wilde, "glamorous and notorious, more famous as a playwright or Ahhhhhhhhh!!! Okay. I know I just talked about Wilde's poems but this one over here is on an entirely different level. Would give it ten stars if I could. It is an absolute masterpiece, he is an absolute masterpiece, made me shed some tears here and there (that might be because I truly love the man with a burning passion but never-mind that), raised every hair on my skin. So a little bit of context for those who might need it: Oscar Wilde, "glamorous and notorious, more famous as a playwright or prisoner than as a poet", (creds to the blurb) wrote this poem, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" (Reading Gaol, UK, was the prison in which Wilde stayed during his two year sentence, convicted for his homosexuality), about the execution of another inmate. It consists of 109 stanzas, in case anyone (if anyone is reading this at all) was wondering. I don't want to give too much away so I'll stop there. Read it for yourselves! The poem, in essence, is a very Wilde ride. I'll just jump straight to the extracts (shocker!). Keep in mind that quotes are much nicer when you read them within the text and often lose substance when ripped out of their context. Of course I'll leave some out, or else I'd be spoiling the poem for everyone. "I never saw a man who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue Which prisoners call the sky." [...] "Some strangle with the hands of Lust, Some with the hands of Gold: The kindest use a knife, because The dead so soon grow cold." [...] "But we made no sign, we said no word, We had no word to say; For we did not meet in the holy night, But in the shameful day." [...] "And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats None knew so well as I: For he who lives more lives than one More deaths than one must die." [...] "No need to waste the foolish tear, Or heave the windy sigh: The man had killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die. And all men kill the thing they love, By all let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword!" I'll stop. Thank you Oscar, you bring music to my soul. ((Oh god, how cheesy. But wait! It actually reminds me of another excerpt, from a different poem of his. Somebody save me. It's from "To L.L" (Lillie Langtry, a friend of his) and it goes: "Well, if my heart must break, Dear love, for your sake, It will break in music, I know, Poets' hearts break so." )) So much love for you, Wilde. So much love. I'm not usually this sappy but I'm not used to all the emotions your words make me feel and the way they resonate within me either! So there.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Renee M

    I don't know what I suspected, but my previous experiences with Oscar Wilde's writing did not prepare me for this. I love Wilde's wit, his funny, frothy, skewering truth. But there was none of that here. Instead it was beautiful in a completely different way. Haunting and so sad, a study of the condemned man and yet so many other things as well. I think this may become one of my favorite poems. I don't know what I suspected, but my previous experiences with Oscar Wilde's writing did not prepare me for this. I love Wilde's wit, his funny, frothy, skewering truth. But there was none of that here. Instead it was beautiful in a completely different way. Haunting and so sad, a study of the condemned man and yet so many other things as well. I think this may become one of my favorite poems.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    Ballad of Reading Gaol - Oscar Wilde  I don't read a lot of poetry as such because my favorites rhyme and are silly; so nothing since Old Possum really. (In my defense, I pay a lot of attention to song lyrics, and enjoy a slant rhyme or an unusual rhythm, otherwise, as you may have noticed, I read a lot of children's books which meet both my criteria but aren't usually labeled "poetry"). I honestly can't remember if I read this in its entirety back in the day: there were a lot of English literat Ballad of Reading Gaol - Oscar Wilde  I don't read a lot of poetry as such because my favorites rhyme and are silly; so nothing since Old Possum really. (In my defense, I pay a lot of attention to song lyrics, and enjoy a slant rhyme or an unusual rhythm, otherwise, as you may have noticed, I read a lot of children's books which meet both my criteria but aren't usually labeled "poetry"). I honestly can't remember if I read this in its entirety back in the day: there were a lot of English literature classes, and a lot of reading, only a small portion of which actually stuck, although I can usually guess the age and author within a hundred years or so, so, you know, I learned context, and that's something, right? (Please Mr. Edwards, don't feel that your teaching was in vain.) Whatever got me thinking about Wilde got me reading up on him in Wikipedia, and got me wondering about the validity of Ellman's biography (which I dearly loved, but it's been more than 20 years, so it is a bit vague now) and from one thing to another down the rabbit hole until I read the Ballad of Reading Gaol. Despite it's complete lack of silliness I quite enjoyed it, and found it very moving. But the real shocker was how many of its lines I had seen quoted, without recognizing the source before. Woah. Wilde was foolish to file the suit, but damn, no one deserves what he endured (he and others, so many others) for love. personal copy  

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    A wonderfully written poem on the horrors of prison and the inhumanity associated with it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Iza Brekilien

    Reviewed for Books and livres Everybody knows that Oscar Wilde wrote this beautiful, dark and haunting poem after he was sent to jail for 2 years for just being who he was, a homosexual. This must have been a dreadful change of life for him, the dandy who loved refinery so much, and totally life-altering to look in the face men that he knew would soon die. By the way, he himself died only two years later. The poem concentrated mainly on a man who "killed the thing he loved, and so he had to die", Reviewed for Books and livres Everybody knows that Oscar Wilde wrote this beautiful, dark and haunting poem after he was sent to jail for 2 years for just being who he was, a homosexual. This must have been a dreadful change of life for him, the dandy who loved refinery so much, and totally life-altering to look in the face men that he knew would soon die. By the way, he himself died only two years later. The poem concentrated mainly on a man who "killed the thing he loved, and so he had to die", but more generally on life in prison. This is a very short book (my edition, bilingual, was 57 pages long) but deeply moving. "For oak and elm have pleasant leaves That in the spring-time shoot : But grim to see is the gallows-tree, With its adder-bitten root, And, green or dry, a man must die Before it bears its fruit !" "In Reading gaol by Reading town There is a pit of shame, And in it lies a wretched man Eaten by teeth of flame, In a burning winding-sheet he lies, And his grave has got no name. And there, till Christ call forth the dead, In silence let him lie : No need to waste the foolish tear, Or heave the windy sigh : The man had killed the thing he loved, And so he had to die. And all men kill the thing they love, By all let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword !"

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aussiescribbler Aussiescribbler

    Often there are two sides to the jester. The individual who mocks the superficial conventions of society often does so because, not blinded by those conventions, he can see more deeply into the human condition that lies beneath. Such was the case with Oscar Wilde. The other side of the comic genius who gave us The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere's Fan gave us The Soul of Man Under Socialism, De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol. This has to be one of the saddest poems ever Often there are two sides to the jester. The individual who mocks the superficial conventions of society often does so because, not blinded by those conventions, he can see more deeply into the human condition that lies beneath. Such was the case with Oscar Wilde. The other side of the comic genius who gave us The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere's Fan gave us The Soul of Man Under Socialism, De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol. This has to be one of the saddest poems ever written - an account of the reaction of Wilde and other prisoners to the execution of one of their fellow inmates for the murder of his wife. Wilde documents the routines surrounding the execution with an eye to detail, while at the same time uttering a passionate cry of protest against the inhumanity of capital punishment and the prison system generally. He points out that the man who ends up on the gallows for murder is not so very different from the rest of us. Capital punishment is an act of denial of our common failings as a species. The poem is also a deeply felt expression of faith in Christ, which even an unbeliever like myself can respect and be moved by. The prison and the gallows are man's law. God and Christ, Wilde maintains, are far more merciful. This is a poem which is still as relevant now as it was when it was written. On a metaphorical level, we can see how the best in us can only flower in a state of freedom and that, wherever freedom is compromised, evil flourishes. On a more literal level, while the death penalty was finally abolished in Great Britain, it still continues in less enlightened parts of the world, and prisons are not that different now from how they were in Wilde's day. The technologies of control have advanced, but psychological effects of imprisonment remain the same. As Wilde said : The vilest deeds like poison weeds Bloom well in prison-air: It is only what is good in Man That wastes and withers there

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rana Adham

    I am a staunch opposer to imprisonment as a form of punishment, and I have only one statement to support my argument: "since periods of imprisonment are often prolonged, the effect on the inmates' well-being is detrimental." This is a beautiful poem by Wilde, and having read it and read De Profundis, I could easily say that I felt his suffering more tangibly through The Ballad of Reading Gaol. When he speaks about the possibility of going astray he is not exaggerating: many prisoners do become wo I am a staunch opposer to imprisonment as a form of punishment, and I have only one statement to support my argument: "since periods of imprisonment are often prolonged, the effect on the inmates' well-being is detrimental." This is a beautiful poem by Wilde, and having read it and read De Profundis, I could easily say that I felt his suffering more tangibly through The Ballad of Reading Gaol. When he speaks about the possibility of going astray he is not exaggerating: many prisoners do become worse after their incarceration. I quote: "So with curious eyes and sick surmise We watched him day by day, And wondered if each one of us Would end the self-same way, For none can tell to what red Hell His sightless soul may stray." How prisoners perceive things like the sky and their own cells just shows how everything loses meaning while they're locked in..."The tent of blue they call the sky and the cells that are numbered tombs..." He perfectly, poignantly describes how they feel not only as disgraced sinners, but as humans who see no future: "Something was dead in each of us, And what was dead was hope..." And then at the moment of the execution of their fellow prisoner, he says: "And all the woe that moved him so That he gave that bitter cry, And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats, None knew so well as I; For he who lives more lives than one More deaths than one must die." No one is reformed in Reading, he argues, for if they survive the hell of it, they emerge broken: "It is only what is good in Man That wastes and withers here.." Loved it ❤️

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