Oscar Wilde, one of the classical poets that I so dearly admire, was a convict. A fact that was unknown to me until a few days back. Surprising?? Yeah.. that’s what I said to myself. Wilde was incarcerated on accounts of carnal violence in Reading Gaol. He started writing “The Ballad of Reading Gaol ” as a souvenir of time he spent there. He wrote about his experiences, about how the world was different and similar to the prison life, about the twisted sense of freedom and imprisonment that he developed during that time. While he was there, an execution took place in that prison that had a profound effect on Wilde’s life. The prisoner executed was a 30 year old trooper charged with the murder of his wife by slitting her throat in their bedroom. This event is said to have inspired the line “Yet each man kills the thing he loves” in the poem.
Here is an excerpt from the poem, which I really like, about how the world becomes a casualty of love and about the deceit, the goriness, the dark side of love which, for most of the part, remains unseen…
“… 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 cold.
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…”
– Oscar Wilde
You can read the full poem at: The Ballad of Reading Gaol