Tag Archives: Poetry

The Ballad of Reading Gaol

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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

A Question

A voice said, Look me in the stars

And tell me truly, men of Earth

If all the soul-and-body scars,

Were not too much to pay for birth.

– Robert Frost

This poem, titled “A Question” by Robert Frost was first published in 1942. Frost’s poems are not a result of rebellion against tyranny or frustration against capitalism or anger against poverty or disease or corruption. His poems come out of a general pondering over one’s day-to-day actions. And for that reason, he is my favorite poet.

When I first read this poem, I interpreted it in a way that relates to my own life. I complete my MBA course from IIM Lucknow in a week from now. In all likelihood, this is going to be the last full-time educational program that I undertake. For quite some time now, my friends have been expressing their dismay about leaving the campus, the amazing hostel life and the carefree life of a student. But even as they were reeling in nostalgia, I was unperturbed, almost immune from that feeling. I was actually angry at myself. So last night, when I was reading Robert Frost: Collection of Best Poems, I came across this little piece and it sent me into retrospection. And as I look back over the last 21 months that I’ve spent here, at one of the most prestigious business schools in the country among some of the brightest minds I’ve met, I wonder, whatever I have achieved, is it worth the efforts I put in?

It got increasingly difficult to answer this question, the more I thought about it. For starters, I don’t know how to determine what were my achievements and what efforts I put in. I’ve managed to get a great job, make some wonderful friends and that on an average, I have performed at or above par vis-à-vis any objective or subjective metric that can be used to quantify achievement or success. But is that achievement or success in true terms? Should we take into account whether I am happy with where I am or not, into account? I don’t know but let’s leave it at this level of complexity. On the other hand, if I think of my efforts, I’d say I did the best I could. I worked. I played. I toiled hard. And I lazed away. But even if I know the LHS and the RHS, these are not mathematical entities that can be equated just like that. The question still remains – are my efforts worth my success?

I believe that I will never be able to answer this question that Frost poses in front of us. In fact, I think he’s not even looking for an answer. I read somewhere that poetry is not in revelation but in the quest, it’s not in the rendezvous but in the wait. Hence, the most plausible interpretation of this poem which I’ve arrived at is that we must always keep asking this question and keep looking for an answer. And I think that it is only this circular entanglement that keeps the world spinning.

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Nocturnal Serenity

In the dead silence of the fading night,

When stray dogs are on scavenging spree,

I wonder in the feeble lamp light,

For nights, I thank the powers that be.
When the world’s asleep, drowned in dreams,

Analog kisses unravel the lovers’ smiles,

In a time minus chaos and deafening screams,

They walk down the love road, the cupid’s mile.
Tiny pearls sprayed all over the black sky,

And the full moon floats amidst amorphous clouds,

When the zephyrs play with your entangled hair,

By this cosmic harmony, my head is bowed.

The haunting recurrence of the watchman’s call,

The shrilling moan of the hungry canine,

The rhythmic beating of a fulfilled heart,

When all it seems, the world is mine.

I switch off the lamp and the lovers now part,

The dogs scram away and the watchman yawns,

Its time for the birds and roosters’ tart,

So beautiful was night, not so charming is dawn.

The moon snugs back into the horizon,

The lake glitters by the morning ray,

As the wheel of life is set in motion ,

I just wish if I could have nights all day.