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On this day in 1854 the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was born.
London’s most popular dramatist of his day and lionised by society, he is also remembered for the sudden fall from grace that happened in 1895 when he lost his libel case against the Marquis of Queensberry, father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, who had called him a ‘sodomite’.
Wilde was himself then prosecuted by the crown for gross indecency and served a prison sentence, from which he emerged a broken man, to spend his last years in France, never returning to England or Ireland. He died almost destitute in Paris in 1900, his last words: “Either that wallpaper goes or I do”.
Here is one of his poems, Chanson:
A ring of gold and a milk-white dove
Are goodly gifts for thee,
And a hempen rope for your own love
To hang upon a tree.
For you a House of Ivory
(Roses are white in the rose-bower)!
A narrow bed for me to lie
(White, O white, is the hemlock flower)!
Myrtle and jessamine for you
(O the red rose is fair to see)!
For me the cypress and the rue
(Fairest of all is rose-mary)!
For you three lovers of your hand
(Green grass where a man lies dead)!
For me three paces on the sand
(Plant lilies at my head)!
Today I ask that I may always look for the good in people and be grateful for the joy that they try to bring to the world.
Photo source: US Library of Congress