Monday, November 7, 2016

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (1854—1900) is perhaps the greatest wit of the 19th century. He is the author of such plays as The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere's Fan, and A Woman of No Importance — and of the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Notorious for having being prosecuted for "acts of gross indecency with other male persons", for having made frivolous comments about the charges themselves in court, and for his conviction and subsequent imprisonment — Wilde is also known for his deathbed conversion. In his poem "Ballad of Reading Gaol", Wilde wrote:
-----------"Ah! Happy they whose hearts can break
-----------And peace of pardon win!
-----------How else may man make straight his plan
-----------And cleanse his soul from Sin?
-----------How else but through a broken heart
-----------May Lord Christ enter in?"

His long interest in Catholicism is shown through such flippant comments as saying the Catholic Church is "for saints and sinners alone — for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do". The following poem, from 1881, also demonstrates that Wilde had long considered the truth that salvation comes through Christ alone.

E Tenebris

Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach thy hand,
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land,
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God's throne should stand.
'He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel's smitten height.'
Nay, peace, I shall behold before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
The wounded hands, the weary human face.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.