Ballad of Reading Gaol

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Brentano, 1918 - Prisoners - 37 pages
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User Review  - Pharmacdon - LibraryThing

From personal experience, Oscar Wilde writes his final work. While imprisoned at Reading jail for his homosexual acts, he witnesses a man executed for killing his wife. Thus he writes Yet each man ... Read full review

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User Review  - duck2ducks - LibraryThing

This beautifully-written six-chapter poem movingly portrays the monstrous inhumanity of prison life, and the stark-white hypocrisy of capital punishment. It also reminded me of Coleridge's Rime of the ... Read full review

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Page 1 - A cricket cap was on his head, And his step seemed light and gay ; But I never saw a man who looked So wistfully at the day. 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.
Page 13 - 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.
Page 20 - In which their convict lies. The Chaplain would not kneel to pray By his dishonoured grave: Nor mark it with that blessed Cross That Christ for sinners gave, Because the man was one of those Whom Christ came down to save.
Page 12 - We waited for the stroke of eight: Each tongue was thick with thirst: For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate That makes a man accursed, And Fate will use a running noose For the best man and the worst. We had no other thing to do, Save to wait for the sign to come: So, like things of stone in a valley lone, Quiet we sat and dumb: But each man's heart beat thick and quick, Like a madman on a drum!
Page 17 - Alas! it is a fearful thing To feel another's guilt! For, right within, the sword of Sin Pierced to its poisoned hilt, And as molten lead were the tears we shed For the blood we had not spilt.
Page 4 - 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.
Page 9 - 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...
Page 11 - Of filthy darkness grope : We did not dare to breathe a prayer, Or to give our anguish scope: Something was dead in each of us, And what was dead was Hope.
Page 3 - 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!
Page 25 - And break the heart of stone. And every human heart that breaks, In prison-cell or yard, Is as that broken box that gave Its treasure to the Lord, And filled the unclean leper's house With the scent of costliest nard.

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