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‘God Help the Wolf after Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark’ by Ted Hughes

There you met it – the mystery of hatred.
After your billions of years in anonymous matter
That was where you were found – and promptly hated.
You tried your utmost to reach and touch those people
With gifts of yourself –
Just like your first words as a toddler
When you rushed at every visitor to the house
Clasping their legs and crying: ‘I love you! I love you!’
Just as you had danced for your father
In his home of anger – gifts of your life
To sweeten his slow death and mix yourself in it
Where he lay propped on the couch,
To sugar the bitterness of his raging death.

You searched for yourself to go on giving it
As if after the nightfall of his going
You danced on in the dark house,
Eight years old, in your tinsel.

Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced,
Floundering a little, crying softly,
Like somebody searching for somebody drowning
In dark water
Listening for them – in panic at losing
Those listening seconds from your searching –
Then dancing wilder in the darkness.

The colleges lifted their heads. It did seem
You disturbed something just perfected
That they were holding carefully, all of a piece,
Till the glue dried. And as if
Reporting some felony to the police
They let you know that you were not John Donne.
You no longer care. Did you save their names?
But then they let you know, day by day,
Their contempt for everything you attempted,
Took pains to inject their bile, as for your health,
Into your morning coffee. Even signed
Their homeopathic letters,
Envelopes full of carefully broken glass
To lodge behind your eyes so you would see

Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter – your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,
Looking for something to give –
Whatever you found
They bombarded with splinters,
Derision, mud – the mystery of that hatred.

This is from Ted Hughes’ 1998 Birthday Letters collection, which is all about his wife, Sylvia Plath. Perhaps Hughes intended this collection of poems to ‘set the record straight’; I think that he may have felt that many blamed him for his wife’s death because of their break-up after his affair with another woman not long before Plath committed suicide. It was my love for Plath that led me to read Hughes’ work, and this collection is full of love and pain and struggle and I find it quite fascinating and compelling mostly because it seems so intimate.

I chose this particular poem to blog about today because I simply love this image of Plath as a ‘wolf after whom the dogs do not bark.’ The poem is about Plath’s early attempts at poetry – when she was studying at Cambridge – and the negative criticism that she received at that time. But Hughes reminds us in this poem that it did not matter because she was in fact a wolf among dogs, and should not have cared whether the dogs barked after her or not.

Ted Hughes delivers this touching picture of his wife trying to get her “gifts of [her]self” – her poems – published. He likens her efforts to her “first words as a toddler/When you rushed at every visitor… crying “I love you! I love you!” I love this image because it is so telling; as most writers, Plath must have sought approval and recognition, and yet she was “hated” by the critics to begin with. It is also telling of Hughes’ affection for Sylvia.

I love the contrast between Hughes’ image of Plath, “dancing wilder in the darkness”, as though “searching for somebody drowning” trying to give these beautiful “gifts” of her soul … and the reaction is: “the colleges lifted their heads.” The critics who “hated” Plath when she was at Cambridge (she received many negative reviews there) were so institutionalized that Hughes refers to them not as people but as the buildings – the institution of a literary Establishment – that they represent. The image of the Cambridge colleges marks a sharp contrast to the image of Plath with her “strange glitter” and her childish enthusiasm – she is so much more alive, so much more real.

Now, the line that most excites me in this poem is “They let you know that you were not John Donne”. This comes back to what I wrote about yesterday in my blog about Plath’s poem, ‘Daddy’. I talked about “the weight of English Literature” in that post, which is something I heard Plath talk about in an interview that I watched on Youtube. In that interview, Sylvia says that she remembers a critic telling her that she had “started out [a poem] just like John Donne, but not quite managed to finish like John Donne”. It is then that she adds, “and I felt the weight of English Literature on me at that point”. I loved hearing Plath say that because she is part of English Literature (with the huge capital letters) now, and it is comforting and encouraging to think that she did not always feel that she was good enough…

But what viscousness; these critics are described as totally venomous by Hughes as they send his wife “Envelopes of carefully broken glass/ To lodge behind your eyes so you would see/ Nobody wanted your dance”. This is calculated hatred, “injected… into your morning coffee”. He describes this hate as a “mystery” — in fact, the “mystery” of this hatred frames the entire poem. And it seems to be a mystery that is haunting Hughes because this criticism so affected Plath.

But, of course, Sylvia Plath rose way above those early critics. As Hughes says: “You no longer care.”

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Not waving but drowning’ by Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

I admit this is the only poem by Stevie Smith I have ever read. But I always liked it. I think it is easy to relate to. It talks about something that I think we all understand: that there are great — often catastrophic — distances between what we say and what people understand, and between what we mean to say and what we actually express.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘One Art’ by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster.

This is a beautifully crafted villanelle, and a fascinating illustration of a person’s internal struggle with denial over how much they have been affected by the loss of a someone they love.

I love the way the poet shows the self-deception involved, as she tries to convince herself that she can learn to be able to cope with significant loss. The mantra, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master”, runs through the poem. The repetition of these words suggests that the speaker is trying desperately to convince herself that it is true.

The speaker starts off by talking about trivial things that she has lost (things that are ‘safe’ for her to talk about). She tells us that she has lost “door keys” and “an hour badly spent”. Losing these things “wasn’t a disaster”. Then she advises us to “loose something every day” — to “practice” loosing increasingly significant things — as if this will help to prepare us for when we loose something vital to us, like a loved one.

As the speaker moves on to talking about more valuable things that she has lost (“my mother’s watch”… and then “two cities”, “two rivers” and “a continent”) she tells us, “I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster”. We can see that she is aware that loosing material things is nothing compared to loosing a person that she loves.

I love the final stanza because it is so self-aware. She is trying to convince herself that she can cope with losing the “you” to whom this poem is addressed. The way she describes the person as “the joking voice, a gesture/I love” shows us that she has lost a person very dear to her — someone she has spent a great deal of time with. It could be a friend, a lover, or even a spouse. It is theirpresence that she misses. Again she repeats that “the art of losing things isn’t hard to master”, but finally admits that “it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster”. I love this final line. The “Write it!” part  makes me think about how writing can be very therapeutic. The act of writing can make things more real and help us to accept them. Here, it seems that when the poet writes “Write it!” she is trying to convince herself to admit it — to admit that losing this person is a disaster for her.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Demain, dès l’aube’ by Victor Hugo

Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

 I love this poem — it’s so sad and beautiful. I thought I would have a go at translating it because every time I read a translation of a French poem that I really love, I feel like I can do better. This one was no different when I looked up translations. I’m not saying that I’m a brilliant translator — far from it — it’s probably just down to personal preference. Anyway, here it is:

Tomorrow, at dawn, as the countryside pales,
I shall go. You see, I know you’ll be waiting.
I shall go by the forest, I shall go by the mountain.
I cannot be apart from you any longer.

I shall walk with my eyes fixed upon my thoughts,
Seeing nothing about me, hearing no sounds,
Alone, unknown, my back slouched, hands crossed,
Sad. And day for me will be like the night.

I shall watch neither the golden evening descend, 
Nor the far-off sails coming in to Harfleur,
And when I arrive, I shall place upon your grave, 
A bouquet of green holly and flowering heather. 

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Sea Fever’ by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

For my Granddad, who steered his ship by the brightest star in the sky. This was the last poem he asked me to read to him.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Living Beloveds’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

All are not taken; there are left behind
Living Belovèds, tender looks to bring
And make the daylight still a happy thing,
And tender voices, to make soft the wind:
But if it were not so – if I could find
No love in all this world for comforting,
Nor any path but hollowly did ring
Where ‘dust to dust’ the love from life disjoin’d;
And if, before those sepulchres unmoving
I stood alone (as some forsaken lamb
Goes bleating up the moors in weary dearth)
Crying ‘Where are ye, O my loved and loving?’ –
I know a voice would sound, ‘Daughter, I AM.
Can I suffice for Heaven and not for earth?’

I love the title of this poem. The use of the word “beloved” reminds me of Rumi’s use of it when referring to God. And so Barrett Browning’s phrase “Living Beloveds” for me invokes the notion that, though we may lose loved ones, the face of God is in everybody. There is certainly a sense of something divine at work in of the transformative power of these “Living Beloveds”, who are able to “make the daylight still a happy thing” and “to make soft the wind” with their tender looks and voices. I find it incredibly beautiful how the poet has made friendship divine here, and presents it to us as an infinite comfort when we lose a loved one.

But even “if it were not so”; even if one could find “no love in all this world for comforting”; even if one felt so depressed and alone that “‘dust to dust’ the love from life disjoin’d”, there would be a voice. I love this line that I just quoted — it is such a beautifully phrased expression of grief, describing how love can seem to have died, to have dissolved to dust, to have been removed from life along with the person who has died. Even if one stood alone before those “sepulchres unmoving” — those frighteningly solid, unmovable tombs; even if one felt like a “forsaken lamb” and went crying for “my loved and loving” through a hollow, emptily echoing world… there would be a voice.

“A voice would sound ‘Daughter, I AM./ Can I suffice for Heaven and not for earth?” This is the voice of God, and the divine answer to the question “‘Where are ye, O my loved and loving’”. To me, the speaker seems to be asking two questions here: where has their dead loved one gone, but also, I think, where has God gone. And the answer to both questions is “I AM” (which, of course, reminds us of “I am that I am” from Moses and the burning bush). God — and the dead — are not to be found in any specific location, he simply exists — he is existence — eternal and all-pervading.

And the final line, “Can I suffice for Heaven and not for earth?” is one that I am not sure I understand completely, but I find it quite fascinating. On a first reading, it felt to me like it means that the dead are in Heaven, with God, and that God is all that they need — like they have ‘become one’ with God. God can suffice for Heaven, and ought to suffice for us on earth, too. However, when I thought about it a little more, I starting thinking that of course God does not suffice for earth. In Heaven, God suffices because we are fit to go there. On earth, we are are still full of doubt and fear and capacity for evil and free will etc. On earth, God cannot suffice; godliness is a constant struggle on earth because of human nature. So now I think maybe this question should be read rather as a challenge, encouraging us to embrace the struggle to be better and make God suffice.

But I don’t think any of these last thoughts detract from the over-all comforting nature of this poem. Comfort was what I got from my first reading of it, and I still think that is its most powerful message.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Romeo Kiffe Juliette’ by Grand Corps Malade

Roméo habite au rez-de-chaussée du bâtiment trois
Juliette dans l’immeuble d’en face au dernier étage
Ils ont 16 ans tous les deux et chaque jour quand ils se voient
Grandit dans leur regard une envie de partage
C’est au premier rendez-vous qu’ils franchissent le pas
Sous un triste ciel d’automne où il pleut sur leurs corps
Ils s’embrassent comme des fous sans peur du vent et du froid
Car l’amour a ses saisons que la raison ignore

[Refrain]
Romeo kiffe Juliette et Juliette kiffe Roméo
Et si le ciel n’est pas clément tant pis pour la météo
Un amour dans l’orage, celui des dieux, celui des hommes
Un amour, du courage et deux enfants hors des normes

Juliette et Roméo se voient souvent en cachette
Ce n’est pas qu’autour d’eux les gens pourraient se moquer
C’est que le père de Juliette a une kippa sur la tête
Et celui de Roméo va tous les jours à la mosquée
Alors ils mentent à leurs familles, ils s’organisent comme des pros
S’il n’y a pas de lieux pour leur amour, ils se fabriquent un décor
Ils s’aiment au cinéma, chez des amis, dans le métro
Car l’amour a ses maisons que les darons ignorent

[Refrain]

Le père de Roméo est vénèr, il a des soupçons
La famille de Juliette est juive, tu ne dois pas t’approcher d’elle
Mais Roméo argumente et résiste au coup de pression
On s’en fout papa qu’elle soit juive, regarde comme elle est belle
Alors l’amour reste clandé dès que son père tourne le dos
Il lui fait vivre la grande vie avec les moyens du bord
Pour elle c’est sandwich au grec et cheese au McDo
Car l’amour a ses liaisons que les biftons ignorent

[Refrain]

Mais les choses se compliquent quand le père de Juliette
Tombe sur des messages qu’il n’aurait pas dû lire
Un texto sur l’i-phone et un chat Internet
La sanction est tombée, elle ne peut plus sortir
Roméo galère dans le hall du bâtiment trois
Malgré son pote Mercutio, sa joie s’évapore
Sa princesse est tout prêt mais retenue sous son toit
Car l’amour a ses prisons que la raison déshonore
Mais Juliette et Roméo changent l’histoire et se tirent
A croire qu’ils s’aiment plus à la vie qu’à la mort
Pas de fiole de cyanure, n’en déplaise à Shakespeare
Car l’amour a ses horizons que les poisons ignorent

[Refrain]

Roméo kiffe Juliette et Juliette kiffe Roméo
Et si le ciel n’est pas clément tant pis pour la météo
Un amour dans un orage réactionnaire et insultant
Un amour et deux enfants en avance sur leur temps.

My Translation:

Romeo lives on the ground floor of building 3
Juliet, in the building opposite, on the top floor
Both are 16 and every day, when they see each other
There grows in their eyes a desire to share things
It’s on their first date that they take that step
Under a sad autumn sky that rains on their bodies
They kiss like crazy, unafraid of the wind or the cold
For love has its reasons that the seasons don’t understand

[chorus]
Romeo digs Juliet, Juliet digs Romeo
And if the sky is not clement, too bad for the weather
A love in the storm – that of the gods, that of men –
A love, courage and two unconventional kids

Juliet and Romeo often meet each other in secret
They’re not the only ones who could get made fun of

Because Juliet’s father wears a kippa on his head
And Romeo’s father goes to mosque every day
So they lie to their families, they plan it all like pros,
If there’s no place for their love, they make themselves a setting
They love each other in the cinema, at friend’s, on the metro,
For love has its houses which parents don’t understand

[chorus]

Romeo’s father is angry and suspicious
“Juliet’s family is Jewish, you mustn’t go near her”
But Romeo argues back and stands up to the pressure
“Dad, who cares if she’s a Jew–look how beautiful she is”
So their love remains secret behind his father’s back,
He gives her all he can with whatever he has
For her it’s sandwiches at the Kebab shop and cheeseburgers at MacDo
For love has its bonds which money doesn’t understand

[chorus]

Things get complicated when Juliet’s father
Comes across messages he should never have read
A text on her iphone and an instant message chat
The sentence is passed: she’s not allowed out.
Romeo struggles in the hall of buiding 3
Despite his mate Mercutio, his happiness is fading
His princess is very close, but detained under her roof
For love has its prisons which Reason dishonours
But Juliet and Romeo change the story and get out of there
Like they loved each other more in life than in death
No vials of cyanide, whether Shakespeare likes it or not
For love has its horizons which poisons don’t understand

[chorus]

Romeo digs Juliet, Juliet digs Romeo
And if the sky is not clement, too bad for the weather
A love in a reactionary and contemptuous storm
A love and two children ahead of their time.

 

Grand Corps Malade is a French slam poet. I think he’s great. He’s very popular and his texts are even studied in France for the baccalauréat. This is still my favourite of his songs.

You can watch the video for this (i.e. with the music) on YouTube — it’s brilliant.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘For Jane: with all the love I had, which was not enough’ by Charles Bukowski

I pick up the skirt,
I pick up the sparkling beads
in black,
this thing that moved once
around flesh,
and I call God a liar,
I say anything that moved
like that
or knew
my name
could never die
in the common verity of dying,
and I pick
up her lovely
dress,
all her loveliness gone,
and I speak to all the gods,
Jewish gods, Christ-gods,
chips of blinking things,
idols, pills, bread,
fathoms, risks,
knowledgeable surrender,
rats in the gravy of two gone quite mad
without a chance,
hummingbird knowledge, hummingbird chance,
I lean upon this,
I lean on all of this
and I know
her dress upon my arm
but
they will not
give her back to me.
I actually don’t like Bukowski’s poems. Can I say that? He was a prolific poet famous for having been a bit nuts, an alcoholic and womaniser, and sometimes when I read his poems it makes me feel like I’m stuck at a bar talking to a very foul-mouthed drunkard who won’t shut up. His poems are very ‘in-your-face’; you can almost smell the liquor on his breath as you read them. To me, reading those poems is unpleasant. I often find the language unpleasant (I’m sorry, I know I must sound like a prude); I’d just rather not read that sort of language in poetry.
There are things I do like about Bukowski: his fearless originality of structure, the apparently unabashed honesty of his poems, as well as the lack of sentimentality. His are almost ‘anti-poems’ because they just refuse to be reverent. There is no music, no rhyme, and he takes you places don’t expect (and probably don’t want) to go to in a poem.
However, I do like this particular poem exactly because it is so different from the sort of poetry I have been describing above. It seems almost out of character. Bukowski wrote it following his wife’s death, and the pain expressed in it is heartbreaking. His desolation is tangible in that little-boy opening, “I pick up the skirt”, and the shock and disbelief as he writes “this thing that moved once/ around flesh” feels so very poignant to me. This is grief, but it is up-close and raw; it is not romanticised or transformed into melancholic beauty which is not real. He is in shock and cannot quite comprehend that the being he loved most in the world no longer moves and breathes in flesh and clothing.
I love the tone of anger as the poet writes “and I call God a liar”, it is my favourite line. He “lean[s] upon” God, upon “blinking things/ idols, pills, bread/ fathoms, risks”; he leans upon the nostalgia of the dress, searches for crutches to help him to survive in his state of loss and loneliness, but knows in his heart that “they will not/ give her back to me”. I love the ending because of its simplicity. Why dress up grief? Why change anything? Grief is mostly wordless, and if it is to be expressed it had surely better be expressed in this way — in realistic, plain monosyllables.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Jenny kissed me’ by Leigh Hunt

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.

That Sylvia Plath blog was pretty heavy yesterday so I thought I’d go with something shorter, lighter and happier for today!
I first read this poem in my Oxford Book of English Verse, which my grandparents gave me for my 21st birthday. It struck me as so sweet and romantic and I love its simplicity. I think most of us do value love above all else and this communicates that fact in such a lovely way. But there’s no point saying anything more; this poem speaks for itself.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Apologia’ by Oscar Wilde

Is it thy will that I should wax and wane,
Barter my cloth of gold for hodden grey,
And at thy pleasure weave that web of pain
Whose brightest threads are each a wasted day?

Is it thy will–Love that I love so well–
That my Soul’s House should be a tortured spot
Wherein, like evil paramours, must dwell
The quenchless flame, the worm that dieth not?

Nay, if it be thy will I shall endure,
And sell ambition at the common mart,
And let dull failure be my vestiture,
And sorrow dig its grave within my heart.

Perchance it may be better so–at least
I have not made my heart a heart of stone,
Nor starved my boyhood of its goodly feast,
Nor walked where Beauty is a thing unknown.

Many a man hath done so; sought to fence
In straitened bonds the soul that should be free,
Trodden the dusty road of common sense,
While all the forest sang of liberty,

Not marking how the spotted hawk in flight
Passed on wide pinion through the lofty air,
To where the steep untrodden mountain height
Caught the last tresses of the Sun God’s hair.

Or how the little flower he trod upon,
The daisy, that white-feathered shield of gold,
Followed with wistful eyes the wandering sun
Content if once its leaves were aureoled.

But surely it is something to have been
The best beloved for a little while,
To have walked hand in hand with Love, and seen
His purple wings flit once across thy smile.

Ay! though the gorged asp of passion feed
On my boy’s heart, yet have I burst the bars,
Stood face to face with Beauty, known indeed
The Love which moves the Sun and all the stars!

I went to see a play called ‘The Judas Kiss’ a couple of evenings ago with my parents. It was about Oscar Wilde, about two key moments in his life. The first act followed the few hours before he went to prison, and the second act the few hours before Bosie (the man he loved desperately, and who’s fault it was that he was sent to prison for homosexuality) left him. I thought it was a brilliant play, and Rupert Everett played Wilde with a spot-on mixture of humour and tragedy.
So, this play got me thinking about Oscar Wilde, and how I know the gist of his biography, a few witty quotes; I love ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’, like everyone else, but I’d never read any of his poetry. When I was little, my granddad read ‘The Happy Prince’ to me, and I have never forgotten it. When I first heard a recording of ‘The Selfish Giant’ I was totally mesmerised. His children’s stories are so perfect; you can tell that he was a wonderful father when you read them. But, as I said, I never thought to read any of his poetry before.
Well, since the play, I have done. I also watched the 1997 movie ‘Wilde’ with Stephen Fry (which was so beautiful it made me cry) and read ‘De Profundis’ (or most of it).
This poem really stood out for me and so I thought I would put it on the blog. ‘Apologia’ is addressed to Oscar Wilde’s “Love that I love so well”. Does he mean Bosie — a lover? Or is he addressing his “Love” as an abstract object? I’m not sure that it matters, and perhaps it comes to the same. Wilde begins the poem by asking his Love if it is his will that he should be unhappy, that his “Soul’s House should be a tortured spot”. He says that if it is his Love’s will then his will endure it — he will “sell ambition”, wear “dull failure” instead, and let “sorrow dig its grave within my heart”. This is all very noble and sacrificing, but the poet takes it further and suggests that perhaps it is for the best that he should suffer this way. He defies the punishment that society has given him for his ‘crime’ of loving as his nature dictates. He says “at least/ I have not made my heart a heart of stone”. I love this line. There is something about the repetition and its simplicity that makes it so touching, that makes me believe him. Oscar Wilde is a hero for not constraining in “straightened bonds” his soul that “should be free”.The third-to-last stanza is my favourite. It talks about living like the flowers, which is something that Christ talked about when he told his disciples to “consider the lilies”. In ‘De Profundis’, Wilde talks a lot about Jesus, most interestingly (to me) suggesting that he was the first Romantic, because of his individualism. I adore how Wilde describes the daisy flower as following “with wistful eyes the wandering sun”, and as being content “if only once its leaves were aureoled”. Here you get a sense of love being holy, with the image of the halo, and as being the only thing worthwhile in life. If love shines upon you once, then the rest of your life can be torture and it will have been worth it, you can still consider yourself blessed. Wilde’s poem ends triumphant and defiant. Society had humiliated him, imprisoned him, exiled him, and yet he wins, simply because he has “been best beloved for a little while”; he has: “stood face to face with Beauty” and known “The Love which moves the Sun and all the stars”.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh