Monday, May 9, 2011

Selections from De Profundis. By Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas. Picture taken in 1893.

These last months I´ve been through Oscar Wilde´s works, not that I haven´t read the typical ones between my 14 and 20 years old, but now, I read everything more profoundly, under a different light. I´ve begun watching the movie Dorian Gray, directed by Oliver Parker, and I really enjoyed it. I´ve downloaded The Picture of Dorian Gray in English from Project Gutenberg (I´ve read the Spanish translation many years ago), an continued watching the movie ¨Wilde¨, which I highly recommend being it accurate to Oscar Wilde´s biography

Image from google images.

When Oscar Wilde is released from prison, he carries with him a long letter for his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, describing his early feelings, his remorse, his faith in God as a savior. This letter, written in 1897 is called De Profundis (Out of depths). Robert Ross, who was Wilde´s close friend and first male lover, published the letter in 1905, five years after Wilde's death, with this title from Psalm 130.  ¨The author of this Psalm is unknown; it was composed probably during the Babylonian Exile, or perhaps for the day of penance prescribed by Esdras (Ezra 9:5-10). The hardschool  of suffering during the Exile had brought the people to the confession of their guilt an had kindled in their hearts faith and hope of the Redeemer and confidence in the mercy of God. The De profundis is one of the fifteen Gradual Psalms, which were sung by the Jewish pilgrims of their way to Jerusalem, and which are still contained in the Roman breviary. It is also one of the seven Penitential Psalms which, in the Eastand the West, were already used as such by the early Christians.¨(
From De Profundis on line, at project, I´ve taken my favorite paragraphs:

Lord Alfred Douglas. By George Charles Beresford, 1903.

¨Behind joy and laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and callous.  But behind sorrow there is always sorrow.  Pain, unlike pleasure, wears no mask.  Truth in art is not any correspondence between the essential idea and the accidental existence; it is not the resemblance of shape to shadow, or of the form mirrored in the crystal to the form itself; it is no echo coming from a hollow hill, any more than it is a silver well of water in the valley that shows the moon to the moon and Narcissus to Narcissus.  Truth in art is the unity of a thing with itself: the outward rendered expressive of the inward: the soul made incarnate: the body instinct with spirit.  For this reason there is no truth comparable to sorrow.  There are times when sorrow seems to me to be the only truth.  Other things may be illusions of the eye or the appetite, made to blind the one and cloy the other, but out of sorrow have the worlds been built, and at the birth of a child or a star there is pain.¨

¨I had said of Christ that he ranks with the poets.  That is true.  Shelley and Sophocles are of his company.  But his entire life also is the most wonderful of poems.  For ‘pity and terror’ there is nothing in the entire cycle of Greek tragedy to touch it.  The absolute purity of the protagonist raises the entire scheme to a height of romantic art from which the sufferings of Thebes and Pelops’ line are by their very horror excluded, and shows how wrong Aristotle was when he said in his treatise on the drama that it would be impossible to bear the spectacle of one blameless in pain.  Nor in Æschylus nor Dante, those stern masters of tenderness, in Shakespeare, the most purely human of all the great artists, in the whole of Celtic myth and legend, where the loveliness of the world is shown through a mist of tears, and the life of a man is no more than the life of a flower, is there anything that, for sheer simplicity of pathos wedded and made one with sublimity of tragic effect, can be said to equal or even approach the last act of Christ’s passion.¨

¨If after I am free a friend of mine gave a feast, and did not invite me to it, I should not mind a bit.  I can be perfectly happy by myself.  With freedom, flowers, books, and the moon, who could not be perfectly happy?  Besides, feasts are not for me any more.  I have given too many to care about them.  That side of life is over for me, very fortunately, I dare say.  But if after I am free a friend of mine had a sorrow and refused to allow me to share it, I should feel it most bitterly.  If he shut the doors of the house of mourning against me, I would come back again and again and beg to be admitted, so that I might share in what I was entitled to share in.  If he thought me unworthy, unfit to weep with him, I should feel it as the most poignant humiliation, as the most terrible mode in which disgrace could be inflicted on me.  But that could not be.  I have a right to share in sorrow, and he who can look at the loveliness of the world and share its sorrow, and realise something of the wonder of both, is in immediate contact with divine things, and has got as near to God’s secret as any one can get.¨

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