Much has been said of Oscar Wilde. Much more has been said of his some time lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, aka, Bosie. When Wilde was in Reading Gaol, he wrote a marvelous work; De Profundis. In which he criticized Bosie's translation of Salome, for one, and in which he said "I ceased to be Lord over myself. I was no longer captain of my soul. I allowed you [Douglas] to dominate me, and your father to frighten me. I ended in horrible disgrace. There is only one thing for me now, absolute Humility."
I sometimes say it's the best Bitchy Love Letter ever written. Partly because it mines philosophy. Partly because it takes you along with Wilde into the depths of absolute humility. I have to read it again, but I'm going to make a not so acute observation. I think De Profundis really signifies Wilde love for Bosie; yes, Bosie helped put him in a horrible situation, "posing as a sodomite," and whatnot, but Bosie, I'd like to believe, was also something of a tool, a mask that Wilde took and tried on, only to realize the mask was worth the taking, yes, but not worth the breaking.
I'm looking at some of Bosie's poetry. He did marry, for those of you who don't know, after Wilde's death, and yes, she was a woman! And Oscar did write him a rather touching letter, after he was released from prison, which follows:
æ Rouen, August 1897
My own Darling Boy,
I got your telegram half an hour ago, and just send a line to say that I feel that my only hope of again doing beautiful work in art is being with you. It was not so in the old days, but now it is different, and you can really recreate in me that energy and sense of joyous power on which art depends.
Everyone is furious with me for going back to you, but they don't understand us. I feel that it is only with you that I can do anything at all. Do remake my ruined life for me, and then our friendship and love will have a different meaning to the world.
I wish that when we met at Rouen we had not parted at all. There are such wide abysses now of space and land between us. But we love each other.
Goodnight, dear. Ever yours,
Of course, Oscar would die two years (?) later. I love Oscar Wilde, his wit, Dorian Gray led me to some marvelous revelations, De Profundis, The Decay of Lying, The Critic As Artist, The Happy Prince, The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windmere's Fan... etc., etc., But I also love Bosie. Yes, I love Bosie. The maligned lover fashioned by some as a philistine, by others as a thoughtless Hedon. In my mind, Oscar and Bosie were trying to come to terms with something that was the blight of society, not them. Their love, the love "that dare not speak its name," was boundless. And yes, Oscar was married with children, but what was he meant to do in a society that constrained every aspect of homosexuality?
I wonder sometimes, what Bosie must have been like after Oscar's death. What went through his mind. If he thought much about his dead lover. I think about these lines, from him:
I dreamed of him last night, I saw his face
All radiant and unshadowed of distress,
And as of old, in music measureless,
I heard his golden voice and marked him trace
Under the common thing the hidden grace,
And conjure wonder out of emptiness,
Till mean things put on beauty like a dress
And all the world was an enchanted place.
And then methought outside a fast locked gate
I mourned the loss of unrecorded words,
Forgotten tales and mysteries half said,
Wonders that might have been articulate,
And voiceless thoughts like murdered singing birds.
And so I woke and knew that he was dead.
And I realize, this was a 1900 lament for Wilde, yes, and it's also a lament for love. Some would say this is quite an obvious statement for me to make. That for him, Oscar and love go "hand in hand." But, it's a bit more... profound. Love seems to me a mean thing that puts on beauty like a dress. Something that overwhelms, with its continuing despair and whimsy. Today, we know, it's partly relegated to the pleasure centers in our brains. We know more about the chemical processes. A night some years ago, I was watching the film adaptation of our town. And I envied the characters, for speaking of love as if it were still something otherworldly. Something not chemical, not science, but more... metaphysical. And I wondered if I could ever go back. To just being the effect of it; and I realized, no, I couldn't, but in appreciating its chemical origins, I could appreciate the "neverness" that made it, which makes us, how it interconnects nothing, the interconnectedness of nothing, really. And this makes me love it oh so much more.
So, as homage to The Who, Love (!) Reign O'er Me, and Bosie and Wilde, I'm going to live today in the dream, not that love conquers all, but conquers nothing. It can't conquer death. It can't conquer despair. But in its inability to conquer, it conquers us. And perhaps this is the greatest spell that has ever been imposed upon art... and humanity. "The coward does it with a kiss, the brave man with a sword!"