Featured Poem: Helas

I was assisted in choosing this morning’s poem by Raymond Chapman, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of London, who has written widely on literature and theology. He praises the poem for the way it catches the mood of late nineteenth-century decadence and movingly suggests Wilde’s foreseeing of his own tragedy.

Helas

To drift with every passion till my soul
Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play,
Is it for this that I have given away
Mine ancient wisdom, and austere control?—
Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll
Scrawled over on some boyish holiday
With idle songs for pipe and virelay
Which do but mar the secret of the whole.
Surely there was a time I might have trod
The sunlit heights, and from life’s dissonance
Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God:
Is that time dead? lo! with a little rod
I did but touch the honey of romance—
And must I lose a soul’s inheritance?

–Oscar Wilde, 1881

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