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The Ballad of Reading Gaol

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  4,070 ratings  ·  281 reviews
This dramatically illustrated collector's edition marks the centenary of Oscar Wilde's release from prison in 1898 and the publication of his anguished poetic masterpiece. One hundred years after his release from Reading Gaol, the life and work of Oscar Wilde has lost none of its fascination. In his day, his wit and writings enchanted and scandalized society in equal ...more
Hardcover, 37 pages
Published December 1st 1997 by Trafalgar Square Publishing (first published 1896)
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Lisa
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Favourite poetry has a tendency to make sudden appearances in my head when I least expect it.

I don't know how many times I have read the Ballad of Reading Gaol, but it is often enough for me to feel shame I don't know it by heart yet. I annoyingly often quote the catch line "yet each man kills the things he loves", and it strikes me as true both in the deeper sense of family dysfunction and in the more shallow waters of breaking your favourite coffee mug by accident. It strikes me as wise in
...more
İntellecta
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
“Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each 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!

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

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
...more
K.D. Absolutely
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is my 4th time to read Oscar Wilde and the more I read his works, the more he becomes one of my favorite writers.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was a married man and he had two children. Yet, he had homosexual affairs. His sexual preference, considered lewd and taboo during the Victorian era, led him to his incarceration in a town prison or gaol in Reading, England. That explains the title. In the prison, he witnessed the execution of a man who killed his wife while drunk. A year later, when he
...more
Loretta
A tremendously sad and dark poem. I could definitely feel Wilde's pain and sorrow. Beautifully written. Five big stars!
Piyangie
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, irish-lit
This is a beautiful and moving poem by Oscar Wild. Based on personal observation and experience of his time in Reading jail, Wild wrote this sad and haunting poem while living in exile. I have not read any poems by Wild, so this is my first experience. I have known him for an excellent playwright and recently discovered him as a great essayist. Now I'm discovering a great poet in him too.

This poem is mainly based on an execution that took place while he was in the prison. Making it the center
...more
Florencia
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky...

*

The man had killed the thing he loved
And so he had to die.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves

*

What word of grace in such a place
Could help a brother's soul?

*

And wondered why men knelt to pray
Who never prayed before.

*

For he who live more lives than one
More deaths than one must die.


To suffer while witnessing the prisoner's hell or the one who mourns the life the first one took
...more
Sue K H
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I never would have thought that I'd love macabre poetry but I guess between this and Edgar Allen Poe, I most certainly do. I absolutely loved this dark poem.

Wilde is reflecting on his time in prison as he and other prisoners watch the final process of another prisoner's hanging sentence for killing his wife. He describes his first thoughts of watching the prisoner walk towards his death, not yet knowing what the prisoner's crime was.

"I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon
...more
Abubakar Mehdi
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
The very name Oscar Wilde is synonymous with wit and intelligence, and of course the best that the Victorian literature has to offer. But this is not the whole story, as most of us know, Wilde was convicted of homosexual offences in 1895 and sentenced to two years' hard labour in prison. For a man of his fame, intelligence and standing, this was a death sentence.
After his release, Wilde spent most of his life in France and it is there that he wrote this poem. He suggested that it be published
...more
Mia (Parentheses Enthusiast)
This is definitely not the Wilde many people are familiar with- here he eschews the characteristic wit in favour of a sorrowful, dark lament about prison life and the concept of prison in general. This poem isn't in the vein of some of Wilde's more well-known works and honestly, it's all the better for it.

Read the poem here and read more about Wilde's time in prison here.
Magdalen
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: oscar-wilde, poetry
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!


Oscar Wilde will never cease to impress me. This poem in one word is a masterpiece. Oscar was a genius.
Jaya
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jaya by: Goodreads
“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...

Not a person who finds appeal in a poems often. But this, this is something else. This is the song of desolation of a man condemned.
This is what I listened to immediately after I finished reading it
Read by Rupert Everett, read to the prisoners of the Reading Prison, where Wilde was incarcerated and the
...more
Duane
The list of writers from the Victorian Era features some of the greatest of all time. From Dickens and Thackeray, to Browning and Tennyson, to Eliot and the Brontes. But the most interesting of the lot for me would be Oscar Wilde, the one I would most like to meet if I could. What a brilliant writer. He wrote novels, plays, and poetry, and did it with a wit and style that is uniquely his own. But this poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, was one of his best works. It is haunting, and moving, and ...more
Satyajeet
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing

"No need to waste the foolish tear,
Or heave the windy sigh:
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...
leynes
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
---
And alien tears will fill for him
Pity's long broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.
---

I'm neither man nor outcast, Oscar, yet I mourn for you. Thank you for everything, son. <3
Sara
Oscar Wilde’s final poem is famously connected to his time spent in Reading Gaol in 1896, where he served two years for “gross indecency with men.” Fully aware of the penalties for homosexuality in 1890s England, Wilde married and had two sons. But in 1891, Wilde began an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, a young British poet and aristocrat 16 years his junior.
Douglas’ father, the Marquess of Queensberry, was outraged by the relationship and sought to expose Wilde. Wilde reacted by filing a libel
...more
Huda Aweys
Dec 22, 2014 rated it liked it
It was a great poem , I like it :) !
This is a link to read it
http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/ba...

It is sweet to dance to violins
When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
To dance upon the air!


Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
We had crossed each other’s way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
But in the shameful day.


Some do the deed with
...more
Kathleen
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic, poetry
The end of Oscar Wilde’s life is tragic to contemplate. This poem that he wrote, this last offering is terribly sad, but provides a certain balm. I can only hope writing it helped him a little.

I loved the tone of the poem. As the story plods along, you see from his eyes and feel what it must have been like to be imprisoned. What I most appreciated was how he handled the theme of hypocrisy. He seems to be saying if we are all guilty, if “each man kills the thing he loves,” and if the God the
...more
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
The Ballad of Reading Gaol is the last work by Wilde, which is sad for many reasons. The first is that Wilde claimed that something in him was killed by his incarceration and the second is that he is one of the best and brightest writers of his era. Everything he wrote is smart, unique, and careful. He is witty, funny, critical. And this poem is nuanced and beautiful. It is based on Wilde's personal experience while incarcerated in Reading jail. After his release he lived in exile and wrote this ...more
Milena
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: victorians, poetry
Oscar Wilde wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol after having spent two years in Reading prison for his homosexual relationship with a young man. From this traumatic experience Wilde emerged a destroyed man, who vented his anguish in this last magnificent work, and sought in spirituality a way to find peace. He condemned the inhuman conditions in which the prisoners were held: miserable men who were even denied the comfort of religion.

He wrote the poem in the form of a popular ballad as if he wanted
...more
booklady
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Discovered this incredible poem when I was reading an article about Humility. As an example the author used Oscar Wilde's fall from celebrity and ease into shame and suffering in the Reading Prison. This Ballad of the same name describes some of the horrors of that place which Wilde experienced first hand. I know prisons today are still harsh, but then they were beyond anything imaginable. Wilde's experience there led to his conversion.
GoldGato
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love, love, love this poem.

I love, love, love this edition (early 1900s, leather-bound).

I love, love, love the fact that Oscar Wilde wrote this cry from a prison cell.

Yes, I love this work of art.

Nor does Terror walk at noon

The subject of the poem was guilty, admitting to the police that he had killed his wife. Yet, trooper Charles Thomas Woolridge of the Royal Horse Guards, will live forever thanks to Wilde's pen.

The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.


Book Season = Year
...more
Lidia Mascaró
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ahhhhhhhhh!!! Okay. I know I just talked about Wilde's poems but this one over here is on an entirely different level. Would give it ten stars if I could. It is an absolute masterpiece, he is an absolute masterpiece, made me shed some tears here and there (that might be because I truly love the man with a burning passion but never-mind that), raised every hair on my skin.

So a little bit of context for those who might need it:
Oscar Wilde, "glamorous and notorious, more famous as a playwright or
...more
Renee M
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I don't know what I suspected, but my previous experiences with Oscar Wilde's writing did not prepare me for this. I love Wilde's wit, his funny, frothy, skewering truth. But there was none of that here. Instead it was beautiful in a completely different way. Haunting and so sad, a study of the condemned man and yet so many other things as well. I think this may become one of my favorite poems.
Kaethe Douglas
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Ballad of Reading Gaol - Oscar Wilde I don't read a lot of poetry as such because my favorites rhyme and are silly; so nothing since Old Possum really. (In my defense, I pay a lot of attention to song lyrics, and enjoy a slant rhyme or an unusual rhythm, otherwise, as you may have noticed, I read a lot of children's books which meet both my criteria but aren't usually labeled "poetry"). I honestly can't remember if I read this in its entirety back in the day: there were a lot of English ...more
Aussiescribbler Aussiescribbler
Often there are two sides to the jester. The individual who mocks the superficial conventions of society often does so because, not blinded by those conventions, he can see more deeply into the human condition that lies beneath. Such was the case with Oscar Wilde. The other side of the comic genius who gave us The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere's Fan gave us The Soul of Man Under Socialism, De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

This has to be one of the saddest poems ever
...more
Katy
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully written poem on the horrors of prison and the inhumanity associated with it.
Désirée
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"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."
My heart aches for him. A man most witty, talented, and intelligent with a sensitive soul of pure gold, sitting in a dark cell, having his life sucked out of him by hard labor and his eventual illness. The world is a rotten place.
Rana Adham
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, english
I am a staunch opposer to imprisonment as a form of punishment, and I have only one statement to support my argument: "since periods of imprisonment are often prolonged, the effect on the inmates' well-being is detrimental."

This is a beautiful poem by Wilde, and having read it and read De Profundis, I could easily say that I felt his suffering more tangibly through The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

When he speaks about the possibility of going astray he is not exaggerating: many prisoners do become
...more
Kristin Coxe
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing

I first read this poem when I was 11 years old. It was given to me by my Great Aunt Myrtle in an old book of poetry she had in her collection. She was a former English teacher with lots of literary gems on her bookshelf. She knew I was interested in writing and had won a couple of poetry contests at school, so she gave me the book and told me to enjoy. The pages were old and yellow but inside were some of the most beautiful poems I have ever read and none so beautiful as The Ballad of Reading
...more
Peter
Aug 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
for Yin

Baby did a bad bad thing
Baby did a bad bad thing
Baby did a bad bad thing
Baby did a bad bad thing
You ever love someone so much you thought your little heart was gonna break in two?
I really think so
You ever tried with all your heart and soul to get your lover back to you?
I wanna hope so
You ever pray with all your heart and soul just to watch her walk away?
Baby did a bad bad thing
Baby did a bad bad thing
Baby did a bad bad thing
Feel like crying.....feel like crying

You take your knife with
...more
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25,497 followers
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish playwright, poet, and author of numerous short stories, and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being ...more
“Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each 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”
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“Each man kills the thing he loves.” 240 likes
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