Mashup: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray/W.B. Yeats’ The Sorrow of Love

Hygeia, Gustav Klimt, 1907.

Hygeia, Gustav Klimt, 1907.

“You didn’t even need to tell me the story,” he told me. “I could have told it to you.” I stared out the window stoically, my iPhone glowing on my left cheek. I felt nothing. I felt everything. I felt everything so much that I felt nothing.

Excerpts from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
“The Sorrow of Love” by W.B. Yeats

The quarrel of the sparrows in the eaves

Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel. One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in form! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as the viol or of the lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?

The full round moon and the star-laden sky,

It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style.

And the loud song of the ever-singing leaves,

There were poisons so subtle that to know their properties one had to sicken of them. There were maladies so strange that one had to pass through them if one sought to understand their nature. And, yet, what a great reward one received! How wonderful the whole world became to one! To note the curious hard logic of passion, and the emotional coloured life of the intellect – to observe where they met, and where they separated, at what point they were in unison, and at what point they were at discord – there was a delight in that! What matter what the cost was? One could never pay too high a price for any sensation.

Has hid away earth’s old and weary cry.

His own nature had revolted against the excess of anguish that had sought to maim and mar the perfection of its calm. With subtle and finely wrought temperaments it is always so. Their strong passions must either bruise or bend. They either slay the man, or themselves die. Shallow sorrows and shallow loves live on. The loves and sorrows that are great are destroyed by their own plentitude.

And then you came with those red mournful lips,

Life suddenly became fiery-coloured to him. It seemed to him that he had been walking in fire. Why had he not known it?

And with you came the whole of the world’s tears,

Out of its secret hiding-place had crept his soul, and desire had come to meet it on the way.

And all the sorrows of her labouring ships,

I am so glad that you have never done anything, never carved a statue, or painted a picture, or produced anything outside of yourself! Life has been your art. You have set yourself to music. Your days are your sonnets.

And all the burden of her myriad years.

What an exquisite life you have had! You have drunk deeply of everything. You have crushed the grapes against your palate. Nothing has been hidden from you. And it has all been to you no more than the sound of music. It has not marred you. You are still the same.

And now the sparrows warring in the eaves,

I used to look at everyone who passed me, and wonder, with a mad curiousity, what sort of lives they led. Some of them fascinated me. Others filled me with terror. There was an exquisite poison in the air.

The curd-pale moon, the white stars in the sky,

Don’t be afraid. There are exquisite things in store for you. This is merely the beginning.

And the loud chaunting of the unquiet leaves,

The joy of a caged bird was in her voice. Her eyes caught the melody, and echoed it in radiance: then closed for a moment, as though to hide their secret. When they opened, the mist of a dream had passed across them.

Are shaken with earth’s old and weary cry.


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