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Ballad of Reading Gaol

Oscar Wilde

Book Overview: 

Wilde’s meditation on capital punishment, the Ballad of Reading Gaol comes after he was convicted and imprisoned under charges of gross indecency. The charges stemmed from his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, the son of the Marquis of Queensberry. It relates the story of an execution of a man who murdered his wife which Wilde witnessed during his internment.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .And sweated on the mill: But in the heart of every man Terror was lying still. So still it lay that every day Crawled like a weed-clogged wave: And we forgot the bitter lot That waits for fool and knave, Till once, as we tramped in from work, We passed an open grave. With yawning mouth the yellow hole Gaped for a living thing; The very mud cried out for blood To the thirsty asphalte ring: And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair Some prisoner had to swing. Right in we went, with soul intent On Death and Dread and Doom: The hangman, with his little bag, Went shuffling through the gloom And each man trembled as he crept Into his numbered tomb. . . . Read More