I am finally reading Wilde’s De Profundis for the first time, just now, and it is truly wonderful. There’s no question that he knew how to use language—and, of course, the context only heightens the words’ poignancy:
When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else – the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver – would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.
Of course, I am reminded, too, of the last stanza of “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” which I read in 10th grade English and which can perhaps be given the credit for spurring my obsession with all things Gay Male Lit. Quoting from memory, so apologies for errors:
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!