Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Oscar Project: Day 1 of 365

I'll do a larger post on this over the weekend with lists and such, but here it is—my new year's resolution, life enrichment activity, whatever.  I am simply calling it: The Oscar Project.

In 2015, it is my intention to read every available writing of Oscar Wilde, in as much of a chronological order as I can manage.  Though I have ready many of his more major works over the years, I've never done an undertaking like this before.  By reading everything I can find, in roughly the order which he wrote it, I hope to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the figure I have admired and adored for roughly half of my life.

He was quite prolific, not just the one novel and nine plays (yes, nine, there are four that are less popular).  He wrote upwards of 75 known poems—I'm convinced my list is lacking—14 short stories, hundreds of letters ("De Profundis" being The One Everyone Knows), as well as at least 44 essays and notable reviews, and four popular lectures that were given repeatedly in the UK and the US.

I've got... a lot.  A lot of books, a lot of saved articles and online archives I've gathered over the past 15 years or so.  But I know I don't have everything.  So that will be part of the fun throughout the year, sleuthing and researching to find the more obscure bits that have been lost to all but academia.

Today I will start with "San Miniato", a poem he wrote, depending on whom you ask, between 1875 (the earliest attribution I can find) and 1881, when it was included in his first book of collected poetry.  Roughly 20 years after this was penned, at the end of his life, Oscar converted to Catholicism and was known to be quite fond of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Though my guess is that this was inspired by one of his many collegiate trips to Italy, where the town of San Miniato is home to a well known cathedral, it is frankly a little chilling that what is arguably his earliest known work brings his life full circle.  Note also the themes of a journey's end and repentance.

San Miniato, ca. 1875-1881

SEE, I have climbed the mountain side
  Up to this holy house of God,
  Where once that Angel-Painter trod
Who saw the heavens opened wide,

  And throned upon the crescent moon
  The Virginal white Queen of Grace,—
  Mary! could I but see thy face
Death could not come at all too soon.

  O crowned by God with thorns and pain!
  Mother of Christ! O mystic wife!
  My heart is weary of this life
And over-sad to sing again.

  O crowned by God with love and flame!
  O crowned by Christ the Holy One!
  O listen ere the searching sun
Show to the world my sin and shame.

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