Oscar Wilde was a man of the simplest intricacies. I say this in specific relation to his epigrams. Now, I’m assuming that everyone here knows what an epigram is. If you don’t–tsk. tsk. tsk
Just kidding! I won’t publicly shame you. But if there actually is anyone that does not know, allow me to enlighten you with a bit of a refresher. I don’t mind, truly. (Especially because I really don’t know where else to start, and this blog post needs to be at least 350 words…)
Got you again! Boy, am I on fire today. Am I was witty as Oscar Wilde yet? In all honesty, though, I do think it is important to review the definition since the focal point of this blog post relates to epigrams, which I plan to compare to my own flash poetry. And I would like to specifically discuss Wilde’s utilization of the epigram in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
So then, let’s get started, shall we?
An epigram is a brief, and usually clever, statement that is meant to inform, advise, and, most importantly, persuade a targeted audience. Epigrams are typically–though not necessarily always– paradoxical, which often emphasizes a truth the writer is trying to convince their audience of, a truth the writer believes must be acknowledged. The epigram itself is simple, unburdened by flowery phrases and large, baffling words. This simplicity is what makes an epigram so memorable–it is easy for a person to remember something that is simple. The epigram is also intricate in the sense that, despite its customary modesty, it provokes thought regarding the human condition.
Epigrams–concise, impactful, and, especially in Wilde’s case, persuasive. Notice how enamored we all were with Dorian, how we all seemed to admire him despite his immorality and ruthless cruelty. Notice how we were all fascinated by the diction of Lord Henry’s own epigrams, which epitomize corruption–the very epigrams that not only influenced but appeared to justify Dorian’s hedonism and sinful lifestyle. After all, “conscience and cowardice are really the same thing,” aren’t they?
Lord Henry believes that, when an individual is hesitant to indulge in his own pleasures, to approach life hedonistically, it is because he is afraid of compromising his morals. Because this fear is inspired by an individual’s wish to abide by a general sense of morality, it comes from that individual’s conscience– an individual’s sense of what is right and what is wrong. That is why, in Henry’s opinion, he believes those who abide by their consciences are cowards because, to him, they lack the boldness necessary to live a beautiful and pleasurable life. Lord Henry seems to think life should be approached with an audacious sort of immorality, something he persuades Dorian to do and something we are persuaded to appreciate. At least, this is something I have grown to appreciate about Dorian, as deranged as that may sound. Perhaps that is because he is a manifestation of the life I have always been reluctant to live. A manifestation of “all of the sins you are afraid to commit.”
There has always been something so tantalizing about Dorian’s lifestyle. How lovely it would be to exist as treacherously as he. To be willingly selfish–to live for yourself and your pleasures only, to remain unhindered by the hardships of others. To stand indifferent to any troubles you may come across, for there is always the sweet taint of opium lingering at your fingertips, whose substance would gladly take you away to some high place clouded with a thick blue haze, a place laced with a narcotic type of forgetfulness. Oh! To guiltlessly indulge in every immoral sensation that this earth has to offer. To experience the exquisiteness of sin and the tragedy of its consequences.
Henry’s epigrams and Dorian’s hedonism, although destructive, have expressed a truth to me in particular–a truth that proves the potential monotony of morality. I am, of course, not trying to discredit the necessity of upholding our morals, but, life is not black or white, nor is it grey. Life is, on the contrary, comprised of a grand spectrum of colours, some soothing in their vibrancy and some alluring in their cold richness. Similarly, there are truths that appeal greatly to our good natures, but there are also truths that appeal to our (often suppressed) passions for deviltry. But they are truths nevertheless.
I feel the need to reiterate the fact that these epigrams do not belong to Lord Henry alone, however. The brilliance of these simple intricacies must really be credited to Oscar Wilde himself. In my opinion, a writer has fulfilled their purpose when they have left their audience with something to remember. That is exactly what Wilde’s epigrams are to me–impactful and memorable.
I often liken my own style of writing to Wilde’s epigrams. Since I write flash poetry, my pieces, are typically very brief just as an epigram is; I’ve come to fall in love with the simple intricacy associated with being able to tell a story–the ability to convey a truth, whether it is a personal truth that may only be applicable to myself or a truth that I feel we can all relate to — using few words. And, as is relevant for most epigrams, I often express these truths using paradoxes. The reality is that life and all of its truths are an enigma, and, sometimes, the only way to understand an enigma is to view it from the same absurdity–the same strange irony–in which it exists. As I had mentioned previously, some truths are harsher than other truths. Wilde rarely seemed to approach his writing optimistically; he, on the contrary, portrayed life (at least one component of life) for what it truly is–ravishingly dark and, at times, contemptible. Through my own poetry, I too portray life for what I believe it to be–beautifully infernal, and, like in Dorian’s case, exquisitely damnable.
I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my flash poetry with you all. Below, I have compiled some of my favourite pieces. I hope you enjoy them!
I do not believe in god–
I believe in Poetry.
To the sparse, coarse hair
of my eyebrows:
there is only so much of myself
I can fill in–
in the end, I will always feel empty.
with a red blush–
what was once the
colour of love,
has now become the
colour of shame.
drip down the tip
of her tongue
and adhere themselves
to the bottom of her lip.
–Spilling more than just my drink
“Alcoholism isn’t pretty.”
“No, but it sure as hell is poetic.”
–But all the great poets die young, don’t they, darling?
The bottle is empty
so is she.
Perhaps icing him out
is the only way to
regain the warmth
of your own light.
–Someone will die of hypothermia,
but this time it is not going to be me
And the wedding bells
–White has never looked good on her anyway
My heart breaks for you.
My soul mourns for you.
But my mind tells me
that I should have known better.
He was a hopeless romantic.
He just wasn’t a hopeless romantic for me.
Falling in love with you also meant
learning how to hate myself.
And maybe that’s why
she was always so afraid to fall asleep–
because sleep would bring her
closer to morning.
And morning meant
living another day
when all she had
ever wanted was
We have a twisted
kind of love,
Darkness and I.
See, I have always been
such a terrible flirt and
He has always been
so terribly captivating.
—This endless affair
And maybe Poetry
is the only place
I don’t feel like dying.
“Tomorrow is a new day.”
But little do you know
just how terrified of
Tomorrow I really am.
She never did quite
figure out how to
live with herself.
Perhaps that is the reason
she chose to die.
Boredom: a catalyst for reckless behaviour.
Dark minds think alike
were you ever really in love with him,
or were you simply in love with the way
he made you feel beautiful
when no one else could?
Did he really break your heart,
or did you just break your own?
This here–forever my favourite heartbreak.
Just another somebody that was nobody.
You say, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Because saying, “I want to die,”
tends to make people uncomfortable.
“What do you want for your birthday?” he asked her.
“A kiss and a bottle of Prozac,” she replied.
I’m actually a very forgiving person.
I just pretend not to be.
“You’re sad again…”
“I’ve never stopped.”
Always remember that even warped records
are still capable of producing music.
–Broken does not equate uselessness
Irrationality is not a synonym for stupidity.
You can tell a lot about a man’s character when it comes
to his passion (or lack thereof) for poetry.
–For it is the Poets who love the hardest
Love is blind
love is deaf.
Sometimes it leaves you
immobilized under the
intensity of your heartbreak.
Love is disabling–
an impairment on its own.
When someone is sad,
it is not necessary to tell them that
“Life isn’t fair.”
This is not news to anyone–
it is a universal suffering
we have all grown accustomed to.
–We don’t need any god damned reminders
Beware of the boy who touches you like he is your lover
but who never actually intends on loving you.
That’s the thing about girls with pretty voices–
you’ll believe them in a heartbeat,
even when they tell the most dreadful lies.
People are naturally great listeners.
As long as you tell them what
they want to hear, of course.
You don’t need a boy to
make you happy, my darling;
all you need is poetry,
jazz and a little bit of rum.
If you are interested in reading more of my flash poetry, take a look at my blog: tickledpurple.edublogs.org