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Oscar Wilde

Bobby Fong and Karl Beckson (eds), The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, Vol. 1: Poems and Poems in Prose

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Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatuspg 195Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus119The Ballad of Reading Gaol

  • I
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus1He did not wear his scarlet coat,
  • 2     For blood and wine are red,
  • 3And blood and wine were on his hands
  • 4     When they found him with the dead,
  • 5The poor dead woman whom he loved,
  • 6     And murdered in her bed.
  • 13I never saw a man who looked
  • 14     With such a wistful eye
  • 15Upon that little tent of blue
  • 16     Which prisoners call the sky,
  • Critical Apparatus17And at every drifting cloud that went
  • Critical Apparatus18     With sails of silver by.
  • 19I walked, with other souls in pain,
  • Editor’s Note20     Within another ring,
  • 21And was wondering if the man had done
  • 22     A great or little thing,
  • Critical Apparatus23When a voice behind me whispered low,
  • 24     'That fellow's got to swing.'
  • Critical Apparatus25Dear Christ! the very prison walls
  • 26     Suddenly seemed to reel,
  • 27And the sky above my head became
  • Critical Apparatus28     Like a casque of scorching steel;
  • 29And, though I was a soul in pain,
  • 30     My pain I could not feel.
  • pg 19631I only knew what hunted thought
  • 32     Quickened his step, and why
  • 33He looked upon the garish day
  • 34     With such a wistful eye;
  • 35The man had killed the thing he loved,
  • 36     And so he had to die.
  • *
  • Editor’s Note37Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
  • 38     By each let this be heard,
  • 39Some do it with a bitter look,
  • 40     Some with a flattering word,
  • 41The coward does it with a kiss,
  • Critical Apparatus42     The brave man with a sword!
  • 43Some kill their love when they are young,
  • Critical Apparatus44     And some when they are old;
  • 45Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  • 46     Some with the hands of Gold:
  • 47The kindest use a knife, because
  • 48     The dead so soon grow cold.
  • 49Some love too little, some too long,
  • 50     Some sell, and others buy;
  • 51Some do the deed with many tears,
  • 52     And some without a sigh:
  • 53For each man kills the thing he loves,
  • 54     Yet each man does not die.
  • *
  • 55He does not die a death of shame
  • 56     On a day of dark disgrace,
  • 57Nor have a noose about his neck,
  • 58     Nor a cloth upon his face,
  • Critical Apparatus59Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
  • 60     Into an empty space.
  • Editor’s Note61He does not sit with silent men
  • Critical Apparatus62     Who watch him night and day;
  • 63Who watch him when he tries to weep,
  • Critical Apparatus64     And when he tries to pray;
  • 65Who watch him lest himself should rob
  • 66     The prison of its prey.
  • 73He does not rise in piteous haste
  • 74     To put on convict-clothes,
  • Critical Apparatus75While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
  • Critical Apparatus76     Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
  • Critical Apparatus77Fingering a watch whose little ticks
  • 78     Are like horrible hammer-blows.
  • 91He does not stare upon the air
  • 92     Through a little roof of glass:
  • 93He does not pray with lips of clay
  • Critical Apparatus94     For his agony to pass;
  • 95Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
  • Editor’s Note96     The kiss of Caiaphas.
  • pg 198II
  • Critical Apparatus97Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,
  • Critical Apparatus98     In the suit of shabby gray:
  • 99His cricket cap was on his head,
  • Critical Apparatus100     And his step seemed light and gay,
  • 101But I never saw a man who looked
  • 102     So wistfully at the day.
  • 103I never saw a man who looked
  • 104     With such a wistful eye
  • 105Upon that little tent of blue
  • 106     Which prisoners call the sky,
  • Critical Apparatus107And at every wandering cloud that trailed
  • Critical Apparatus108     Its ravelled fleeces by.
  • 109He did not wring his hands, as do
  • 110     Those witless men who dare
  • 111To try to rear the changeling Hope
  • 112     In the cave of black Despair:
  • 113He only looked upon the sun,
  • 114     And drank the morning air.
  • 115He did not wring his hands nor weep,
  • Editor’s Note116     Nor did he peek or pine,
  • 117But he drank the air as though it held
  • 118     Some healthful anodyne;
  • Critical Apparatus119With open mouth he drank the sun
  • Critical Apparatus120     As though it had been wine!
  • Critical Apparatus121And I and all the souls in pain,
  • 122     Who tramped the other ring,
  • 123Forgot if we ourselves had done
  • 124     A great or little thing,
  • 125And watched with gaze of dull amaze
  • 126     The man who had to swing.
  • pg 199Critical Apparatus127And strange it was to see him pass
  • 128     With a step so light and gay,
  • 129And strange it was to see him look
  • 130     So wistfully at the day,
  • 131And strange it was to think that he
  • Critical Apparatus132     Had such a debt to pay.
  • *
  • Critical Apparatus151So with curious eyes and sick surmise
  • 152     We watched him day by day,
  • 153And wondered if each one of us
  • 154     Would end the self-same way,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus155For none can tell to what red Hell
  • 156     His sightless soul may stray.
  • *
  • Editor’s Note163Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
  • 164     We had crossed each other's way:
  • 165But we made no sign, we said no word,
  • Critical Apparatus166     We had no word to say;
  • 167For we did not meet in the holy night,
  • 168     But in the shameful day.
  • Critical Apparatus193And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
  • 194     And drank his quart of beer:
  • 195His soul was resolute, and held
  • Critical Apparatus196     No hiding-place for fear;
  • 197He often said that he was glad
  • Critical Apparatus198     The hangman's hands were near.
  • Critical Apparatus199But why he said so strange a thing
  • Critical Apparatus200     No Warder dared to ask:
  • 201For he to whom a watcher's doom
  • 202     Is given as his task,
  • 203Must set a lock upon his lips,
  • 204     And make his face a mask.
  • Critical Apparatus205Or else he might be moved, and try
  • Critical Apparatus206     To comfort or console:
  • 207And what should Human Pity do
  • 208     Pent up in Murderers' Hole?
  • 209What word of grace in such a place
  • Critical Apparatus210     Could help a brother's soul?
  • *
  • Critical Apparatus211With slouch and swing around the ring
  • Critical Apparatus212     We trod the Fools' Parade!
  • 213We did not care: we knew we were
  • 214     The Devil's Own Brigade:
  • 215And shaven head and feet of lead
  • 216     Make a merry masquerade.
  • pg 202Editor’s Note217We tore the tarry rope to shreds
  • Critical Apparatus218     With blunt and bleeding nails;
  • 219We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
  • 220     And cleaned the shining rails:
  • Editor’s Note221And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
  • 222     And clattered with the pails.
  • Editor’s Note223We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
  • Editor’s Note224     We turned the dusty drill:
  • 225We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
  • Editor’s Note226     And sweated on the mill:
  • 227But in the heart of every man
  • 228     Terror was lying still.
  • 229So still it lay that every day
  • Critical Apparatus230     Crawled like a weed-clogged wave:
  • 231And we forgot the bitter lot
  • 232     That waits for fool and knave,
  • Critical Apparatus233Till once, as we tramped in from work,
  • 234     We passed an open grave.
  • *
  • pg 203247That night the empty corridors
  • Critical Apparatus248     Were full of forms of Fear,
  • 249And up and down the iron town
  • Critical Apparatus250     Stole feet we could not hear,
  • 251And through the bars that hide the stars
  • 252     White faces seemed to peer.
  • 253He lay as one who lies and dreams
  • 254     In a pleasant meadow-land,
  • 255The watchers watched him as he slept,
  • 256     And could not understand
  • 257How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
  • Critical Apparatus258     With a hangman close at hand.
  • 259But there is no sleep when men must weep
  • 260     Who never yet have wept:
  • 261So we—the fool, the fraud, the knave—
  • Critical Apparatus262     That endless vigil kept,
  • 263And through each brain on hands of pain
  • 264     Another's terror crept.
  • *
  • Critical Apparatus265Alas! it is a fearful thing
  • Critical Apparatus266     To feel another's guilt!
  • Critical Apparatus267For, right within, the sword of Sin
  • 268     Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
  • 269And as molten lead were the tears we shed
  • 270     For the blood we had not spilt.
  • Critical Apparatus271The Warders with their shoes of felt
  • Critical Apparatus272     Crept by each padlocked door,
  • 273And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
  • Critical Apparatus274     Gray figures on the floor,
  • 275And wondered why men knelt to pray
  • 276     Who never prayed before.
  • *
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus283The gray cock crew, the red cock crew,
  • 284     But never came the day:
  • Critical Apparatus285And crooked shapes of Terror crouched,
  • 286     In the corners where we lay:
  • 287And each evil sprite that walks by night
  • 288     Before us seemed to play.
  • 301With the pirouettes of marionettes,
  • Critical Apparatus302     They tripped on pointed tread:
  • Critical Apparatus303But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
  • Critical Apparatus304     As their grisly masque they led,
  • 305And loud they sang, and long they sang,
  • 306     For they sang to wake the dead.
  • pg 205Critical Apparatus307'Oho!' they cried, 'The world is wide,
  • Critical Apparatus308     But fettered limbs go lame!
  • 309And once, or twice, to throw the dice
  • 310     Is a gentlemanly game,
  • 311But he does not win who plays with Sin
  • 312     In the secret House of Shame.'
  • *
  • Critical Apparatus313No things of air these antics were,
  • 314     That frolicked with such glee:
  • Editor’s Note315To men whose lives were held in gyves,
  • 316     And whose feet might not go free,
  • Critical Apparatus317Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
  • 318     Most terrible to see.
  • 319Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
  • Critical Apparatus320     Some wheeled in smirking pairs;
  • Editor’s Note321With the mincing step of a demirep
  • 322     Some sidled up the stairs:
  • 323And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
  • Critical Apparatus324     Each helped us at our prayers.
  • *
  • pg 206337At last I saw the shadowed bars,
  • 338     Like a lattice wrought in lead,
  • Critical Apparatus339Move right across the whitewashed wall
  • 340     That faced my three-plank bed,
  • 341And I knew that somewhere in the world
  • 342     God's dreadful dawn was red.
  • *
  • 343At six o'clock we cleaned our cells,
  • 344     At seven all was still,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus345But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
  • 346     The prison seemed to fill,
  • 347For the Lord of Death with icy breath
  • 348     Had entered in to kill.
  • *
  • Critical Apparatus355We were as men who through a fen
  • Critical Apparatus356     Of filthy darkness grope:
  • 357We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
  • 358     Or to give our anguish scope:
  • 359Something was dead in each of us,
  • 360     And what was dead was Hope.
  • *
  • pg 207Editor’s Note367We waited for the stroke of eight:
  • 368     Each tongue was thick with thirst:
  • 369For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
  • 370     That makes a man accursed,
  • Editor’s Note371And Fate will use a running noose
  • 372     For the best man and the worst.
  • *
  • 379With sudden shock the prison-clock
  • 380     Smote on the shivering air,
  • 381And from all the gaol rose up a wail
  • 382     Of impotent despair,
  • Critical Apparatus383Like the sound that frightened marshes hear
  • Critical Apparatus384     From some leper in his lair.
  • 385And as one sees most fearful things
  • 386     In the crystal of a dream,
  • 387We saw the greasy hempen rope
  • 388     Hooked to the blackened beam,
  • 389And heard the prayer the hangman's snare
  • Editor’s Note390     Strangled into a scream.
  • 391And all the woe that moved him so
  • 392     That he gave that bitter cry,
  • Critical Apparatus393And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats,
  • 394     None knew so well as I:
  • Editor’s Note395For he who lives more lives than one
  • 396     More deaths than one must die.
  • pg 208IV
  • 397There is no chapel on the day
  • 398     On which they hang a man:
  • 399The Chaplain's heart is far too sick,
  • 400     Or his face is far too wan,
  • 401Or there is that written in his eyes
  • 402     Which none should look upon.
  • 403So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
  • Critical Apparatus404     And then they rang the bell,
  • Critical Apparatus405And the Warders with their jingling keys
  • 406     Opened each listening cell,
  • 407And down the iron stair we tramped,
  • 408     Each from his separate Hell.
  • 409Out into God's sweet air we went,
  • 410     But not in wonted way,
  • 411For this man's face was white with fear,
  • Critical Apparatus412     And that man's face was gray,
  • 413And I never saw sad men who looked
  • 414     So wistfully at the day.
  • 415I never saw sad men who looked
  • 416     With such a wistful eye
  • 417Upon that little tent of blue
  • 418     We prisoners called the sky,
  • Critical Apparatus419And at every careless cloud that passed
  • Critical Apparatus420     In happy freedom by.
  • Critical Apparatus421But there were those amongst us all
  • 422     Who walked with downcast head,
  • 423And knew that, had each got his due,
  • Critical Apparatus424     They should have died instead:
  • 425He had but killed a thing that lived,
  • 426     Whilst they had killed the dead.
  • pg 209427For he who sins a second time
  • 428     Wakes a dead soul to pain,
  • 429And draws it from its spotted shroud,
  • 430     And makes it bleed again,
  • Critical Apparatus431And makes it bleed great gouts of blood,
  • Critical Apparatus432     And makes it bleed in vain!
  • *
  • Editor’s Note433Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
  • Editor’s Note434     With crooked arrows starred,
  • 435Silently we went round and round
  • Critical Apparatus436     The slippery asphalte yard;
  • 437Silently we went round and round,
  • 438     And no man spoke a word.
  • 439Silently we went round and round,
  • 440     And through each hollow mind
  • Critical Apparatus441The Memory of dreadful things
  • 442     Rushed like a dreadful wind,
  • Critical Apparatus443And Horror stalked before each man,
  • 444     And Terror crept behind.
  • *
  • Critical Apparatus445The Warders strutted up and down,
  • Critical Apparatus446     And kept their herd of brutes,
  • 447Their uniforms were spick and span,
  • 448     And they wore their Sunday suits,
  • 449But we knew the work they had been at,
  • Editor’s Note450     By the quicklime on their boots.
  • 451For where a grave had opened wide,
  • 452     There was no grave at all:
  • 453Only a stretch of mud and sand
  • 454     By the hideous prison-wall,
  • 455And a little heap of burning lime,
  • 456     That the man should have his pall.
  • pg 210457For he has a pall, this wretched man,
  • Critical Apparatus458     Such as few men can claim:
  • 459Deep down below a prison-yard,
  • 460     Naked for greater shame,
  • 461He lies, with fetters on each foot,
  • Critical Apparatus462     Wrapt in a sheet of flame!
  • 463And all the while the burning lime
  • 464     Eats flesh and bone away,
  • 465It eats the brittle bone by night,
  • 466     And the soft flesh by day,
  • 467It eats the flesh and bone by turns,
  • 468     But it eats the heart alway.
  • *
  • 469For three long years they will not sow
  • 470     Or root or seedling there:
  • 471For three long years the unblessed spot
  • Critical Apparatus472     Will sterile be and bare,
  • 473And look upon the wondering sky
  • 474     With unreproachful stare.
  • 475They think a murderer's heart would taint
  • 476     Each simple seed they sow.
  • Critical Apparatus477It is not true! God's kindly earth
  • 478     Is kindlier than men know,
  • 479And the red rose would but blow more red,
  • 480     The white rose whiter blow.
  • *
  • pg 211487But neither milk-white rose nor red
  • Critical Apparatus488     May bloom in prison air;
  • Editor’s Note489The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
  • 490     Are what they give us there:
  • 491For flowers have been known to heal
  • Critical Apparatus492     A common man's despair.
  • 493So never will wine-red rose or white,
  • 494     Petal by petal, fall
  • 495On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
  • 496     By the hideous prison-wall,
  • 497To tell the men who tramp the yard
  • 498     That God's Son died for all.
  • *
  • 499Yet though the hideous prison-wall
  • 500     Still hems him round and round,
  • 501And a spirit may not walk by night
  • 502     That is with fetters bound,
  • 503And a spirit may but weep that lies
  • Critical Apparatus504     In such unholy ground,
  • 505He is at peace—this wretched man—
  • Critical Apparatus506     At peace, or will be soon:
  • 507There is no thing to make him mad,
  • 508     Nor does Terror walk at noon,
  • Critical Apparatus509For the lampless Earth in which he lies
  • Critical Apparatus510     Has neither Sun nor Moon.
  • *
  • Critical Apparatus511They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
  • Critical Apparatus512     They did not even toll
  • 513A requiem that might have brought
  • Critical Apparatus514     Rest to his startled soul,
  • 515But hurriedly they took him out,
  • 516     And hid him in a hole.
  • Critical Apparatus523The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
  • 524     By his dishonoured grave:
  • Critical Apparatus525Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
  • 526     That Christ for sinners gave,
  • 527Because the man was one of those
  • 528     Whom Christ came down to save.
  • V
  • Critical Apparatus535I know not whether Laws be right,
  • Critical Apparatus536     Or whether Laws be wrong;
  • 537All that we know who lie in gaol
  • Critical Apparatus538     Is that the wall is strong;
  • 539And that each day is like a year,
  • 540     A year whose days are long.
  • pg 213Critical Apparatus547This too I know—and wise it were
  • Critical Apparatus548     If each could know the same—
  • 549That every prison that men build
  • 550     Is built with bricks of shame,
  • 551And bound with bars lest Christ should see
  • 552     How men their brothers maim.
  • 553With bars they blur the gracious moon,
  • 554     And blind the goodly sun:
  • 555And they do well to hide their Hell,
  • 556     For in it things are done
  • Critical Apparatus557That Son of God nor son of Man
  • Critical Apparatus558     Ever should look upon!
  • *
  • Critical Apparatus559The vilest deeds like poison weeds
  • 560     Bloom well in prison-air:
  • Critical Apparatus561It is only what is good in Man
  • 562     That wastes and withers there:
  • 563Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
  • 564     And the Warder is Despair.
  • Editor’s Note565For they starve the little frightened child
  • 566     Till it weeps both night and day:
  • 567And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
  • Critical Apparatus568     And gibe the old and gray,
  • 569And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
  • 570     And none a word may say.
  • pg 214571Each narrow cell in which we dwell
  • 572     Is a foul and dark latrine,
  • 573And the fetid breath of living Death
  • Critical Apparatus574     Chokes up each grated screen,
  • 575And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
  • 576     In Humanity's machine.
  • 577The brackish water that we drink
  • 578     Creeps with a loathsome slime,
  • 579And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
  • 580     Is full of chalk and lime,
  • 581And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
  • 582     Wild-eyed, and cries to Time.
  • *
  • Critical Apparatus583But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
  • 584     Like asp with adder fight,
  • 585We have little care of prison fare,
  • Critical Apparatus586     For what chills and kills outright
  • 587Is that every stone one lifts by day
  • 588     Becomes one's heart by night.
  • 589With midnight always in one's heart,
  • 590     And twilight in one's cell,
  • 591We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
  • Critical Apparatus592     Each in his separate Hell,
  • 593And the silence is more awful far
  • Critical Apparatus594     Than the sound of a brazen bell.
  • 595And never a human voice comes near
  • 596     To speak a gentle word:
  • 597And the eye that watches through the door
  • 598     Is pitiless and hard:
  • 599And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
  • 600     With soul and body marred.
  • pg 215601And thus we rust Life's iron chain
  • 602     Degraded and alone:
  • 603And some men curse, and some men weep,
  • Critical Apparatus604     And some men make no moan:
  • 605But God's eternal Laws are kind
  • Editor’s Note606     And break the heart of stone.
  • *
  • 607And every human heart that breaks,
  • 608     In prison-cell or yard,
  • Editor’s Note609Is as that broken box that gave
  • 610     Its treasure to the Lord,
  • 611And filled the unclean leper's house
  • 612     With the scent of costliest nard.
  • *
  • 619And he of the swollen purple throat,
  • 620     And the stark and staring eyes,
  • Editor’s Note621Waits for the holy hands that took
  • Critical Apparatus622     The Thief to Paradise;
  • Editor’s Note623And a broken and a contrite heart
  • 624     The Lord will not despise.
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus625The man in red who reads the Law
  • 626     Gave him three weeks of life,
  • 627Three little weeks in which to heal
  • 628     His soul of his soul's strife,
  • 629And cleanse from every blot of blood
  • 630     The hand that held the knife.
  • pg 216631And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
  • 632     The hand that held the steel:
  • 633For only blood can wipe out blood,
  • Critical Apparatus634     And only tears can heal:
  • Editor’s Note635And the crimson stain that was of Cain
  • 636     Became Christ's snow-white seal.
  • VI
  • 637In Reading gaol by Reading town
  • 638     There is a pit of shame,
  • 639And in it lies a wretched man
  • 640     Eaten by teeth of flame,
  • 641In a burning winding-sheet he lies,
  • 642     And his grave has got no name.
  • 643And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
  • Critical Apparatus644     In silence let him lie:
  • 645No need to waste the foolish tear,
  • 646     Or heave the windy sigh:
  • 647The man had killed the thing he loved,
  • 648     And so he had to die.
  • 649And all men kill the thing they love,
  • 650     By all let this be heard,
  • 651Some do it with a bitter look,
  • 652     Some with a flattering word,
  • 653The coward does it with a kiss,
  • Critical Apparatus654     The brave man with a sword!
  • 655C. 3. 3.     

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
119 The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Copy text: J2, collated with M1, Let, M2, Jp1, M3, Jp2, J1 In Let, manuscript variants are taken from letters written by W discussing changes to the poem. The numbers that follow Let in the entries below correspond to the pages in Letters where the discussions occurred. The sequencing of each Let citation in relation to M2, Jp1, and M3 was determined by the date of the individual letter
Editor’s Note
MSS and Publishing History:
A partial MS of lines 529–46 (and a cancelled stanza of six lines used in other parts of the poem), printed in facsimile in Mason, facing 416 (M1), was apparently part of a MS of the poem that W sent to his publisher Leonard Smithers (1861–1907) to be transcribed by typewriter (Letters 664–5). The present location of M1 is unknown. Revisions to lines in the poem were a constant topic of discussion in W's extant correspondence for the period between 24 August 1897 and 9 January 1898 (Letters).
A TS of the poem with W's autograph changes and additional stanzas (M2, location: Clark, a new acquisition) incorporates changes discussed in correspondence up to 3 October (see Letters 653). This TS is evidently one of several made for W by Smithers (see Letters 652). M2, however, is not the corrected copy sent back to Smithers on 28 October because it lacks a handwritten stanza to which W later added further revisions (Letters 667–8).
W received the first printed proofs of the poem on 19 November (Letters 676–7). The proofs (Jp1, location: Berg), however, had inadvertently omitted lines 175–210, and the direction 'Take in "A" here' refers to the addition of these lines. M3 consists of two lost MSS that correspond to portions of these lines: a facsimile of a MS in the Anderson Galleries auction catalogue, p. 25, for the John B. Stetson sale of 23 April 1920, contains three stanzas (lines 175–92), one of which (lines 181–6) was new to the poem; a fourth stanza (lines 205–10) was quoted in the New York Florentine edition of The Writings of Oscar Wilde (1907), vol. 15, p. 276.
W received a second set of printed proofs in December (Letters 695–6), to which he made changes, completing the version in the first edition. A facsimile of a page from the second printed proofs for lines 175–92 was found in the Christie, Mason, & Woods catalogue for the Arthur A. Houghton, Jr., sale of 11–12 June 1980 (Jp2). Unfortunately, these proofs were sold at auction to a dealer who subsequently died and whose stock was dispersed. Their location is unknown.
First published on 13 Feb. 1898 by Leonard Smithers, London (J1). Instead of W's name on the title page, his Reading Prison number appears: 'C. 3. 3.', referring to Block C, the third cell on the third floor. For the second edition (J2), W ordered corrections to standing type of the first edition. The text remains unchanged between the second and sixth editions, all of which were printed from the same standing type and all issued within three months of the first edition, totalling more than 5,000 copies in England alone. When the seventh edition, printed from stereotyped plates, was issued in 1899, W's name appeared on the title page in square brackets beneath his cell block number, but he did not personally oversee the printing. The new edition has four variants from the second edition in 1898, all of which are corruptions of the text. The poem was reprinted in Poems (1908); collected thereafter.
After W's conviction for 'acts of gross indecency' on 25 May 1895, he was sentenced to two years' hard labour, most of which was served at Reading Prison. The central narrative of the Ballad concerns the last days (beginning in June 1896) of a trooper in the Royal Horse Guards, Charles Thomas Wooldridge, who had been remanded to the prison to await execution for the murder of his wife. Out of jealousy, he had slit her throat three times on the road near their home, not in bed as stated in line 6 of the poem. On 7 July 1896, Wooldridge was hanged (see Mason 426–7). W included the following dedication in the published work:
  • In Memoriam
  • C. T. W.
  • Sometime Trooper of the Royal Horse Guards.
  • Obiit H. M. Prison, Reading, Berkshire,
  • July 7th, 1896.
After his release on 19 May 1897 from Pentonville Prison (having been transferred from Reading on the previous evening), W applied to a Jesuit monastery at Farm Street for a six-month retreat, but, on being refused, left for France on the night boat. By 1 June, he began work on the Ballad, which depicts the inhumane prison conditions as well as his emotional response to the trooper's execution. A first draft of the poem was finished by 24 August, when he sent the MS to Smithers with the request that it be typed. Revisions and additions to the poem continued through October, and in November W received the first printed proofs.
During the writing of the Ballad, W was 'keenly' aware of its departure in style from many of his mature poems, but the impulse to write a didactic poem—as a personal confession and a plea for prison reform—was so intense that he defended himself in a letter written in October 1897 to Robert Ross, who was apparently critical of the results: 'With much of your criticism I agree. The poem suffers under the difficulty of a divided aim in style. Some is realistic, some is romantic: some poetry, some propaganda. I feel it keenly, but as a whole I think the production interesting: that it is interesting from more points of view than one is artistically to be regretted' (Letters 654). In November, he remarked to Smithers that the 'subject' of the Ballad was 'all wrong' and the treatment 'too personal' (Letters 675). Despite such misgivings and the fear that the press would 'boycott' the work, the Ballad received such good reviews that he told Ross that 'really the Press has behaved very well' (Letters 720).
Critical Apparatus
1–528 not in M1
Critical Apparatus
1–174 not in M3, Jp2
Editor’s Note
1. scarlet coat: Trooper Wooldridge was actually a member of the 'Blues'—that is, the Royal Horse Guards, whose uniforms were dark blue with red trimmings.
Critical Apparatus
7 Men] men M2
Critical Apparatus
8 gray] grey M2, Jp1
Editor’s Note
8. shabby gray: in November 1897, in a letter to Smithers, W wrote: 'You suggest "gray" instead of "grey" in one passage. But I have "grey" everywhere else. Is there any rule about it? I only know that Dorian Gray is a classic, and deservedly' (Letters 679).
Editor’s Note
9. cricket cap: like other remanded prisoners, the guardsman wore the clothes in which he was arrested.
Critical Apparatus
17 drifting] straying M2
went] <passed> went M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
18 sails of silver] ravelled fleeces M2
Editor’s Note
20. ring: prisoners exercised in the prison yard by walking in single file in groups forming circles.
Critical Apparatus
23 low,] ~‸ M2
Critical Apparatus
25 Christ!] God: M2
Critical Apparatus
28 casque] cup M2
steel;] ~, M2
Editor’s Note
37. This famous line that becomes a refrain in the poem was probably derived from Bassanio's line in The Merchant of Venice, iv. i. 66: 'Do all men kill the things they do not love?'
Critical Apparatus
42 sword!] ~. M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
44 old;] ~, M2
Critical Apparatus
59 feet‸foremost] feet-foremost M2
Editor’s Note
61–2. silent men | who watch him: those condemned to death were placed under continuous observation.
Critical Apparatus
62 day;] ~, M2
Critical Apparatus
64 pray;] ~, M2
Critical Apparatus
69 Chaplain] chaplain M2
robed] all M2; <robed> all Jp1
Editor’s Note
69. Chaplain: the Revd Martin Thomas Friend (1843–1934), appointed to Reading Prison in 1872, where he served for some 41 years.
Critical Apparatus
71 Governor all in] Governor in M2; Governor <all> in Jp1
black,] ~‸ M2
Editor’s Note
71. the Governor: Henry Bevan Isaacson (1842–1915), a retired lieutenant-colonel who had served in various prisons as a deputy governor, was governor of Reading Prison, 1895–6. Borrowing a phrase from Tennyson's 'Lucretius', W described Isaacson in a letter to Smithers on 19 Nov. 1897 as a '"mulberry-faced Dictator": a great red-faced, bloated Jew who always looked as if he drank, and did so' (Letters 676). W erred in alluding to Isaacson as a Jew, probably misled by his name. He was, in fact, the son of the Revd Stuteville William Isaacson, Rector of Bradfield St Clare, Suffolk.
Critical Apparatus
75 While] With M2
some coarse-mouthed] the coarse-mouthed M2, some coarse-mouthed Let676; some coarse-faced Let680; <the coarse-mouthed> some callous Jp1
gloats, and notes‸] standing by, M2; <straddles by,> gloats, and notes‸ Jp1; straddles by, Let686
Critical Apparatus
76 Each new and nerve-twitched pose] With his flattened bulldog nose M2; <With his flattened bull-dog nose> Each new and nerve-twitched pose Jp1; with a flattened bulldog nose Let686
Critical Apparatus
77 a] <a> <the> a Jp1; the Let686
Critical Apparatus
79 know] feel M2, Jp1, J1
Critical Apparatus
82 Slips] Comes M2, Jp1, J1
padded] <open> padded M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
83 leathern] buckled M2
Editor’s Note
83. three leathern thongs: a prisoner awaiting execution was bound at the wrists, elbows, and knees.
Critical Apparatus
86 Burial Office] dreadful Service M2; Funeral Service Jp1
Critical Apparatus
87 terror] anguish M2, Jp1, J1
Critical Apparatus
89 Cross] Pass M2, Jp1
Editor’s Note
90. hideous shed: since public executions had long since been banned by W's time, the sentence of death was carried out within the confines of the prison (the last execution at Reading had been in 1873). In describing the shed in which the prisoner was executed, W wrote to Ross that it had 'a glass roof, like a photographer's studio on the sands at Margate. For eighteen months I thought it was the studio for photographing prisoners. There is no adjective to describe it. I call it "hideous" because it became so to me after I knew its use' (Letters 654–5).
Critical Apparatus
94 pass;] ~, M2, Jp1
Editor’s Note
96. kiss of Caiaphas: the high priest who paid Judas for betraying Jesus. On 19 Nov. 1897, W wrote to Smithers: 'By "Caiaphas" I do not mean the present Chaplain of Reading [see note to line 69]: he is a good-natured fool, one of the silliest of God's silly sheep: a typical clergyman in fact. I mean any priest of God who assists at the unjust and cruel punishments of man' (Letters 676).
Critical Apparatus
97 Six weeks] <One month> Six weeks M2
our] the M2, Jp1, J1
Critical Apparatus
98 gray] grey M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
100 seemed] was M2, Jp1, J1
Critical Apparatus
107 wandering] sailing M2
trailed] passed M2
Critical Apparatus
108 Its ravelled fleeces] With streaming pennons M2
Editor’s Note
116. peek and pine: presumably, W intended 'peak and pine', meaning to languish or waste away.
Critical Apparatus
119 sun‸] ~<,> Jp1
Critical Apparatus
120 wine!] ~. M2; ~<.>! Jp1
Critical Apparatus
121 pain,] ~‸ M2; ~',' Jp1
Critical Apparatus
127 And] For M2, Jp1, J1
pass] walk M2
Critical Apparatus
132 debt] sin M2
Critical Apparatus
133 For] The M2, J1
Critical Apparatus
134 spring-time] forest M2
Critical Apparatus
137 And] For M2
Editor’s Note
137. green or dry: cf. Luke 23. 31: 'For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?'
Critical Apparatus
138 fruit!] ~. M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
139 that] <that> the Jp1; the J1
Critical Apparatus
140 all] <we> all M2; <the> all Jp1
Critical Apparatus
141 who would] <'tis ill to> who would M2
Critical Apparatus
144 His] <One's> His M2
sky?] ~. M2
Critical Apparatus
146 Love and Life] Life and Love Let653
Critical Apparatus
147 lutes‸] ~, Let653
Critical Apparatus
150 air!] ~. Let653, M2; ~<.>! Jp1
Critical Apparatus
151 sick] dread M2
Critical Apparatus
155 red] <red> <hidden> red Let671; <hidden> red Jp1
Editor’s Note
155. red Hell: on 8 Nov. 1897, W wrote to Ross: 'The reason I altered "red Hell" into "hidden Hell" was that it seemed violent, but I now wish to go back to it. Will you alter it in the copy for me?' (Letters 671).
Editor’s Note
157–8. dead man walked no more: Wooldridge's final sentencing took place on 17 June 1896. Condemned men were customarily separated from the rest of the prisoners.
Critical Apparatus
158 Men] men M2
Editor’s Note
160. black dock's dreadful pen: on 28 Oct. 1897, W wrote to Ross: 'All your suggestions were very interesting, but, of course, I have not taken them all: "black dock's dreadful pen" for instance is my own impression of the place in which I stood: it is burned into my memory' (Letters 667).
Critical Apparatus
162 In God's sweet world] <for weal or woe again> in God's sweet world again Let698; For weal or woe J1
Editor’s Note
162. In God's sweet world again: on 9 Jan. 1898, W wrote to Smithers: 'As regards your suggestion, or request, that I should revert to "in God's sweet world again", instead of "for weal or woe again" (Canto Two somewhere), certainly. . . . Second thoughts in art are always, or often, worst' (Letters 698).
Editor’s Note
163–6. Cf. Longfellow's 'The Theologian's Tale: Elizabeth', Part 4, in Tales of a Wayside Inn (1873): 'Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing; | Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; | So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, | Only a look and a voice; then darkness again and a silence.'
Critical Apparatus
166 say;] ~, M2
Critical Apparatus
169 prison‸wall] prison-wall M2
Critical Apparatus
171 heart,] ~: M2; ~<:>, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
173 Sin] sin M2
Editor’s Note
173. iron gin: a snare or trap.
Critical Apparatus
175–210 not in Jp1, although the proof has a note at this point reading 'Take in "A" here', directing the inclusion of stanzas that were on separate sheets, presumably corresponding to those in M3
Editor’s Note
175. Debtor's Yard: in late November 1897, W wrote to Smithers: 'I have decided to put back the opening of Canto Three, because it is dramatically necessary for the telling of the story. The reader wants to know where the condemned man was, and what he was doing. I wish it were better, but it isn't and can't be. I think it aids the narrative immensely. So stick it in' (Letters 686). The Debtor's Yard was, at one time, a division of the exercise ground at the prison set aside for such prisoners.
Critical Apparatus
176 dripping] weeping M2
Critical Apparatus
179 by] on M2
Warder] warder M2, M3, Jp2, J1
walked,] ~‸ M2, M3; ~',' Jp2
Critical Apparatus
180 might] would M2, M3; <would> might Jp2
Critical Apparatus
181–6 not in M2
Critical Apparatus
181 those who watched] silent men M3; <silent men> those who watched Jp2
Critical Apparatus
182 His anguish] Who watched him M3; <Who watched him> His anguish Jp2
day;] ~, M3
Critical Apparatus
183 rose] <rose> <crouched> rose M3
Critical Apparatus
184 crouched] <crouched> <knelt> crouched M3
pray;] ~, M3
Critical Apparatus
186 Their scaffold] <Their hangman> <Our prison> The scaffold M3; <The> Their scaffold Jp2
its] <his> its M3
Critical Apparatus
187 strong] <strong> strict M3; <strict> strong Let684, Jp2
Critical Apparatus
188 Regulations] Regulation Let635
Editor’s Note
188. Regulations Act: a law that placed all prisons under government supervision and prescribed humane treatment for prisoners. However, prison reformers generally regarded the Act as inadequate.
Editor’s Note
189. The Doctor. Dr Oliver Maurice, who, Ross said, 'resembled a bullying director of a sham city company and had a greasy white beard' (quoted in H. Montgomery Hyde, Oscar Wilde: The Aftermath, 1963, 43).
Critical Apparatus
190 fact:] ~; Let635
Critical Apparatus
191 called,] ~‸ Let635; ~; M3
Critical Apparatus
192 tract] Tract Let635
Critical Apparatus
193–204 not in M3
Critical Apparatus
193–654 not in Jp2
Critical Apparatus
196 hiding-place] hiding‸place M2
fear;] ~: M2
Critical Apparatus
198 hangman's] <dreadful> hangman's M2
hands were] day was M2, J1
Critical Apparatus
199–210 M2 has these lines as handwritten insertions in the typescript
Critical Apparatus
200 Warder] warder J1
Critical Apparatus
205 and] or M3
Critical Apparatus
206 comfort] <pity> comfort M2
Critical Apparatus
210 Could] Can M3
Critical Apparatus
211–654 not in M3
Critical Apparatus
212 Parade!] ~: M2, Jp1
Editor’s Note
217. tarry rope: prisoners sentenced to hard labour were required to unravel the loose fibres from old rope (the unravelling of these fibres, called 'oakum', caused the skin to dry and split). The oakum was then treated with a substance, such as tar, to be used for caulking the seams of wooden vessels or as a packing for pipe joints. W performed such painful work only at Pentonville Prison at the beginning of his sentence (28 May–4 July 1895).
Critical Apparatus
218 nails;] ~: M2
Editor’s Note
221. plank: in De Profundis, W writes that 'the plank-bed [designed to produce insomnia], the loathsome food, the hard ropes shredded into oakum till one's fingertips grow dull with pain . . . the harsh orders that routine seems to necessitate, the dreadful dress that makes sorrow grotesque to look at, the silence, the solitude, the shame—each and all of these things I have to transform into a spiritual experience' (Letters 468–9).
Editor’s Note
223. Sewing mailbags and breaking stones were the customary tasks for prisoners.
Editor’s Note
224. the dusty drill: one of the useless tasks assigned to prisoners was the 'crank', a narrow drum with a long handle that raised and emptied cups of sand.
Editor’s Note
226. the mill: the treadmill, used to pump water, was another method of punishing prisoners. Perhaps because of W's criticism of such punishments in his letter to the Daily Chronicle (Letters 723), Parliament eliminated both the crank and treadmill in the Prison Act of 1898.
Critical Apparatus
230 weed-clogged] windless M2
Critical Apparatus
233 tramped] came M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
235 yellow] horrid M2, Jp1, J1
Critical Apparatus
236 thing;] ~: M2
Editor’s Note
237. cried out for blood: cf. Genesis 4: 10, where the Lord says to Cain: 'the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground'.
Critical Apparatus
238 asphalte] asphalt M2
Critical Apparatus
239 one] the M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
240 Some prisoner] One of us M2, Jp1; The fellow J1
Critical Apparatus
243 little] leathern M2
Critical Apparatus
244 shuffling through] <by us in> shuffling through M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
245 each man trembled as he crept] I trembled as I groped my way J1
Critical Apparatus
246 his] my J1
Critical Apparatus
248 Fear] fear M2; <f>'F'ear Jp1
Critical Apparatus
250 Stole] <Went> Stole M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
258 a] the M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
262 endless] fearful M2; <arid> {ceaseless} endless Let671; <arid> <another's> endless Let680; <arid> endless Jp1
Critical Apparatus
265 Alas!] ~<:>! M2
fearful] dreadful M2
Critical Apparatus
266 guilt!] M2; ~<:>! Jp1
Critical Apparatus
267 For] And Jp1
Sin] sin M2; <s>'S'in Jp1
Critical Apparatus
271 Warders] warders M2, Jp1, J1
Critical Apparatus
272 padlocked] iron M2; <iron> padlocked Jp1
Critical Apparatus
274 Gray] Grey M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
278 Mad mourners of] Like watchers round M2; Like mourners with Jp1
corse!] ~: M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
279 troubled] purple M2
were] shook Jp1, J1
Critical Apparatus
280 The] Like the Jp1, J1
Editor’s Note
280. plumes upon a hearse: traditional decoration of black feathers at funerals.
Critical Apparatus
281 And bitter] And as bitter Jp1, J1
Editor’s Note
281. At the time of his crucifixion, Jesus was given a sponge full of vinegar to assuage his thirst (Mark 15: 36).
Critical Apparatus
283 gray] Grey M2; grey Jp1
Editor’s Note
283. The crowing cock recalls Peter's denial of Christ (Matthew 26: 74–5).
Critical Apparatus
285 Terror] terror M2; <t>'T'error Jp1
Critical Apparatus
290 travellers] figures M2
Editor’s Note
291. rigadoon: a sprightly dance for two people.
Critical Apparatus
292 delicate] <curious> delicate M2; <dainty> delicate Jp1
Critical Apparatus
294 phantoms] antics M2
Editor’s Note
295. mop and mow: grimaces.
Critical Apparatus
296 Slim] Pale M2
Editor’s Note
297–8. Cf. No. 98, 'The Harlot's House', 16–17, and Coleridge's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', 127: 'About, about, in reel and rout . . .'.
Critical Apparatus
298 a] their M2
saraband:] ~, M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
300 Like the wind] Like 'the' wind Jp1
sand!] ~. M2; ~<.>! Jp1
Critical Apparatus
302 pointed] dainty M2
Critical Apparatus
303 But] And M2; <And> But Jp1
Critical Apparatus
304 their] the M2
Critical Apparatus
307 Oho!] Oho<:>! M2
Critical Apparatus
308 go lame!] are lame, M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
313 antics] phantoms M2
Editor’s Note
315. gyves: shackles.
Critical Apparatus
317 Ah!]O‸ M2
Christ!] ~<:>! M2
Critical Apparatus
320 pairs;] ~: M2
Editor’s Note
321. demirep: literally, half (demi) a reputation, alluding to a woman whose chastity is doubtful.
Critical Apparatus
324 Each] They M2
Critical Apparatus
327 Through its giant loom‸] Across its loom, M2
Critical Apparatus
328 Crept‸] Crawled, M2
Critical Apparatus
330 Sun.] ~‸ M2
Editor’s Note
330. Justice of the Sun: suggesting that, with sunrise (the day of the hanging), justice will have been carried out.
Critical Apparatus
331–6 not in M2
Critical Apparatus
334 crawl:] ~. Let668
Critical Apparatus
335 moaning wind] <wind of woe> moaning wind Let668
Critical Apparatus
339 right across] slowly on M2
Critical Apparatus
345 mighty] giant M2; <flapping> <monstrous> mighty Jp1
Editor’s Note
345. sough . . . mighty wing: a sough, or rushing sound, suggests the wind created by a mighty wing—that of the angel of death (the 'Lord of Death' in line 347). The expression was used by John Bright (1811–89), the Liberal Member of Parliament who spoke on the effects of the Crimean War: 'The angel of death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings' (23 Feb. 1855). The image of the angel of death appears early in Salome, when Iokanaan tells her that he has heard 'the beating of the wings of the angel of death'; later Herod alludes to the image.
Critical Apparatus
349 pass] come M2
Critical Apparatus
350 steed.] ~: M2
Critical Apparatus
351 board‸] ~<,> Jp1
Critical Apparatus
352 gallows'] gallows M2
Critical Apparatus
353 the Herald] God's Angel M2; the <Angel> herald Jp1
Editor’s Note
353. Herald: the executioner was named Billington.
Critical Apparatus
354 secret] awful M2
Critical Apparatus
355–66 not in M2
Critical Apparatus
356 filthy] dreary Jp1
Critical Apparatus
361 Man's] man's Let661, Jp1
way] road Let661
Critical Apparatus
362 will] may Let661
Critical Apparatus
363 strong,] ~; Let661
Critical Apparatus
366 The] This Let661, Jp1
parricide!] ~<.>! Jp1
Editor’s Note
367. stroke of eight: hangings occurred on weekdays at that hour.
Editor’s Note
371. running noose: a rope running through a metal eyelet so that the lack of friction ensured a sufficiently strong jolt as the noose tightened to break the neck and allow a quick death.
Editor’s Note
374. the sign: the tolling bell of St Lawrence's Church, Reading, fifteen minutes before the hanging and continuously thereafter.
Critical Apparatus
375 So,] ~‸ M2
lone,] ~‸ M2
Critical Apparatus
377 thick and quick] <horribly> thick and quick M2
Critical Apparatus
378 drum!] ~. M2; ~<.>! Jp1
Critical Apparatus
383 that] the J1
frightened marshes] silent hunters M2
Critical Apparatus
384 leper] wild beast M2
his] its M2
Editor’s Note
390. Strangled into a scream: the Reading Mercury (10 July 1896), however, reported a less dramatic end: 'Billington fastened his feet, adjusted the cap, and drew the bolt, and all was over, the unfortunate man dying without a struggle and without a word'.
Critical Apparatus
393 wild] vain M2; <vain> wild Jp1
Editor’s Note
395–6. Cf. Julius Caesar, ii. ii. 32–3: 'Cowards die many times before their deaths, | The valiant never taste of death but once'.
Critical Apparatus
404 rang] banged M2
Critical Apparatus
405 Warders] warders M2, Jp1, J1
Critical Apparatus
412 gray] grey M2; gr<e>'a'y Jp1
Critical Apparatus
419 careless] wandering M2; idle Jp1; happy J1
Critical Apparatus
420 In happy freedom] With sails of silver M2; <With such strange> In happy freedom Jp1; In such strange freedom J1
Critical Apparatus
421 But] And M2; <And> But Jp1
Critical Apparatus
424 instead;] ~: M2
Critical Apparatus
431 And goes for ever through the land M2; <[       ] goes for ever through the land> Let667
Critical Apparatus
432 With the red feet of Cain. M2; <with the red feet of Cain> And binds it with a chain Let667
vain!] ~. Jp1
Editor’s Note
433. In his prison letter to Alfred Douglas, W remarks: 'Our very dress makes us grotesques. We are the zanies of sorrow. We are clowns whose hearts are broken. We are specially designed to appeal to the sense of humour' (Letters 490).
Editor’s Note
434. crooked arrows: marked on the prisoners' garb.
Critical Apparatus
436 asphalte‸yard;] asphalt-yard, M2
Critical Apparatus
441 Memory] memory M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
443 stalked] <ran> stalked M2
Critical Apparatus
445 Warders] warders Jp1, J1
Critical Apparatus
446 kept] watched Jp1, J1
Editor’s Note
450. quicklime: executed prisoners were buried in lime that would quickly dissolve the corpse, in line 456 referred to as Wooldridge's pall, or covering.
Critical Apparatus
458 claim:] ~, M2; ~<,>: Jp1
Critical Apparatus
462 flame!] ~. M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
472 sterile] <barren> sterile M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
477 true!] ~. M2; ~<.>! Jp1
Critical Apparatus
481 red, red] red‸red M2
rose!] ~<:>! M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
482 white!] ~<:>! M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
483 way,] ~‸ M2
Critical Apparatus
484 His] his M2
Critical Apparatus
485 barren] <sterile> barren Jp1
Editor’s Note
485–6. Tannhäuser, the legendary troubadour, besought Pope Urban IV (1261–64) for forgiveness for having sinned with Venus, but the Pope declared that a pardon was as impossible for him as for roses to bloom on the pilgrim's staff. After Tannhäuser left, the staff burst into bloom, but the pilgrim was nowhere to be found.
Critical Apparatus
488 air;] ~: M2
Editor’s Note
489. The shard, the pebble, and the flint: echoes Hamlet, v. i. 239: 'Shards, flints, and pebbles should be thrown on her' (Ophelia).
Critical Apparatus
492 common] wretched M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
504 ground,] ~<.> Jp1
Critical Apparatus
506 soon:] ~, M2
Critical Apparatus
509 Earth] earth M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
510 Sun] sun M2, Jp1
Moon] moon M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
511 beast] dog M2; <dog> beast Jp1
Critical Apparatus
512 even] care to M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
514 Rest] <Peace> Rest M2
Critical Apparatus
517–22 M2 has these lines as handwritten insertions in the typescript
Critical Apparatus
517 They] The warders M2, Jp1, J1
his canvas clothes] his clothes M2, Jp1, J1
Critical Apparatus
520 eyes:] ~, M2
Critical Apparatus
521 laughter loud] <lime> laughter loud Jp1
heaped] <made> heaped Jp1
the shroud] the <bitter> shroud Jp1
Critical Apparatus
522 their] the M2; <the> their Jp1; the J1
convict] dead man M2
Critical Apparatus
523 would] did M2
Critical Apparatus
525 Nor] He would not M2
that blessed Cross] the Cross M2
Critical Apparatus
529 Yet‸] ~, M1
well;] ~‸ M1
Critical Apparatus
530 Life's appointed] mans appointed M1; each man's certain M2; <each man's certain> Life's appointed Jp1
bourne:] ~‸ M1
Editor’s Note
530. bourne: cf. Hamlet, iii. i. 77–9: 'the dread of something after death, | The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn | No traveller returns . . .'.
Editor’s Note
531–4. These four lines were inscribed on Jacob Epstein's monument over W's grave in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
Critical Apparatus
535 Laws] laws M1
right,] ~‸ M1
Critical Apparatus
536 Laws] laws M1
wrong;] ~: M1; ~, M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
538 strong;] ~, M1, M2
Critical Apparatus
541 know,] ~‸ M2
Law] law M1
Critical Apparatus
545 saves] <hoards> saves M1
Editor’s Note
545–6. straws the wheat . . . evil fan: cf. Matthew 3: 12: 'Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire'.
Critical Apparatus
546.1–546.6 M1 has:
  • With front of brass and feet of lead
  •      We tramp the prison yard.
  • We tramp the slippery asphalte ring
  •      With soul and body marred,
  • And each man's brain grows sick with hate,
  •      And each man's heart grows hard.
Critical Apparatus
547–654 not in M1
Critical Apparatus
547 know—] ~: M2
Critical Apparatus
548 same—] ~: M2
Critical Apparatus
557 That Christ, whom sun and moon obey, M2
Man] <m>'M'an Jp1
Critical Apparatus
558 Ever should] Should never M2; <Should ever> Ever should Jp1
upon!] ~. M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
559 Like poison weeds, the vilest deeds M2
Critical Apparatus
561 Man] man M2
Editor’s Note
565. they starve . . . frightened child: in a letter to the editor of the Daily Chronicle, published 28 May 1897, W protested the treatment of children at Reading and Wandsworth Prisons. At the former prison, a warder had been discharged for having given some sweet biscuits to a 'little hungry child': 'The cruelty that is practised by day and night on children in English prisons is incredible, except to those that have witnessed it and are aware of the brutality of the system.' The letter was reprinted by Murdoch & Co. as a pamphlet titled Children in Prison and Other Cruelties of Prison Life (1898).
Critical Apparatus
568 gibe] mock M2; <strike> gibe Let668
gray] grey M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
574 grated] iron M2
Critical Apparatus
583 lean] Grey Let680
green] Green Let680
Critical Apparatus
586 chills and kills] <slays the soul> chills and kills M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
592 his] our Jp1
Critical Apparatus
594 brazen] dreadful M2
Critical Apparatus
604 some] most M2; all Jp1
no] their Jp1
Editor’s Note
609–12. broken box: cf. Mark 14: 3–9, where Christ, dining with Simon the leper, is approached by a woman carrying an alabaster box of ointment. She breaks it open and pours the precious oils upon his head. For that act of devotion, her sins are forgiven.
Critical Apparatus
614 win!] ~<:>! M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
615 may] can M2, Jp1
Critical Apparatus
616 Sin] sin M2
Critical Apparatus
618 May] Can M2, Jp1
Editor’s Note
621–2. Cf. Luke 23: 39–43, where Christ says to the repentant thief who hangs next to him: 'Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise'.
Critical Apparatus
622 Paradise;] ~, M2
Editor’s Note
623–4. Echoes Psalm 51: 17: 'a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise'.
Critical Apparatus
625 the Law] <the Law> one's doom Let684
Editor’s Note
625. man in red: the judge who sentenced Wooldridge to death was Mr Justice Henry Hawkins (1817–1907) at the Berkshire Assizes on 17 June; between that day and the execution on 7 July, fewer than three weeks had passed. W derived the line, as he told Ross in a letter in late November 1897, from Hugo's verse drama Marion De Lorme (1831), in which the final line of the play is cried out by the heroine and refers to Cardinal Richelieu, who had sentenced her lover to death: 'Voilà! l'homme rouge qui passe'. W wrote: 'I like the expression, but "who reads one's doom" would I think be better. Will you alter this for me? Unless you think I have fiddled too often on the string of Doom' (Letters 684). Ross did not make the change.
Critical Apparatus
634 heal:] ~, M2, Jp1
Editor’s Note
635–6. Cain, who killed his brother, was marked by God lest he be killed in return (Genesis 4: 15). Cf. Isaiah 1: 18: 'Come now, and let us reason, saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool'.
Critical Apparatus
644 lie:] ~<:>! M2
Critical Apparatus
654 sword!] ~. M2, Jp1
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