Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas (1870 – 1945) is best known as Oscar Wilde’s lover, and is often blamed for Wilde’s downfall. However, he was a poet in his own right. He lacked the genius of the older man, but some of his work is very lovely. The most famous, of course, is ‘Two Loves’ – one of the pieces of literature quoted at Wilde’s trial as evidence against him. One of my other favourites though, and a much lesser-known poem, is called ‘The Dead Poet’. Douglas wrote it after hearing the news of the death of his exiled former lover.
The Dead Poet
I dreamed of him last night, I saw his face
All radiant and unshadowed of distress,
And as of old, in music measureless,
I heard his golden voice and marked him trace
Under the common thing the hidden grace,
And conjure words out of emptiness,
Till mean things put on beauty like a dress
And all the world was an enchanted place.
And then methought outside a fast locked gate
I mourned the loss of unrecorded words,
Forgotten tales and mysteries half said,
Wonders that might have been articulate,
And voiceless thoughts like murdered singing birds.
And so I woke and knew that he was dead.
A lot of Wilde fans blame Bosie for what happened, but I actually feel more pity for him than anything. Yes, the relationship with Oscar was clearly a destructive one, and yes, Douglas was obviously very selfish at times, but with Queensbury for a father who wouldn’t have issues? Also, he truly knew how to live decadently (before he turned to Catholicism at least), and that is something I can always appreciate.