Thoughts on Helas!

Out of all the poems we read for class today, the one that struck me the most was “Helas!” for its reflection of Wilde as a deeply tortured man and the connection it draws between the artist and his personal life. The line “methinks my life a twice-written scroll” really emphasizes how little control Wilde felt he had over his own life. It is clear that he had a specific image in mind for how he would live his life, but his blueprint was “Scrawled over on some boyish holiday” by circumstances outside his control. This sentiment seems to apply prophetically well to Wilde, as his life disintegrated due to his imprisonment and subsequent depression. The lines “I did but touch the honey of romance/And must I lose a soul’s inheritance?” seem to reflect Wilde’s exasperation that indulging his romantic desires would, in the eyes of society and the church, cost him dearly. I also believe that this poem can be interpreted to pertain to more than just Wilde specifically, as it would seem that it expresses the feelings of the Decadent movement as a whole; many of the writers during the time period must have felt the pressure to be different from writers past, but also realize the danger that is inherent with working against the societal norms of the time. Though Wilde and the Decadents as a whole faced far different risks, they are connected in that they both went against the norm. I feel that Wilde’s poetry is generally better when he focuses on internal subjects, such as the mind or soul, rather than observing the world around him. Though there is certainly worth to be found in each of his poems, regardless of the subject matter, it seems to me that the poems that reflect his personality the most tend to be the strongest and most emotionally moving.