Remembered more for his society plays and witty aphorisms, Oscar Wilde’s writing skills were extensive and diverse – from political tracts to fairy tales to poetry to literary criticism to his sole novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Born in Dublin in 1854, in the wake of the Great Hunger, to Irish parents who were public intellectuals and celebrities in their own right, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was destined for great things. At Oxford University, he proved to be a brilliant student of Greek classics, but he also became a devotee of aesthetics, summed up in the aphorism, "Art for Art's Sake.”

Never conventional, Wilde’s life was lived in public view, through his writings, his witticisms and even his famous photographs. His life was a stunning series of successes and failures. In 1895, he was arrested on charges of gross indecency and was sentenced to two years hard labor in Reading Gaol. Wilde died in exile in France in 1900 at age 46. 


Oscar Wilde

October 1854 - November 1900

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Oscar Wilde, 1892

Past Sessions

The Poetry of Oscar Wilde

The Poetry of Oscar Wilde

With a renowned poet as his mother, Speranza, it was no surprise that Wilde should have written poetry. An early example was prompted by tragic circumstances, when his beloved sister, Isola,  died, at age 9. Her death prompted Wilde, then a schoolboy, to pen “Requiescat.”


Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

Wilde’s talents were recognized when, as a student at Oxford University, he won the prestigious Newdigate prize for his poem “Ravenna.”


A year ago I breathed the Italian air,
And yet, methinks this northern Spring is fair, …
The cawing rooks, the wood-doves fluttering by,
The little clouds that race across the sky …

In 1881, Wilde published a collection of poetry, called simply, Poems. It received mixed reviews. It must have been with some satisfaction that in 1891, Wilde, then enjoying a glittering career as a playwright, republished a limited edition of 220 copies of Poems.  

Although a prolific and gifted writer, it was a poem that arose out of Wilde’s imprisonment for homosexuality that remains one his most poignant and celebrated works. “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” offered a reflection not only on his own incarceration, but the brutality of the prison system. 

The Ballad of Reading Gaol    

I never saw sad men who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon the little tent blue
We prisoners called the sky

The Ballad also contained the memorable line, ‘Yet each man kills the thing he loves.’

His poetry provides further evidence of the timeless genius of Wilde.

Contact us

For more information, please contact:

Christine Kinealy
Director of Ireland's Great Hunger Institute

About us

About us

Ireland's Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University fosters a deeper understanding of the Great Hunger of Ireland and its causes and consequences through a strategic program of lectures, conferences, course offerings and publications.