ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Oscar Wilde's "To My Wife"

Updated on April 17, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Oscar Wilde

Source

Introduction and Text of "To My Wife"

Wilde's poem, "To My Wife," consists of three movements, each with the rime scheme ABAB; but for lack of iambic pentameter and a couplet, the verse might mimic the Elizabethan sonnet form. The poem's message is little more than a note, making a remark about his poems. There was possibly a private joke playing between husband and wife.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

To My Wife

I can write no stately proem
As a prelude to my lay;
From a poet to a poem
I would dare to say.

For if of these fallen petals
One to you seem fair,
Love will waft it till it settles
On your hair.

And when wind and winter harden
All the loveless land,
It will whisper of the garden,
You will understand.

Reading of "To My Wife"

Commentary

The speaker is likely enjoying a private joke with his spouse. His humility seems at best ironic, or perhaps, it is merely part of the inside joke.

First Stanza: Not a Proet

I can write no stately proem
As a prelude to my lay;
From a poet to a poem
I would dare to say.

The speaker begins by claiming that he cannot compose a fancy introduction for his poem; thus he decides to offer a very simple little number. He believes it would be out of character for him to speak to his own poem.

However, because he is handing his wife a copy of his works, he thinks he should in some way introduce them to her. He feels he is not able to be grandiose. While others may do so, he would feel silly writing such conversation with his poems.

Second Movement: Fallen Leaves

For if of these fallen petals
One to you seem fair,
Love will waft it till it settles
On your hair.

Likening his poem to leaves or petals that have fallen, that is, through a plant metaphor, he "both flatters" but also diminishes his efforts. In the shift between first and second movement, the speaker has taken on a more poetic stance. The speaker wants the petals of his poem to waft and land in the hair of his wife, if she finds one of the poems to love. He shows his skill at shape-shifting between the mundane and metaphoric.

The speaker asserts that if his wife likes the poem that will mean that he has managed to portray his feelings accurately. Colorfully labeling the verses a flower part, he also colorfully and wildly places them in the hair or mind of his beloved. The speaker seems confident that his wife will like, at least, some of his efforts. The curious image of a petal in her hair speaks to her liking the poem and holding it to be a sweet creation. Interestingly, he remains positive despite the possibility that she may not find any of the verses suit her idea of good poems.

Third Movement: Through the Stiffness of Winter

And when wind and winter harden
All the loveless land,
It will whisper of the garden,
You will understand.

The speaker continues in a rather poetic vain, for one who had opened with a denial of poetic facility. He emphasizes the plant metaphor again by dramatizing his wife's comprehension. He claims that when all is bleak and winter-hardened, his poem will continue to speak to his wife of spring and summer.

The speaker insists that his poem will bring to mind for his wife the glories of the flowers of summer. And at the same time, she will again be reminded of the love he holds for her. By employing whimsical, natural imagery, the speaker remains humble yet highly communicative. The piece remains a simple expression which follows the philosophy that Oscar Wilde held regarding art. He believed that art should exist merely for its own sake, not to make a profound statement, as is often believed about great works of art in a fields.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)