On “The Decay of Lying”

In class we talked a lot about the relationship between art and life and nature, and we also discussed art as a mirror or as a veil. I wanted to explore the relationship between these concepts in a way that would be both free and creative, but also challenging enough that I’d be forced to connect these ideas in different ways.  So I decided to write a sestina-like poem using the words lying, mirror, veil, art, life, and nature.  I decided to also bring a child into the poem, because Wilde uses the names of his children to explore these concepts, and because there is an interesting relationship between children and lying.  I set out to create art, but once I finished writing the poem, I felt convinced that it was not art, at least not within the framework laid out in “The Decay of Lying” and in my little poem.

Couldn’t tell if the child was lying

As he explained why the mirror

Broke and now sits glinting with a shimmery veil

Of light, which might look nice captured in art

And hung on the wall like a sacrifice of life.

No, couldn’t tell the child’s nature.


To see the child play outdoors in nature,

Was to see an oblivious master of lying,

And to not see, beyond the lie, any life

Except by a backward glance at him in the mirror,

When a drop of rain cost his decadent castle its art,

For then he needed a moat. His eyelashes fell like a veil.

His eyes opened to nothing beyond that veil,

And he buried his little nostrils in the muddy nature.

I’ve searched so long and far for art,

But tire of the bickering and lying.

I’ve pondered for days over the movements in the mirror,

And in the end resigned myself to life.

The poignant pains and pleasures, points of life

Are now shrouded in a heavy veil

For the child’s smelling grass, and the broken mirror

Lies in furious bits, casting bright shadows of nature

Onto empty walls, which began lying

to me, of points sharper than the mirrors blades.  Art

Weasled in from nowhere, art

Waltzed briefly with my life

Like an aloof friend, and I found myself lying

About nothing, when the child came with a veil

Thick and hard, behind which we erased nature

Like spots of blood from the images on the broken mirror.

The child’s muddy nostrils smeared the shattered mirror,

I cried for the poignant points I found nowhere in his art

At last I saw his nature

Nowhere, and at last I found my life

Nowhere, for the child and I embraced to form a veil

Covering everything, holding nothing, couldn’t tell if we were lying.



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Filed under Week 6 Reviews: Wilde's criticism in Intentions

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