This poem - originally published anonymously, written after Wilde's two year's hard labour in Reading prison - is the tale of a man who has been sentenced to hang for the murder of the woman he loved. The Ballad of Reading Gaol follows the inmate through his final three weeks, as he stares at the sky and silently drinks his beer ration. Heart-wrenching and eye-opening, the ballad also expresses perfectly Wilde's belief that humanity is made up only of offenders, each of us deserving a greater charity for the severity of our crimes.
Wit, intellectual, aesthete and raconteur, Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. His writing - including children's stories, poetry, philosophical essays, a novel and several hugely popular plays - made him the greatest celebrity of his day, and he remains one of the world's most frequently-quoted and well-loved writers.