Mockingbird talks a lot about movies and music. Much of the time though we can’t do the thing we really want to do — which is give you the whole song or movie. You know: click here and watch the whole thing now!

But… there’s a whole lot of fiction, especially short stories, that are in the Public Domain. Which is to say: pure Gift, no cost, no earn, just click and receive. Which is of course totally what we are about.

So here’s my stab today at throwing out some very MB fiction. Hopefully we can do more of this. The title of this post is a tribute to JZ’s visual koans which we are lucky enough to see every now and then at MB. And the author of these stories is Oscar Wilde.

The Happy Prince. Very short story, about a statue and the bird who comes to love him. One of Wilde’s most famous pieces.

The Selfish Giant. Also short. Funny and touching, lots about law and gift and how loving gets born.

The Nightingale and the Rose. Another very short piece, thematically like HP and SG, but with more explicit imagery about the Blood.

The Canterville Ghost. Quite a bit longer than the other three, and very funny. An aggressively American family encounters a very British ghost. Deceptively funny in fact: because by the end of the piece it has become a serious meditation on suffering, death, forgiveness, need, and release.

The Picture of Dorian Gray. A novella, exploring the nature of sin as incurvatus in se (self curved in upon itself), the desperate need for a substitute to bodily bear our iniquity, the absolute demand of the holy law, the futility of all works at altering our inner life; and so on. Wilde at the height of his powers as an artist: one of his greatest prose achievements.

Toward the end of his life Wilde came in prison to know great suffering; and to learn in a very visceral way pity and helplessness and abandon all interest in a theology of glory. At death he was received into the Church of Rome.

If you are curious about his work after he was released, here is a prose letter he wrote on May 27, 1897 about children in prison. It’s an amazing piece, with great insights into the psychology of punishment especially as regards children and the child in us all, and how codified law often leads to cruelty and the actual punishment of kindness. (It begins “Sir, I learn with great regret, through the columns of your paper, that the warder Martin, of Reading Prison, has been dismissed by the Prison Commissioners for having given some sweet biscuits to a little hungry child.”)

And here is his famous poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. A brief passage from it is below:

I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother’s life,
And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
With a most evil fan.

This too I know–and wise it were
If each could know the same–
That every prison that men build
Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
How men their brothers maim.