Tuesday, March 17, 2009

If I had written "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Once upon a time there lived a painter. One day he encountered a most beauteous youth. "My goodness!" he said. "You are the most perfect thing I have ever seen. I must paint you!"

"If I am already perfect, why do you wish to add paint to me?" the young man asked. But at length he was persuaded to sit, and the portrait was done.

When the young man saw it, he cried, "Alas! This picture will remain forever young, while I will grow old and lose my beauty."

"My dear boy," the painter replied, "Beauty comes from within. When people speak of 'radiant beauty,' it is the inner light they see. Cultivate that light, and your beauty will never fade, no matter what happens to your looks."

(It so happens that this painter had a friend, who prided himself on his witty sallies. When he saw the portrait, he remarked, "A pretty boy is like a melody." This nobleman made a point of cultivating a languid and thoughtless demeanor, as though his exquisite remarks were produced without any effort on his part. Unfortunately, in truth they required so much exertion that one day he strained an extremely important muscle. Upon his doctor's orders, he was sent to convalesce in a country where no one spoke English, and he himself did not speak any of their languages. Naturally, he was never heard from again.)

The reigning Queen of this country had many children. One of her grown-up sons was notorious for his appreciation of male beauty. Consequently, the painter presented the portrait to him. His Royal Highness soon expressed an interest in meeting the original, and in time the two young men became the best of friends. Neither of them ever married.

One unhappy day, the Queen was informed by some malicious tongue that, not only were the two inseparable, but that there was something unnatural about their friendship. She let it be known that this displeased her, and before many months had passed new legislation was introduced into the country, forbidding excessive intimacy between men. This was all because of the portrait of Dorian Gray.

Dorian chose to leave the country, and settled in France. Since nothing of importance ever happens outside of England, there is not much more to be said about him, except that one day the painter came to visit him and confessed:

"My poor boy, I was the one who blackened your name to the Queen, and what is worse I did it out of sheer jealousy. Can you ever forgive me?"

"Pray, Basil, do not trouble yourself. The weather is lovely here, and one's money goes so much further. I am quite happy. I only wonder if poor old Chumpers was allowed to keep my portrait. Ah! Once I wished that the picture could grow old, while I stayed young. But now I have no regrets. And after all, if it were to show all the marks of experience, it would be as if the portrait itself did all those things, and not me at all."

And so it goes.

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