The notebook version is spread over several pages, alongside simple doodles of a grave and male and female faces, possibly representing Oscar and Isola. An additional verse in the poem changed everything:
Had we not loved so well
Not loved at all
None would have tolled the bell
None borne the pall
Wilde’s cause and effect connection, between “we” loving so well and Isola’s death, had not been publicly recorded. Another unpublished fragment in the notebook was even more astonishing:
O bitter fate
When some long strangled memory of sin
Strikes with its poisoned knife into a heart
While she has slept at peace.
Those lines seem to have been moderated for the published version of Requiescat:
Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast
I vex my heart alone
She is at rest.
Close to the “O bitter fate” stanza in the notebook is another fragment:
The boy strangling the thing it loves
There are many references in Wilde’s works to “strangled” memories and killing the thing one loves. The latter phrase is used most famously in The Ballad of Reading Gaol, the poem inspired by Wilde’s prison sentence for gross indecency:
Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.
And later in the poem, when reflecting on an inmate hanged for murder:
But there were those amongst us all
Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived,
Whilst they had killed the dead.
For he who sins a second time
Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud,
And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood,
And makes it bleed in vain!