Hidden Green Flag

As I reread John Gray’s poem “The Vines,” I began to wonder if it is possible that the bramble and the woodbine (or ivy) can be interpreted as a metaphor for John Gray’s relationship with Oscar Wilde. If we were to look at the poem from this lens, the bramble bush would be Gray while the woodbine/ivy would be Wilde. Looking at line 2, the bramble’s relentless pursuit of his “bride” symbolizes his unwavering attachment to his partner; this could be a reflection of John Gray’s deep affection for Oscar Wilde. However, line 4 provides the imagery of the woodbine having “gummy hands.” This imagery may signify Oscar Wilde’s allure or charisma, as if he is a captivating presence that is hard for John Gray to resist. In a different sense, the term “gummy” might also allude to the suffocating nature of the relationship. During this time, Oscar Wilde was flamboyant and a queer symbol; that mere association may have been too much to bear during a time where sexual deviance was frowned upon and feared. This duality of desiring and feeling consumed by the woodbine (Oscar Wilde) could represent John Gray’s mixed feelings towards their relationship.

If we were to take this a step further, I think stanza 4 could be a representation of Gray’s desire to be sexually free with Wilde. The repeated theme of waiting for the day to dawn and for winter’s end could be reflective of his longing for a time when their love could be more openly expressed. The dawn represents not only the literal light of day but also the emergence of a more tolerant and accepting society. The uncertainty and anticipation echo the challenges and secrecy they faced due to the prevailing societal attitudes toward same-sex male relationships. The “half-born tendrils, grasping, gasp” in the last line might be a representation of the fragility and uncertainty of their relationship. The “half-born tendrils” symbolize their love and desires, which are still in the process of finding their place and gaining acceptance. The “gasping” is representative of the struggle and effort required for their love to survive and flourish, much like the tendrils fighting their way through adverse conditions.

One thought on “Hidden Green Flag”

  1. I think you did a great job with your interpretation and used close reading effectively to convey what you thought was going on. These wonderful thoughts that you had made me think about the relationship between Dorin Gray and Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray since this relationship is often interpreted as the one John Gray and Oscar Wilde had. I was particularly drawn to what you said about Wilde’s “allure” and “charisma” as Dorin Gray is described to be portrayed by Lord Henry and his charisma. However, much like Wilde, he has strong opinions.

    This makes me wonder further if John Gray had any of the same feelings that Wile makes Dorin Gray have specifically regarding the strong influence he admits Lord Henry had over him. I think that is something really interesting to apply to this poem since the suffocating feeling that you say Wilde could have over Gray could move to that influence in their relationship and his morals.

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