A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Poem of the Day: Ernest Dowson

Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae

Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine 
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed 
Upon my soul begtween the kisses and the wine; 
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
     Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head; 
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. 

All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat, 
Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay; 
Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet; 
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion, 
     When I awoke and found the dawn was gray; 
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. 

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind, 
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng, 
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind; 
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion, 
     Yea, all the time, because the dance was long: 
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. 

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine 
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire, 
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine; 
And I am desolate and sick of an old passion, 
     Yea hungry for the lips of my desire: 
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.
--Ernest Dowson 

What is there to say about a poet whose two most famous poems are famous for having given titles to works more famous than the poems themselves? In this case, a certain novel by Margaret Mitchell and a song by Cole Porter. The other one is in a poem called "Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam." The titles of both poems come from Horace's odes: This one means "I am not what I was under the reign of the good Cynara."        

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