The Poems And Prose Of Ernest Dowson by Ernest Dowson

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
    Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
    We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
    Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
    Within a dream.


[The title translates, from the Latin, as
'The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long'
and is from a work by Horace]

1.7k
Exchanges

All that I had I brought,
   Little enough I know;
A poor rhyme roughly wrought,
   A rose to match thy snow:
All that I had I brought.

Little enough I sought:
   But a word compassionate,
A passing glance, or thought,
   For me outside the gate:
Little enough I sought.

Little enough I found:
   All that you had, perchance!
With the dead leaves on the ground,
   I dance the devil's dance.
All that you had I found.

1.6k
Growth

I watched the glory of her childhood change,
Half-sorrowful to find the child I knew,
  (Loved long ago in lily-time),
Become a maid, mysterious and strange,
With fair, pure eyes - dear eyes, but not the eyes I knew
   Of old, in the olden time!

Till on my doubting soul the ancient good
Of her dear childhood in the new disguise
   Dawned, and I hastened to adore
The glory of her waking maidenhead,
And found the old tenderness within her deepening eyes,
   But kinder than before.

They sleep well here,
These fisher-folk who passed their anxious days
In fierce Atlantic ways;
And found not there,
Beneath the long curled wave,
So quiet a grave.

And they sleep well,
These peasant-folk, who told their lives away,
From day to market-day,
As one should tell,
With patient industry,
Some sad old rosary.

And now night falls,
Me, tempest-tost, and driven from pillar to post,
A poor worn ghost,
This quiet pasture calls;
And dear dead people with pale hands
Beckon me to their lands.

Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between 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.


[The title translates, from the Latin, as
'I am no more the man I was in the reign of the Good Cynara']

Calm, sad, secure; behind high convent walls,
   These watch the sacred lamp, these watch and pray:
And it is one with them when evening falls,
   And one with them the cold return of day.

These heed not time; their nights and days they make
   Into a long returning rosary,
Whereon their lives are threaded for Christ's sake;
   Meekness and vigilance and chastity.

A vowed patrol, in silent companies,
   Life-long they keep before the living Christ.
In the dim church, their prayers and penances
   Are fragrant incense to the Sacrificed.

Outside, the world is wild and passionate;
   Man's weary laughter and his sick despair
Entreat at their impenetrable gate:
   They heed no voices in their dream of prayer.

They saw the glory of the world displayed;
   They saw the bitter of it, and the sweet;
They knew the roses of the world should fade,
   And be trod under by the hurrying feet.

Therefore they rather put away desire,
   And crossed their hands and came to sanctuary
And veiled their heads and put on coarse attire:
   Because their comeliness was vanity.

And there they rest; they have serene insight
   Of the illuminating dawn to be:
Mary's sweet Star dispels for them the night,
   The proper darkness of humanity.

Calm, sad, secure; with faces worn and mild:
   Surely their choice of vigil is the best?
Yea! for our roses fade, the world is wild;
   But there, beside the altar, there is rest.

In your mother's apple-orchard,
Just a year ago, last spring:
Do you remember, Yvonne!
The dear trees lavishing
Rain of their starry blossoms
To make you a coronet?
Do you ever remember, Yvonne,
As I remember yet?

In your mother's apple-orchard,
When the world was left behind:
You were shy, so shy, Yvonne!
But your eyes were calm and kind.
We spoke of the apple harvest,
When the cider press is set,
And such-like trifles, Yvonne,
That doubtless you forget.

In the still, soft Breton twilight,
We were silent; words were few,
Till your mother came out chiding,
For the grass was bright with dew:
But I know your heart was beating,
Like a fluttered, frightened dove.
Do you ever remember, Yvonne,
That first faint flush of love?

In the fulness of midsummer,
When the apple-bloom was shed,
Oh, brave was your surrender,
Though shy the words you said.
I was glad, so glad, Yvonne!
To have led you home at last;
Do you ever remember, Yvonne,
How swiftly the days passed?

In your mother's apple-orchard
It is grown too dark to stray,
There is none to chide you, Yvonne!
You are over far away.
There is dew on your grave grass, Yvonne!
But your feet it shall not wet:
No, you never remember, Yvonne!
And I shall soon forget.

With delicate, mad hands, behind his sordid bars,
Surely he hath his posies, which they tear and twine;
Those scentless wisps of straw, that miserably line
His strait, caged universe, whereat the dull world stares,

Pedant and pitiful. O, how his rapt gaze wars
With their stupidity! Know they what dreams divine
Lift his long, laughing reveries like enchanted wine,
And make his melancholy germane to the stars'?

O lamentable brother! if those pity thee,
Am I not fain of all thy lone eyes promise me;
Half a fool's kingdom, far from men who sow and reap,
All their days, vanity? Better than mortal flowers,
Thy moon-kissed roses seem: better than love or sleep,
The star-crowned solitude of thine oblivious hours!

1.4k
Growth

I watched the glory of her childhood change,
Half-sorrowful to find the child I knew,
  (Loved long ago in lily-time),
Become a maid, mysterious and strange,
With fair, pure eyes - dear eyes, but not the eyes I knew
   Of old, in the olden time!

Till on my doubting soul the ancient good
Of her dear childhood in the new disguise
   Dawned, and I hastened to adore
The glory of her waking maidenhead,
And found the old tenderness within her deepening eyes,
   But kinder than before.

When I am old,
And sadly steal apart,
Into the dark and cold,
Friend of my heart!
Remember, if you can,
Not him who lingers, but that other man,
Who loved and sang, and had a beating heart, --
When I am old!

When I am old,
And all Love's ancient fire
Be tremulous and cold:
My soul's desire!
Remember, if you may,
Nothing of you and me but yesterday,
When heart on heart we bid the years conspire
To make us old.

When I am old,
And every star above
Be pitiless and cold:
My life's one love!
Forbid me not to go:
Remember nought of us but long ago,
And not at last, how love and pity strove
When I grew old!

Sleep! Cast thy canopy
   Over this sleeper's brain,
Dim grow his memory,
   When he wake again.

Love stays a summer night,
   Till lights of morning come;
Then takes her winged flight
   Back to her starry home.

Sleep! Yet thy days are mine;
   Love's seal is over thee:
Far though my ways from thine,
   Dim though thy memory.

Love stays a summer night,
   Till lights of morning come;
Then takes her winged flight
   Back to her starry home.

1.3k
Jadis

Erewhile, before the world was old,
When violets grew and celandine,
In Cupid's train we were enrolled:
            Erewhile!
Your little hands were clasped in mine,
Your head all ruddy and sun-gold
Lay on my breast which was your shrine,
And all the tale of love was told:
Ah, God, that sweet things should decline,
And fires fade out which were not cold,
            Erewhile.

What is Love?
Is it a folly,
Is it mirth, or melancholy?
    Joys above,
Are there many, or not any?
    What is Love?

    If you please,
A most sweet folly!
Full of mirth and melancholy:
    Both of these!
In its sadness worth all gladness,
    If you please!

    Prithee where,
Goes Love a-hiding?
Is he long in his abiding
    Anywhere?
Can you bind him when you find him;
    Prithee, where?

    With spring days
Love comes and dallies:
Upon the mountains, through the valleys
    Lie Love's ways.
Then he leaves you and deceives you
    In spring days.

Let us go hence: the night is now at hand;
The day is overworn, the birds all flown;
And we have reaped the crops the gods have sown;
Despair and death; deep darkness o'er the land,
Broods like an owl; we cannot understand
Laughter or tears, for we have only known
Surpassing vanity: vain things alone
Have driven our perverse and aimless band.
Let us go hence, somewhither strange and cold,
To Hollow Lands where just men and unjust
Find end of labour, where's rest for the old,
Freedom to all from love and fear and lust.
Twine our torn hands! O pray the earth enfold
Our life-sick hearts and turn them into dust.

Beyond the pale of memory,
In some mysterious dusky grove;
A place of shadows utterly,
Where never coos the turtle-dove,
A world forgotten of the sun:
I dreamed we met when day was done,
And marvelled at our ancient love.

Met there by chance, long kept apart,
We wandered through the darkling glades;
And that old language of the heart
We sought to speak: alas! poor shades!
Over our pallid lips had run
The waters of oblivion,
Which crown all loves of men or maids.

In vain we stammered: from afar
Our old desire shone cold and dead:
That time was distant as a star,
When eyes were bright and lips were red.
And still we went with downcast eye
And no delight in being nigh,
Poor shadows most uncomforted.

Ah, Lalage! while life is ours,
Hoard not thy beauty rose and white,
But pluck the pretty fleeing flowers
That deck our little path of light:
For all too soon we twain shall tread
The bitter pastures of the dead:
Estranged, sad spectres of the night.

— The End —