“The Poetry of Ernest Dowson” – A Guest Post by K Morris @ New Author Online | LibroLiv

Today I have something a little different to share with you all: a guest post! This guest post is written by the amazing K Morris from the blog New Author Online, a poet I have spoken a lot about on this blog and praised highly in my reviews of his poetry anthologies. In his article, he discusses his love for the poet Ernest Dowson.

I really enjoyed reading it, and I hope you do, too!

Olivia (:

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Image result for ernest dowsonErnest Christopher Dowson, 1867-1900, is one of my favourite poets. Much of Dowson’s poetry touches on the brevity of things, whether that be love or life itself. Perhaps the finest example of the latter is his much anthologised poem “Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam”. The title derives from the Roman poet Horace and translates as “The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long.” This poignant poem frequently comes to mind as I walk through the graveyard which is located close to my home:

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.

In this poem we find the denial of the existence of an afterlife. Our emotions (“the weeping and the laughter” and “love and desire and hate”) die with us. Life’s gate closes behind us and we are no more.

We see a fusing of Dowson’s 2 great obsessions (the brevity of love, and life itself) in his poem “Autumnal”:

Are we not better and at home
     In dreamful Autumn, we who deem

     No harvest joy is worth a dream?
A little while and night shall come,
     A little while, then, let us dream.

Beyond the pearled horizons lie
     Winter and night: awaiting these
     We garner this poor hour of ease,
Until love turn from us and die
     Beneath the drear November trees

The line “A little while and night shall come,” to me implies both the ending of love (the dark night of the soul which so often follows on from the ending of a love affair) and death itself, for death is the final night into which we go, never to see the brightness of day again. Again the reference to “winter” can be seen as the literal winter which does, of course follow on from autumn. It can, however also be interpreted as signifying death, for winter is, after all, the death of the year. Man passes from the autumn of his years (middle-age) to old-age (winter) and thence to death.

“A little while, then, let us dream” is, for me reminiscent of “Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam,” in which we awake from a dream into life, only for our existence to close “within a dream.” For Dowson, then, love, life and death itself are, when all is said and done, nothing but a dream.

We do, I believe, see the same mingling of love and death in “April Love”:

So shall we not part at the end of day,
Who have loved and lingered a little while,
Join lips for the last time, go our way,
With a sigh, a smile?

On the one hand, “April Love” can simply be understood as a poem about the ending of a love affair, in which 2 lovers part and go their separate ways never to meet again. However, the word “part” followed immediately by “at the end of day” conjures up images of death for at the “end of our day” we will part from our loved ones and go into the night from which none return.

I will end with Dowson’s “Villanelle of the Poet’s Road.” Note how the poet’s repeated use of the same words renders the poem somewhat tedious. This is a deliberate device on the part of Dowson to indicate that he is tired of an existence composed of “wine and woman and song.” Witness his use of the line “Yet is day over long” a total of 4 times during the course of the poem. The pleasures of drinking, music and those of the flesh pall, hence the repetition in the poem:

Wine and woman and song,
Three things garnish our way:
Yet is day over long.

Lest we do our youth wrong,
Gather them while we may:
Wine and woman and song.

Three things render us strong,
Vine leaves, kisses and bay;
Yet is day over long.

Unto us they belong,
Us the bitter and gay,
Wine and woman and song.

We, as we pass along,
Are sad that they will not stay;

Yet is day over long.

Fruits and flowers among,
What is better than they:
Wine and woman and song?


Kevin Morris is a poet who blogs at https://newauthoronline.com. You can find Kevin’s latest collection of poems, “The Writer’s Pen and Other Poems” in the Amazon
Kindle store or by clicking here.

WRITERS PEN COVER

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