Guest poem submitted by Ravi S Mundoli:
(Poem #394) Poem
"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 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 grey: 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.
(Translation of the subtitle: 'I am not as I was under the reign of the good Cynara') Not being someone who knows too much about such things as structure, composition etc. (unlike other worthies here) I will gallantly refrain from spouting forth. This poem affects me. The imagery (mad music, strong wine, riotous roses, pale lilies, grey dawn, bought red mouth) generates a heady chaos in my head. And the last three lines in every stanza serve very well to reinforce the general feeling of heartbrokenness and despair. An explanation of the poet's life (below) will be useful in understanding it. I keep seeing Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings in my head when I read this poem. His life, at one point, was at a stage when he could have written something like this. If you ever lay your hands on it, read "Moulin Rouge". Its a novel based on the life of Toulouse-Lautrec. Come to think of it, even Philip Carey from Somerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage" would have probably empathized with the thing. [Trivia] All said and done, with Martin and Thomas acting as censors, I thought if one thing could clinch the weblication of this poem, it would be trivia. 1. "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae" is a quote from Horace. I have not been able to (i.e. not bothered to) find any reference to Cynarae elsewhere. If someone knows more, please post. 2. Margaret Mitchell lifted stuff from the first line of the third stanza. [About the poem] Living for a while in the East End of London where his father owned a dry dock, Ernest Dowson fell in love with the daughter of a restaurant keeper. It was a platonic love, and the girl could not understand either Dowson's reticent idealism nor the poem he wrote to her. Its title was a line which Dowson had taken from Horace. This classic of sentimental decadence was wasted on his "Cynarae"; she ran off and married one of her father's waiters. - (Men and Women: The Poetry of Love: American Heritage Press 1970) [Biography] Ernest Dowson was born at Belmont Hill in Kent in 1867. His great-uncle was Alfred Domett (Browning's "Waring"), who was at one time Prime Minister of New Zealand. Dowson, practically an invalid all his life, was reckless with himself and, as disease weakened him more and more, hid himself in miserable surroundings; for almost two years he lived in sordid supper-houses known as "cabmen's shelters." He literally drank himself to death. Dowson was a prominent member of the aesthetic movement, a group of English poets and painters of the 1890s formed as a reaction against Victorianism. His delicate and fantastic poetry was an attempt to escape from a reality too big and brutal for him. His passionate lyric, 'I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion', a triumph of despair and disillusion, is an outburst in which Dowson epitomized himself. "One of the greatest lyrical poem of our time", writes Arthur Symons, "in it he has for once said everything, and he has said it to an intoxicating and perhaps immortal music". Dowson died obscure in 1900, one of the finest of modern minor poets. His life was the tragedy of a weak nature buffeted by a strong and merciless environment. [Links] http://www.bartleby.com/verse/103/2000.html [broken link] http://www.access.victoria.bc.ca/~joannee/poetry/dowson.htm