Cynara by Ernest Christopher Dowson

I don’t often include work by other writers here. However I have chosen to include Cynara by the English poet, Ernest Christopher Dowson because it is, in my view one of the greatest poems in the English language. Dowson lived a short life (1867-1900), one full of drunkenness. He is perhaps best known for his wonderful poem, “They are not long the weeping and the laughter”, however he deserves to be better known for his other poems including the below.

 

Cynara

 

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 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.

 

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