A Short Analysis of Ernest Dowson’s ‘Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae’

A wonderful poem by a poet who does not receive the recognition he deserves. One can find Cynara in “The New Oxford Book of English Verse”, along with “They Are not long the weeping and the laughter”. However much of his work remains unknown accept by those who care to search it out.

Interesting Literature

A reading of a classic Decadent poem

‘Non sum qualis eram.’ I am not as I was. So begins the longer Latin title of this curious English poem, written by one of the 1890s’ most curious poets. Ernest Dowson (1867-1900) was a Decadent poet who embodied the best and the worst of that literary and artistic movement: the drink, the drugs, the longing for inappropriate female companions, the poetry almost intoxicated with its own sound. Along with another short masterpiece – which also bears a long Latin title – ‘Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae’ is the most famous of Ernest Dowson’s poems. We’re going to attempt to analyse why that’s the case.

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;

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