Tag Archives: ernest christopher dowson

A Guest Post And A Review Of My Book “Light and Shade”

My thanks to Robbie Cheadle for her kindness in allowing me to talk about my favourite poem, “They Are Not Long”, by Ernest Christopher Dowson, and for reviewing my book, “Light and Shade”. For the post please visit https://kayelynnebooth.wordpress.com/2020/07/25/meet-poet-kevin-morris-and-a-review-of-his-latest-book-light-and-shade-serious-and-not-so-serious-poems/.

33 of the Most Famous Very Short Poems of All Time

An informative post on the site Interesting Literature, entitled “33 of the most famous very short poems of all time”,, https://interestingliterature.com/2020/04/famous-very-short-poems-all-time/.

The list contains such gems as William Blake’s “The Tiger”.

I was a little surprised that the listed poems did not include “Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam”, by Ernest Christopher Dowson, one of the so-called “decadent” or “Catholic” poets, https://poets.org/poem/vitae-summa-brevis-spem-nos-vetat-incohare-longam. I have long been an admirer of Dowson’s work, so I am, perhaps biased as regards his poetry!

Whilst I am no Dowson or Blake, I have taken the liberty of including my poem, “Summer” below:

“Summer unlocks
Youthful passion.
Now ’tis the fashion
For short frocks
And tiny socks.
Some girls barefoot go;
For, of a summer’s day,
They little know
That winter snow
Is on its way”.

“Summer” can be found in “The Selected Poems of K Morris”, which is available as a Kindle download or in paperback, and can be accessed here, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WW8WXPP/.

Sometimes Brevity is King

I have long been an admirer of those who can express themselves well in short verse. Consequently I was interested when I came across 7 Poems, an Alexa skill, which provides the user of an Amazon Echo with access to 7 poems from the book Text Messages, by Andrew Wilson, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Studio-for-Co-operation-Seven-Poems/dp/B07GZT6DVK/.

I was impressed with the poems showcased in the above free Alexa skill, and will be purchasing Wilson’s book Text Messages.

My love for the short poem began, I believe with my reading of Ernest Dowson’s “They are not long, the weeping and the laughter” which runs thus:

“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”.

Life is indeed brief and the brevity of Dowson’s poem serves to underline this fact. It is, of course true that there have been many fine long poems written on the subject of mortality. Take, for example Keats “Ode to a Nightingale” which is, incidentally one of my favourite poems.

Keats produced a wonderful meditation on mortality, suicide and beauty and his ode does, to my mind contain not one extraneous word. I have, however read other poems where I have thought that (had the poem been briefer) it would have been more impactful. Dowson’s “They are not Long” certainly does not suffer from being long winded, and his verses undoubtedly pack a powerful punch.

Many (but by no means all) of my own poems are brief in nature. Take, for example my poem Summer, which runs as follows:

“Summer unlocks
Youthful passion.
Now ’tis the fashion
For short frocks
And tiny socks.
Some girls barefoot go;
For, of a summer’s day,
They little know
That winter snow
Is on its way.”

Only my readers can say whether the above poem conveys (in 10 lines) what the poet wished to convey, and, if so whether his message is well expressed in so brief a space. As the poet, I believe that I said all I wished to convey in 10 lines. Had I said more I would have been guilty of the sin of waffle, and heaven preserve us from wafflers! But, in the final analysis its all in the interpretation of my readers.

In conclusion, there is, I believe a place for both short and longer poems. If something can be expressed briefly and with impact then there is, in my opinion no point in spinning out the word count. Indeed doing so will merely weary the reader and turn an otherwise potentially good (even great) poem, into a mediocre or poor piece of writing. Some things are, however better expressed at greater length, as is the case with Keats “Nightingale”.

My poem Summer can be found in my Selected Poems, which is available in paperback and e-book format from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07WW8WXPP/ (for the UK, and https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WW8WXPP/. (for the US and elsewhere).

Women, and rhyme, and wine

I have known you for a long time:
Women,, and wine, and rhyme.

The prospect is most fine:
With women, and rhyme, and wine.

The hill does gently decline:
With women,, and rhyme, and wine.

Yet the world is surely divine:
With women, and rhyme, and wine.

Note: I was influenced, I believe, when composing the above poem, by Ernest Christopher Dowson’s “The Poet’s Road” which runs thus:

“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?”

“Autumnal” by Ernest Christopher Dowson

Yesterday evening, I sat in my living room leafing through “The New Oxford Book of English Verse”. Pausing at Keats, I read several of his poems, the last one among them being “Autumn”. “Autumn” is one of those poems which refreshes the jaded soul and causes the reader to gasp in wonder at the sheer beauty of the poet’s creation.
Having read Keats, I was minded to reproduce “Autumn” on this site. However “Autumn” is well known and rather than quote a much loved and well known poem, I have chosen instead to share Ernest Christopher Dowson’s poem, “Autumnal”:

image

“PALE amber sunlight falls across
The reddening October trees,
That hardly sway before a breeze
As soft as summer: summer’s loss
Seems little, dear! on days like these!

Let misty autumn be our part!
The twilight of the year is sweet:
Where shadow and the darkness meet
Our love, a twilight of the heart
Eludes a little time’s deceit.

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”.

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.