I can not quite recollect when I first came across the poet Ernest Christopher Dowson. Perhaps it was while listening to one of the many recorded anthologies of verse which have delighted me over the years. Possibly I read his “They are not long the weeping and the laughter” while browsing through the Oxford Book of English Verse. Be that as it may, I was delighted to come across The Poems And Prose Of Ernest Dowson With A Memoir By Arthur Symons as a free download in the Amazon Kindle store, http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000JQUZY6?ie=UTF8&ref_=oce_digital_UK.
Dowson was born in 1867 and died in 1900 at the tragically young age of 30. During his short life he produced some of the most moving poetry in the English language including his often quoted “They are not Long”
“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.”
Indeed Dowson’s life was not long which serves to add poignancy to this beautiful poem. Whoever said that poetry has to be complex in order to be meaningful was wrong. As with “They are not long” verse can be a mere few lines and yet stir the emotions in a manner not achieved by more lengthy poems.
The brevity of existence and love is a constant theme in Dowson’s work. Take, for example his poem, April Love which touchingly describes the fleetingness of an affair
“We have walked in Love’s land a little way,
We have learnt his lesson a little while,
And shall we not part at the end of day,
With a sigh, a smile?
A little while in the shine of the sun,
We were twined together, joined lips, forgot
How the shadows fall when the day is done,
And when Love is not.
We have made no vows–there will none be broke,
Our love was free as the wind on the hill,
There was no word said we need wish unspoke,
We have wrought no ill.
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?”.
Prior to reading “The Poems and Prose” I was not aware that in addition to his poetry Dowson had produced a number of short stories and one play. As with his poems the stories and play describe unattainable love or, in several of the stories the inability of men to take the plunge and express their love to their beloved.
In the play a man falls asleep in a beautiful garden to be awoken by a moon goddess. They indulge in romantic play for the few hours of night and at the end of their sport the lady leaves her mortal lover behind. Ever after he remains enthral to his moon goddess and is unable to find happiness with a mortal woman.
I could list the delights of this anthology until the cows come home, however I will cease my scribbling here and leave you to explore Dowson’s work for yourselves.