Listen
13/12/2018
BBC Radio 4

Ernest Dowson – the ‘days of wine and roses’ man

Writer, The Archers

Tagged with:



Jennifer Aldridge passed back to Carol Tregorran a book of poetry by Ernest Dowson, which had mistakenly been included in John Tregorran’s bequest to Jennifer. We heard two extracts on air.

 

Dowson (1867-1900) was a writer associated with the Decadent movement, and a member of the Rhymers Club.

 

As well as poems, he wrote novels and short stories, and translated French fiction, including Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Notoriously, he fell in love with a 12 year old girl, Adelaide Foltinowicz, and proposed to her when she was 15. Her rejection of his advances both inspired his poetry and contributed to his decline. He died in poverty, an alcoholic, at the age of 32.

 

Dowson was a master lyrical stylist and a strong influence on the technique of fellow Rhymers Club member W B Yeats.

 

 

Popular Culture

 

Dowson is also notable for the phrases he coined which have found their way into popular culture. “The days of wine and roses” from this poem became the title of a 1962 Blake Edwards film, and its title song by Henry Mancini.

 


Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam*

 

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.

 

*The shortness of life prevents us from entertaining far-off hopes. From Horace’s Odes, Book 1, 4.  


The other Dowson poem quoted by Carol and Jennifer evokes a lover still in thrall to a former passion (almost certainly Adelaide), but trying to blot out the memory with excess.

 

It is reflected in two further popular works: the book and film Gone With the Wind;  and Cole Porter’s song Always True to You in My Fashion, from the musical Kiss Me Kate. Porter also quotes “gone with the wind” in the song Where Is the Life That Late I Led, from the same show.

 


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.

 

*I am not as I was in the reign of good Cinara. From Horace's Odes, Book 4, 1

 

 

Keri Davies is an Archers scriptwriter and web producer.

 

·       More on Ernest Dowson from Wikipedia, and Encyclopedia Britannica

·       Discover the Decadent movement, from Wikipedia

·       Remember the films on IMDb: Days of Wine and Roses, Gone With the Wind, Kiss Me Kate.

·       Enjoy the songs on YouTube:  Days of Wine and Roses, Always True to You in My Fashion, Where Is the Life That Late I Led

·       Learn more about Jennifer Aldridge and Carol Tregorran – and the actors who play them – in our Who’s Who

·       Read the story of Jennifer’s relationship with John Tregorran – an affair of the mind?

 

Tagged with:

Loading...