Ernest Dowson

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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.

Ernest Christopher Dowson (2 August 186723 February 1900) was an English poet associated with the Decadent Movement.


  • I understand that absinthe makes the tart grow fonder.
    • Letter to Arthur Moore (c. 15 February 1889), in The Letters of Ernest Dowson , ed. Desmond Flower and Henry Maas (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1967), p. 35

Verses (1896)


London: Leonard Smithers, 1896

  • 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.

    • "Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetet Incohare Longam", line 1; p. v. The title, a quotation from Horace, means "The short span of life forbids us to entertain long hopes."
  • Yea! for our roses fade, the world is wild,
    But there, beside the altar, there, is rest.
    • "Nuns of Perpetual Adoration", line 31; p. 2
  • Say, doth she weep for very wantonness?
    Or is it that she dimly doth foresee
    Across her youth the joys grow less and less,
    The burden of the days that are to be:
    Autumn and withered leaves and vanity
    And winter bringing end in barrenness.
    • "My Lady April", line 9; p. 4
  • Better than mortal flowers,
    Thy moon-kissed roses seem.
    • "To One in Bedlam", line 12; p. 5
  • Ah, Lalage! while life is ours,
    Hoard not thy beauty rose and white,
    But pluck the pretty, fleeting flowers
    That deck our little path of light:
    For all too soon we twain shall tread
    The bitter pastures of the dead:
    Estranged, sad spectres of the night.
    • "Amor Profanus", line 22; p. 9. The Latin title means "Profane Love".
  • 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.
    • "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae", line 1; p. 17. This title too is from Horace: "I am not as I was under good Cynara's reign."
    • The poem was first published two years earlier in The Second Book of the Rhymers' Club (London: Elkin Mathews & John Lane, 1894), pp. 60–61
  • I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.
    • "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae", line 6; p. 17
  • I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
    Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng.
    • "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae", line 13; p. 17
  • 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.
    • "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae", line 19; p. 18
  • I was not sorrowful, but only tired
    Of everything that ever I desired.
    • "Spleen", line 7; p. 22
  • When this, our rose, is faded,
    And these, our days, are done,
    In lands profoundly shaded
    From tempest and from sun:
    Ah, once more come together,
    Shall we forgive the past,
    And safe from worldly weather
    Possess our souls at last?
    • "Amantium Irae", line 1; p. 45. The title is from a line by Terence: "Amantium irae amoris integratio est." (Lovers' quarrels are the renewal of love.)

Decorations (1899)


Decorations (1899), in The Poems of Ernest Dowson (London: John Lane, 1906), pp. 117–166

  • You ask my love completest,
    As strong next year as now,
    The devil take you, sweetest,
    Ere I make aught such vow.
    Life is a masque that changes,
    A fig for constancy!
    No love at all were better,
    Than love which is not free.
    • "To His Mistress", line 17; p. 141
  • Ah, God, that sweet things should decline,
    And fires fade out which were not cold,
    • "Jadis", line 9; p. 142
  • The fairest face of all is the face I have not seen.
    • "To a Lady Asking Foolish Questions", line 4; p. 156
  • O pray the earth enfold
    Our life-sick hearts and turn them into dust.
    • "A Last Word", line 13; p. 166
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