Poem #24: Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson

Today, I feature one of my favorite poems by a dead poet 😉  Ernest Dowson (1867 – 1900) was a British poet and novelist.  Like Oscar Wilde, he was associated with the Decadent Movement.  Since I’m not in school, I don’t pay much mind to the different movements.  I just enjoy it and move on 🙂   This ‘Cynara’  poem is quite luscious . Dowson feel madly in love with a woman called Adelaide.  He pursued her unsuccessfully.  She is thought to be the subject of the poem.  Enjoy!

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.

*The title translates, from the Latin, as ‘I am no more the man I was in the reign of the Good Cynara’*

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4 comments

  1. I think I have to reread this one a few times to fully appreciate it. But the line: “I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.” really struck me. It is such a contradiction, the passionate declaration, followed by the “in my fashion” which strips all romantic meaning away.

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