22+ Best Ernest Christopher Dowson Poems You Should Read

Ernest Christopher Dowson was an English poet, novelist, short-story writer, often associated with the Decadent movement.

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Famous Ernest Christopher Dowson Poems

Libera Me

Goddess the laughter-loving, Aphrodite, befriend!
Long have I served thine altars, serve me now at the end,
Let me have peace of thee, truce of thee, golden one, send.

Heart of my heart have I offered thee, pain of my pain,
Yielding my life for the love of thee into thy chain;
Lady and goddess be merciful, loose me again.

All things I had that were fairest, my dearest and best,
Fed the fierce flames on thine altar: ah, surely, my breast
Shrined thee alone among goddesses, spurning the rest.

Blossom of youth thou hast plucked of me, flower of my days;
Stinted I nought in thine honouring, walked in thy ways,
Song of my soul pouring out to thee, all in thy praise.

Fierce was the flame while it lasted, and strong was thy wine,
Meet for immortals that die not, for throats such as thine,
Too fierce for bodies of mortals, too potent for mine.

Blossom and bloom hast thou taken, now render to me
Ashes of life that remain to me, few though they be,
Truce of the love of thee, Cyprian, let me go free.

Goddess the laughter-loving, Aphrodite, restore
Life to the limbs of me, liberty, hold me no more
Having the first-fruits and flower of me, cast me the core.

The Sea-Change

Where river and ocean meet in a great tempestuous frown,
Beyond the bar, where on the dunes the white-capped rollers break;
Above, one windmill stands forlorn on the arid, grassy down:
I will set my sail on a stormy day and cross the bar and seek
That I have sought and never found, the exquisite one crown,
Which crowns one day with all its calm the passionate and the weak.

When the mad winds are unreined, wilt thou not storm, my sea?
(I have ever loved thee so, I have ever done thee wrong
In drear terrestrial ways.) When I trust myself to thee
With a last great hope, arise and sing thine ultimate, great song
Sung to so many better men, O sing at last to me,
That which when once a man has heard, he heeds not over long.

I will bend my sail when the great day comes; thy kisses on my face
Shall seal all things that are old, outworn; and anger and regret
Shall fade as the dreams and days shall fade, and in thy salt embrace,
When thy fierce caresses blind mine eyes and my limbs grow stark and set,
All that I know in all my mind shall no more have a place:
The weary ways of men and one woman I shall forget.

Villanelle Of Acheron

By the pale marge of Acheron,
Me thinks we shall pass restfully,
Beyond the scope of any sun.

There all men hie them one by one,
Far from the stress of earth and sea,
By the pale marge of Acheron.

‘Tis well when life and love is done,
‘Tis very well at last to be,
Beyond the scope of any sun.

No busy voices there shall stun
Our ears: the stream flows silently
By the pale marge of Acheron.

There is the crown of labour won,
The sleep of immortality,
Beyond the scope of any sun.

Life, of thy gifts I will have none,
My queen is that Persephone,
By the pale marge of Acheron,
Beyond the scope of any sun.

To A Lost Love

I seek no more to bridge the gulf that lies
Betwixt our separate ways;
For vainly my heart prays,
Hope droops her head and dies;
I see the sad, tired answer in your eyes.

I did not heed, and yet the stars were clear;
Dreaming that love could mate
Lives grown so separate;–
But at the best, my dear,
I see we should not have been very near.

I knew the end before the end was nigh:
The stars have grown so plain;
Vainly I sigh, in vain
For things that come to some,
But unto you and me will never come.

Rondeau

Ah, Manon, say, why is it we
Are one and all so fain of thee?
Thy rich red beauty debonnaire
In very truth is not more fair,
Than the shy grace and purity
That clothe the maiden maidenly;
Her gray eyes shine more tenderly
And not less bright than thine her hair;
Ah, Manon, say!
Expound, I pray, the mystery
Why wine-stained lip and languid eye,
And most unsaintly Maenad air,
Should move us more than all the rare
White roses of virginity?
Ah, Manon, say!

Extreme Unction

Upon the eyes, the lips, the feet,
On all the passages of sense,
The atoning oil is spread with sweet
Renewal of lost innocence.

The feet, that lately ran so fast
To meet desire, are soothly sealed;
The eyes, that were so often cast
On vanity, are touched and healed.

From troublous sights and sounds set free;
In such a twilight hour of breath,
Shall one retrace his life, or see,
Through shadows, the true face of death?

Vials of mercy! Sacring oils!
I know not where nor when I come,
Nor through what wanderings and toils,
To crave of you Viaticum.

Yet, when the walls of flesh grow weak,
In such an hour, it well may be,
Through mist and darkness, light will break,
And each anointed sense will see.

Vain Hope

Sometimes, to solace my sad heart, I say,
Though late it be, though lily-time be past,
Though all the summer skies be overcast,
Haply I will go down to her, some day,
And cast my rests of life before her feet,
That she may have her will of me, being so sweet
And none gainsay!

So might she look on me with pitying eyes,
And lay calm hands of healing on my head:
Because of thy long pains be comforted; For I, even I, am Love: sad soul, arise!
So, for her graciousness, I might at last
Gaze on the very face of Love, and hold Him fast
In no disguise.

Haply, I said, she will take pity on me,
Though late I come, long after lily-time,
With burden of waste days and drifted rhyme:
Her kind, calm eyes, down drooping maidenly,
Shall change, grow soft: there yet is time, meseems,
I said, for solace; though I know these things are dreams
And may not be!

Soli Cantare Periti Arcades

Oh, I would live in a dairy,
And its Colin I would be,
And many a rustic fairy
Should churn the milk with me.

Or the fields should be my pleasure,
And my flocks should follow me,
Piping a frolic measure
For Joan or Marjorie.

For the town is black and weary,
And I hate the London street;
But the country ways are cheery,
And country lanes are sweet.

Good luck to you, Paris ladies!
Ye are over fine and nice
I know where the country maid is,
Who needs not asking twice.

Ye are brave in your silks and satins,
As ye mince about the Town;
But her feet go free in pattens,
If she wear a russet gown.

If she be not queen nor goddess
She shall milk my brown-eyed herds,
And the breasts beneath her bodice
Are whiter than her curds.

So I will live in a dairy,
And its Colin I will be,
And its Joan that I will marry,
Or, haply, Marjorie.

Sapientia Lunae

The wisdom of the world said unto me:
Go forth and run, the race is to the brave; Perchance some honour tarrieth for thee!
‘As tarrieth,’ I said, ‘for sure, the grave.’
For I had pondered on a rune of roses,
Which to her votaries the moon discloses.

The wisdom of the world said: ‘There are bays: Go forth and run, for victory is good, After the stress of the laborious days.
‘Yet,’ said I, ‘shall I be the worms’ sweet food,’
As I went musing on a rune of roses,
Which in her hour, the pale, soft moon discloses.

Then said my voices: ‘Wherefore strive or run, On dusty highways ever, a vain race? The long night cometh, starless, void of sun, What light shall serve thee like her golden face?
For I had pondered on a rune of roses,
And knew some secrets which the moon discloses.

‘Yea,’ said I, ‘for her eyes are pure and sweet
As lilies, and the fragrance of her hair
Is many laurels; and it is not meet
To run for shadows when the prize is here’;
And I went reading in that rune of roses
Which to her votaries the moon discloses.

My Lady April 

Dew on her robe and on her tangled hair;
Twin dewdrops for her eyes; behold her pass,
With dainty step brushing the young, green grass,
The while she trills some high, fantastic air,
Full of all feathered sweetness: she is fair,
And all her flower-like beauty, as a glass,
Mirrors out hope and love: and still, alas!
Traces of tears her languid lashes wear.

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.

In Spring

See how the trees and the osiers lithe
Are green bedecked and the woods are blithe,
The meadows have donned their cape of flowers,
The air is soft with the sweet May showers,
And the birds make melody:
But the spring of the soul, the spring of the soul,
Cometh no more for you or for me.

The lazy hum of the busy bees
Murmureth through the almond trees;
The jonquil flaunteth a gay, blonde head,
The primrose peeps from a mossy bed,
And the violets scent the lane.
But the flowers of the soul, the flowers of the soul,
For you and for me bloom never again.

To William Theodore Peters On His Renaissance Cloak

The cherry-coloured velvet of your cloak
Time hath not soiled: its fair embroideries
Gleam as when centuries ago they spoke
To what bright gallant of Her Daintiness,
Whose slender fingers, long since dust and dead,
For love or courtesy embroidered
The cherry-coloured velvet of this cloak.

Ah! cunning flowers of silk and silver thread,
That mock mortality? the broidering dame,
The page they decked, the kings and courts are dead:
Gone the age beautiful; Lorenzo’s name,
The Borgia’s pride are but an empty sound;
But lustrous still upon their velvet ground,
Time spares these flowers of silk and silver thread.

Gone is that age of pageant and of pride:
Yet don your cloak, and haply it shall seem,
The curtain of old time is set aside;
As through the sadder coloured throng you gleam;
We see once more fair dame and gallant gay,
The glamour and the grace of yesterday:
The elder, brighter age of pomp and pride.

Flos Lunae

I would not alter thy cold eyes,
Nor trouble the calm fount of speech
With aught of passion or surprise.
The heart of thee I cannot reach:
I would not alter thy cold eyes!

I would not alter thy cold eyes;
Nor have thee smile, nor make thee weep:
Though all my life droops down and dies,
Desiring thee, desiring sleep,
I would not alter thy cold eyes.

I would not alter thy cold eyes;
I would not change thee if I might,
To whom my prayers for incense rise,
Daughter of dreams! my moon of night!
I would not alter thy cold eyes.

I would not alter thy cold eyes,
With trouble of the human heart:
Within their glance my spirit lies,
A frozen thing, alone, apart;
I would not alter thy cold eyes.

Villanelle Of Marguerite’s

A little, passionately, not at all?
She casts the snowy petals on the air:
And what care we how many petals fall!

Nay, wherefore seek the seasons to forestall?
It is but playing, and she will not care,
A little, passionately, not at all!

She would not answer us if we should call
Across the years: her visions are too fair;
And what care we how many petals fall!

She knows us not, nor recks if she enthrall
With voice and eyes and fashion of her hair,
A little, passionately, not at all!

Knee-deep she goes in meadow grasses tall,
Kissed by the daisies that her fingers tear:
And what care we how many petals fall!

We pass and go: but she shall not recall
What men we were, nor all she made us bear:
A little, passionately, not at all!
And what care we how many petals fall!

Transition

A little while to walk with thee, dear child;
To lean on thee my weak and weary head;
Then evening comes: the winter sky is wild,
The leafless trees are black, the leaves long dead.

A little while to hold thee and to stand,
By harvest-fields of bending golden corn;
Then the predestined silence, and thine hand,
Lost in the night, long and weary and forlorn.

A little while to love thee, scarcely time
To love thee well enough; then time to part,
To fare through wintry fields alone and climb
The frozen hills, not knowing where thou art.

Short summer-time and then, my heart’s desire,
The winter and the darkness: one by one
The roses fall, the pale roses expire
Beneath the slow decadence of the sun.

Moritura

A song of the setting sun!
The sky in the west is red,
And the day is all but done:
While yonder up overhead,
All too soon,
There rises, so cold, the cynic moon.

A song of a winter day!
The wind of the north doth blow,
From a sky that’s chill and gray,
On fields where no crops now grow,
Fields long shorn
Of bearded barley and golden corn.

A song of an old, old man!
His hairs are white and his gaze,
Long bleared in his visage wan,
With its weight of yesterdays,
Joylessly
He stands and mumbles and looks at me,

A song of a faded flower!
‘Twas plucked in the tender bud,
And fair and fresh for an hour,
In a lady’s hair it stood.
Now, ah, now,
Faded it lies in the dust and low.

Quid Non Supremus, Amantes?

Why is there in the least touch of her hands
More grace than other women’s lips bestow,
If love is but a slave in fleshly bands
Of flesh to flesh, wherever love may go?

Why choose vain grief and heavy-hearted hours
For her lost voice, and dear remembered hair,
If love may cull his honey from all flowers,
And girls grow thick as violets, everywhere?

Nay! She is gone, and all things fall apart;
Or she is cold, and vainly have we prayed;
And broken is the summer’s splendid heart,
And hope within a deep, dark grave is laid.

As man aspires and falls, yet a soul springs
Out of his agony of flesh at last,
So love that flesh enthralls, shall rise on wings
Soul-centred, when the rule of flesh is past.

Then, most High Love, or wreathed with myrtle sprays,
Or crownless and forlorn, nor less a star,
Thee may I serve and follow, all my days,
Whose thorns are sweet as never roses are!

The Dead Child

Sleep on, dear, now
The last sleep and the best,
And on thy brow,
And on thy quiet breast
Violets I throw.

Thy scanty years
Were mine a little while;
Life had no fears
To trouble thy brief smile
With toil or tears.

Lie still, and be
For evermore a child!
Not grudgingly,
Whom life has not defiled,
I render thee.

Slumber so deep,
No man would rashly wake;
I hardly weep,
Fain only, for thy sake.
To share thy sleep.

Yes, to be dead,
Dead, here with thee to-day,–
When all is said
‘Twere good by thee to lay
My weary head.

The very best!
Ah, child so tired of play,
I stand confessed:
I want to come thy way,
And share thy rest.

Vanitas

Beyond the need of weeping,
Beyond the reach of hands,
May she be quietly sleeping,
In what dim nebulous lands?
Ah, she who understands!

The long, long winter weather,
These many years and days,
Since she, and Death, together,
Left me the wearier ways:
And now, these tardy bays!

The crown and victor’s token:
How are they worth to-day?
The one word left unspoken,
It were late now to say:
But cast the palm away!

For once, ah once, to meet her,
Drop laurel from tired hands:
Her cypress were the sweeter,
In her oblivious lands:
Haply she understands!

Yet, crossed that weary river,
In some ulterior land,
Or anywhere, or ever,
Will she stretch out a hand?
And will she understand?

Seraphita

Come not before me now, O visionary face!
Me tempest-tost, and borne along life’s passionate sea;
Troublous and dark and stormy though my passage be;
Not here and now may we commingle or embrace,
Lest the loud anguish of the waters should efface
The bright illumination of thy memory,
Which dominates the night; rest, far away from me,
In the serenity of thine abiding place!

But when the storm is highest, and the thunders blare,
And sea and sky are riven, O moon of all my night!
Stoop down but once in pity of my great despair,
And let thine hand, though over late to help, alight
But once upon my pale eyes and my drowning hair,
Before the great waves conquer in the last vain fight.

Saint Germain-En-Laye

(1887-1895)

Through the green boughs I hardly saw thy face,
They twined so close: the sun was in mine eyes;
And now the sullen trees in sombre lace
Stand bare beneath the sinister, sad skies.

O sun and summer! Say in what far night,
The gold and green, the glory of thine head,
Of bough and branch have fallen? Oh, the white
Gaunt ghosts that flutter where thy feet have sped,

Across the terrace that is desolate,
And rang then with thy laughter, ghost of thee,
That holds its shroud up with most delicate,
Dead fingers, and behind the ghost of me,

Tripping fantastic with a mouth that jeers
At roseal flowers of youth the turbid streams
Toss in derision down the barren years
To death the host of all our golden dreams.

Terre Promise

Even now the fragrant darkness of her hair
Had brushed my cheek; and once, in passing by,
Her hand upon my hand lay tranquilly:
What things unspoken trembled in the air!

Always I know, how little severs me
From mine heart’s country, that is yet so far;
And must I lean and long across a bar,
That half a word would shatter utterly?

Ah might it be, that just by touch of hand,
Or speaking silence, shall the barrier fall;
And she shall pass, with no vain words at all,
But droop into mine arms, and understand!

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