Fashion

It’s day nineteen on my self-challenge to write thirty blogs on thirty consecutive days from a random list I somehow came across on social media, but don’t now know where. I can’t even remember the purpose of the list, and if you are the person who created it, well, thank you very much! It has indeed been a challenge, but on the whole I have been pleased with what I have produced. So today…

Fashion

The first thought which sprang into mind when I saw today’s blog title was ‘fashion’, was a half-remembered poem with a line something like ‘I loved you in my fashion’. It didn’t take long to find and you may already know, as I didn’t, that in fact the line is ‘I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion’, and the poem, by Ernest Dowson is ‘Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae’ otherwise known as Cynara.

Dowson had a terribly sad life, ill health and an early death, and the poem which set me off finding out more about him was apparently inspired by his love for an eleven year old child when he was twenty-three – which is shocking, even more so that he wanted to marry her. In fact she later married someone else, but his adoration or infatuation seemed to have lasted for the rest of his life. This passion, unsavoury as it seems to us now, haunted Dowson as his lost love, and the poem Cynara reflects that – the poet is with a prostitute but is heart-sick for the girl he can’t forget.

Ernest Christopher Dowson was born in 1867 to Alfred Christopher Dowson (b 1842) a ship-builder, from a family of ship-builders, and his wife Annie (née Swan married 1866, b 1849) I was excited to see that in the 1871 census, little Ernest and his parents, lived in Weston-super-Mare, where I live! They lived in Camden Villa, but I can’t for the moment discover where that is. The family moved to Ilfracombe and in 1881, on that census it’s recorded there was another son, Roland Corbel Dowson.

Dowson went to Oxford University, but apparently he left without graduating. In 1894, his father who had been seriously ill from tuberculosis died from an overdose of chloral hydrate which presumably he was taking to help with his illness. He died in the August, and in February of the following year his wife Annie, Ernest’s mother who also had TB, hanged herself. This must have been a most tragic and dreadful blow to Ernest and Roland, and it seems Ernest went into a decline and became ill himself. He was helped financially to go to France, but he returned and went to live with the family of the young girl he had fallen in love with ten years before. His fortunes continued to decline, and a friend found him penniless in a wine bar and took him back to his own home. Dowson died in 1900 at the age of thirty-two.

In his poem Cynara, there is a line which became very famous as the title of a book and a film, ‘Gone with the Wind’ and in another of his pomes is a line which is similarly well-known, ‘the days of wine and roses’

Here is Cynara, inspired by young Ellen Adelaide Foltinowicz, who went on to marry a tailor.

Cynara,

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.

 

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