Portrait Image of Ernest DowsonThis chap is the poet, Ernest Dowson. A rather glum fellow who had a very sad life and an early death. When he was four his sister tried to drown him; his father, while in the late stages of tuberculosis, died of an overdose; his mother hanged herself shortly after thus setting poor old Ernest on his own path to self destruction. He ended up a down and out: partial to absinthe and dying an alcoholic at the age of 32. He happens to be the man responsible for giving us “gone with the wind” and “days of wine and roses”.

But what does he have to do with my book? Not a lot actually, but his poem
Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae – the rest of which is fortunately not in Latin, has given me the key to unlock a problem I was facing in plotting the book.

I’m not going to say any more than that, other than Dowson, like my protagionist was a Catholic with a fondness of the bottle. Dowson struggled to balance sexual promiscuity with a love of the classics and of the Catholc church. My character has a longing for learning and an ambivalent attitude to sex and religion.

Anyway here’s the poem:

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.

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