Death, where is thy sting?

March 1, 2008 at 2:30 am (Eloquence, Film and television, Magazines and newspapers, Poetry)

buckley.jpg William F. Buckley was an iconic figure for those of my generation, even if our politics were diametrically opposed to his. That wit, that urbanity, the multisyllabic vocabulary, the faux-British accent – it all added up to a package that was hard to resist.

George F. Will has a nice valedictory piece, “A Life Athwart History,” in today’s Washington Post. In it, he quotes a stanza from “Vit(ae) Summa Brevis Spem nos Incohare Longam” by Ernest Dowson. I have seen this poem before but forgotten its haunting beauty. Here it is in its entirety:

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.

Poor Ernest Dowson! He was one of those wayward, sensitive souls doomed to flame out at an early age. Here is a brief, poignant memoir of his life by the poet and critic Arthur Symons.

Some will recognize the phrase “days of wine and roses” as the title of a terrific film from 1962 starring Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon. The film depicted the ravages of alcoholism in a way that has rarely been equalled, before or since. And from another poem by Dowson comes the title of an acclaimed American novel that became an even more acclaimed movie. See line 13 in “Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae.”

dowson.gif Ernest Dowson 1867-1900

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