Dowson Songs

Grigory Smirnov


on poems by Ernest Dowson (1867-1900)

1. Tears fall within mine heart

After Paul Verlaine

Tears fall within mine heart,

As rain upon the town:

Whence does this languor start,

Possessing all mine heart?


O sweet fall of the rain

Upon the earth and roofs!

Unto an heart in pain,

O music of the rain!


Tears that have no reason

Fall in my sorry heart:

What! there was no treason?

This grief hath no reason.


Nay! the more desolate,

Because, I know not why,

(Neither for love nor hate)

Mine heart is desolate.

2. A Coronal

Violets and leaves of vine,

   Into a frail, fair wreath

We gather and entwine:

   A wreath for Love to wear,

   Fragrant as his own breath,

To crown his brow divine,

   All day till night is near.

Violets and leaves of vine

We gather and entwine.


Violets and leaves of vine

   For Love that lives a day,

We gather and entwine.

   All day till Love is dead,

   Till eve falls, cold and gray,

These blossoms, yours and mine,

   Love wears upon his head.

Violets and leaves of vine

We gather and entwine.


Violets and leaves of vine,

   For Love when poor Love dies

We gather and entwine.

   This wreath that lives a day

   Over his pale, cold eyes,

Kissed shut by Proserpine,

   At set of sun we lay:

Violets and leaves of vine

We gather and entwine.

3. 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.

4. Exile


By the sad waters of separation

   Where we have wandered by divers ways,

I have but the shadow and imitation

   Of the old memorial days.


In music I have no consolation,

   No roses are pale enough for me;

The sound of the waters of separation

   Surpasseth roses and melody.


By the sad waters of separation

   Dimly I hear from an hidden place

The sigh of mine ancient adoration:

   Hardly can I remember your face.


If you be dead, no proclamation

   Sprang to me over the waste, gray sea:

Living, the waters of separation

   Sever for ever your soul from me.


No man knoweth our desolation;

   Memory pales of the old delight;

While the sad waters of separation

   Bear us on to the ultimate night.

5. Interlude


6. When this, our rose, is faded

Amantium Irae


When this, our rose, is faded,

   And these, our days, are done,

In lands profoundly shaded

   From tempest and from sun;

Ah, once more come together,

   Shall we forgive the past,

And safe from worldly weather

   Possess our souls at last?


Or in our place of shadows

   Shall still we stretch an hand

To green, remembered meadows,

   Of that old pleasant land?

And vainly there foregathered,

   Shall we regret the sun?

The rose of love, ungathered?

   The bay, we have not won?


Ah, child! the world’s dark marges

   May lead to Nevermore,

The stately funeral barges

   Sail for an unknown shore,

And love we vow to-morrow,

   And pride we serve to-day:

What if they both should borrow

   Sad hues of yesterday?

Our pride! Ah, should we miss it,

   Or will it serve at last?

Our anger, if we kiss it,

   Is like a sorrow past.

While roses deck the garden,

   While yet the sun is high,

Doff sorry pride for pardon,

   Or ever love go by.

7. 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.

8. I would not alter thy cold eyes

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.

9. The gift of Silence

Amor Umbratilis


A gift of Silence, sweet!

   Who may not ever hear;

To lay down at your unobservant feet,

   Is all the gift I bear.


I have no songs to sing,

   That you should heed or know:

I have no lilies, in full hands, to fling

   Across the path you go.


I cast my flowers away,

   Blossoms unmeet for you!

The garland I have gathered in my day;

   My rosemary and rue.


I watch you pass and pass,

   Serene and cold: I lay

My lips upon your trodden, daisied grass,

   And turn my life away.


Yea, for I cast you, sweet!

   This one gift, you shall take:

Like ointment, on your unobservant feet,

   My silence, for your sake.

10. The days of wine and roses

Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam


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.

11. A land of Silence

Beata Solitudo


What land of Silence,

   Where pale stars shine

On apple-blossom

   And dew-drenched vine,

   Is yours and mine?


The silent valley

   That we will find,

Where all the voices

   Of humankind

   Are left behind.

 There all forgetting,

   Forgotten quite,

We will repose us,

   With our delight

   Hid out of sight.


The world forsaken,

   And out of mind

Honour and labour,

   We shall not find

   The stars unkind.


And men shall travail,

   And laugh and weep;

But we have vistas

   Of gods asleep,

   With dreams as deep.


A land of Silence,

   Where pale stars shine

On apple-blossoms

   And dew-drenched vine,

   Be yours and mine!

12. Postlude