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The Far Shore

Windblown: gone with the summer wind.
Windblown: gone with the autumn wind.
Windblown: gone with the winter wind.
Windblown: gone with the vernal wind.

Dowson spits into a china cup,
his pocket-watch has broken;
recalling a tryst with a pretty shopgirl
he writes from his Catford cot
in Tarling’s Superior No2
blue-black ink

Our tongues entwined
But did not knot.

Tanned by the summer wind.
Depressed by the autumn wind.
Frozen by the winter wind.
Driven by the vernal wind.

John Gawsworth tried to set the record straight
contra Arthur Symons & Frank Harris’ misrepresentations,
quash that sordid legend of Dowson the soak.
You were just a hard-pressed bloke,
tubercular Pierrot, a fin-de-siècle card,
Old Cheshire Cheese outsider with bad teeth
and shiny kneed Baudelairean trousers!

Windblown: gone with the summer wind.
Windblown: gone with the autumn wind.
Windblown: gone with the winter wind.
Windblown: gone with the vernal wind.

In the iconic Oxford photo you look dapper,
a crème-de-menthe poet in the making,
verses soon to prove unprofitable:
bunches of cut flowers spoilt by English weather,
each word a stain, each thought a cliché:

‘…sad waters of separation
Bear us on to the ultimate night’ [1]

Tanned by the summer wind.
Depressed by the autumn wind.
Frozen by the winter wind.
Driven by the vernal wind;

sleepwalking towards the twentieth century,
in Romanticism’s last light

quote/unquote
an empty shell,
quote/ unquote
a private hell

in the arms of gin or absinthe,
puffing a Vevey cigar.

Windblown: gone with the summer wind.
Windblown: gone with the autumn wind.
Windblown: gone with the winter wind.
Windblown: gone with the vernal wind.

Stuck in a cabbie’s shelter on Charing X Road…
a gaslit rue of papers, books and Cockney strollers,
warped Elysian images throng your poor head,
lust the shade of Colman’s mustard
advertised on trams clopping down to Piccadilly.

Tanned by the summer wind.
Depressed by the autumn wind.
Frozen by the winter wind.
Driven by the vernal wind;

a hollow shell
a Dieppe bell,
faun disgusted
in the afternoon.

Dis in manibus
Ernest Christopher Dowson.

 

[1] Taken from the poem ‘Exile’, Verses (1896).

 


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

has contributed to a wide range of publications, including Art Monthly, Frieze, Shearsman, Monika, the web journal Slashseconds and The Penguin Collector. He is currently working on a book project with ‘Information As Material’.



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