Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Strange Days

Will Baude questions the temporal and geographical location of the Golden Age of courtship. His post's title and content put me in mind of the poet Ernest Dowson.

Dowson wrote "Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam," the poem from which the line "the days of wine and roses" is taken. Much of Dowson's poetry celebrates loving a pure and innocent lady. The true object of his affection was a twelve year old restauranteur's daughter named Adelaide. He worshipped her from afar for two years, but at fourteen she married a waiter at the restaurant; Dowson slipped further into dissolution and despair and eventually died. If only he had asked her father for permission!

For an excellent Victorian example of the romantic ambiguity Will Baude references, see Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae, in which the lover is tormented by visions of his lily pure love while in bed with a prostitute. I bet he didn't get many kisses from the former, even on the hand. (This poem is also notable for being the source of the title of Gone With the Wind.)
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