Ernest Dowson: Yvonne of Brittany

Ernest Dowson spent part of his youth in France, he liked that country and spoke French fluently. He was especially fond of Brittany, often returning there for vacation.

In this poem he evokes a nascent love with a young girl in an apple-orchard (Brittany is renowned for its cider). But this sweet memory soon falls into oblivion.

Pati Bannister - Apple Orchard (1929) - from americangallery.wordpress.com

Pati Bannister – Apple Orchard – from americangallery.wordpress.com

YVONNE OF BRITTANY

In your mother’s apple-orchard,
——Just a year ago, last spring:
Do you remember, Yvonne!
——The dear trees lavishing
Rain of their starry blossoms
——To make you a coronet?
Do you ever remember, Yvonne?
——As I remember yet.

In your mother’s apple-orchard,
——When the world was left behind:
You were shy, so shy, Yvonne!
——But your eyes were calm and kind.
We spoke of the apple harvest,
——When the cider press is set,
And such-like trifles, Yvonne!
——That doubtless you forget.

In the still, soft Breton twilight,
——We were silent; words were few,
Till your mother came out chiding,
——For the grass was bright with dew:
But I know your heart was beating,
——Like a fluttered, frightened dove.
Do you ever remember, Yvonne?
——That first faint flush of love?

In the fulness of midsummer,
——When the apple-bloom was shed,
Oh, brave was your surrender,
——Though shy the words you said.
I was glad, so glad, Yvonne!
——To have led you home at last;
Do you ever remember, Yvonne!
——How swiftly the days passed?

In your mother’s apple-orchard
——It is grown too dark to stray,
There is none to chide you, Yvonne!
——You are over far away.
There is dew on your grave grass, Yvonne!
——But your feet it shall not wet:
No, you never remember, Yvonne!
——And I shall soon forget.

Source: from Verses, in Ernest Dowson Collected Poems, Robert Kelsey Rought Thornton and Caroline Dowson (editors), Birmingham University Press, 2003; also in The Poems and Prose of Ernest Dowson, With a Memoir by Arthur Symons, Project Gutenberg Ebook, and in The Poems of Ernest Dowson @ ELCore.Net.

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