Dowson’s poem Transition was probably first published in the volume Decorations in 1899. According to Desmond Flower, Dowson wrote it on 26 December 1890 (thus a few weeks after Ad Domnulam Suam, of 18 October 1890). In a letter to Arthur Moore dated the same day, he wrote (the misspelling of the name “Carroll” is Dowson’s, not mine):
I sent Missie the works of the immortal ‘Carrol’: & had a pretty card from her this morning.
“Missie” was the nickname given by Dowson to his beloved Adelaide, who, after they met in November 1889, became the inspiration of most of his poetry. “To you, who are my verses” are the starting words of In Preface: for Adelaide at the beginning of his volume Verses; a few lines below it says “For I need not write your name for you at least to know that this and all my work is made for you in the first place.” Dowson’s absolute love for Adelaide made his poetry immortal as the works of Lewis Carroll.
The poem’s title probably refers to the change of seasons, emblematic of the impermanency of childhood and love.
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.
Source of the poem: from Decorations, 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.
Source of the quote: The Letters of Ernest Dowson, Desmond Flower and Henry Maas (editors), Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1967, letter 130, page 180.