Ernest Dowson: Requiem

Laeken cemetary, Brussels, Belgium - cropped and reduced from

Laeken cemetery, Brussels, Belgium – cropped and reduced from

A gentle poem dedicated to a dead young girl. The poet covers her with various flowers, then gives her a last kiss.


Encircle her head with a clustering wreath
Of lilies and roses and woodland flowers,
That she loved to pluck from garden and heath
When the Earth smelt fresh of sweet May showers,
And no sombre shade of sorrow had laid
A pitiless hand on her sunny hours.

Bring cowslips and violets and redolent may,
And daffodowndillies all yellow clad,
With the pale primrose, but never a spray
Of sorrowing yew or cypress sad
To shadow the grace of her peaceful face,
With aught that is gloomy or dull or grey.

For her life was a garden and she the pale
Queen lily that ruled all that fair emprise.
So weave her of flowers a maiden veil,
That Death may not see her dear grey eyes,
And hold her for aye, in his hut of clay,
Where no sun shines and the stars never rise.

Then one last long kiss on her beautiful hair,
And one last long look at her shapely head, —
Soft — turn away and shed never a tear,
For the purest soul that ever sped,
From a world of dust to her rest we trust —
Nay — what is life that ye weep for the dead?

Source of the poem: from Poésie Schublade, in Ernest Dowson Collected Poems, Robert Kelsey Rought Thornton and Caroline Dowson (editors), Birmingham University Press, 2003.


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