Friday, August 2, 2019

Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long. – Horace

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.


— Ernest Dowson


Ernest Dowson (1867-1900) died of alcoholism at the age of 32. His downward spiral began at age 23 when he fell for an 11 year old girl who would spurn him at 14 when he proposed marriage. The following year, in 1894 his father died from an overdose. Dowson's mother hanged herself within a year of her husband's death.

Soon after this dual tragedy Dowson left for France before returning back to England in 1897. Curiously he lived with the family of his unrequited love. Penniless, heartbroken and filling the empty voids in his life with alcohol, Dowson would spend the last six weeks of his life in the cottage of the Oscar Wilde biographer Robert Sherard who had found him drunk in a bar.

Speaking of Oscar Wilde, he wrote after Dowson's death of a,"Poor wounded wonderful fellow that he was, a tragic reproduction of all tragic poetry, like a symbol, or a scene. I hope bay leaves will be laid on his tomb and rue and myrtle too for he knew what love was."

Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam is perhaps best known as inspiring the title of the 1962 Oscar winning film Days of Wine and Roses.




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