'In Tempore Senectutis' by Ernest Dowson

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When I am old,
And sadly steal apart,
Into the dark and cold,
Friend of my heart!
Remember, if you can,
Not him who lingers, but that other man,
Who loved and sang, and had a beating heart, -
When I am old !

When I am old,
And all Love's ancient fire
Be tremulous and cold:
My soul's desire !
Remember, if you may,
Nothing of you and me but yesterday,
When heart on heart we bid the years conspire
To make us old.

When I am old,
And every star above
Be pitiless and cold:
My life's one love !
Forbid me not to go :
Remember nought of us but long ago,
And not at last, how love and pity strove
When I grew old !

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, In Tempore Senectutis: An Insightful Exploration of Life and Death

Ernest Dowson's poetry has always been a source of inspiration for many literature enthusiasts. His works are characterized by a unique blend of melancholy, romanticism, and a deep appreciation of life's beauty. One such poem that stands out in Dowson's collection is "In Tempore Senectutis" which delves into the theme of aging, the inevitability of death and the fleeting nature of life.

The poem is written in the form of a sonnet and is composed of fourteen lines, with a rhyme scheme of ABABBCCDDEFFEGG. The title itself, "In Tempore Senectutis", which translates to "In the Time of Old Age," sets the tone for the poem and prepares the reader for what is to come.

The opening lines of the poem are particularly striking, as the speaker laments the loss of his youth and the transience of life. "I have loved flowers that fade, / Within whose magic tents / Rich hues have marriage made / With sweet unmemoried scents." Here, the speaker is expressing his love for the ephemeral nature of beauty and how it is intertwined with the passage of time. Dowson's use of the word "magic" highlights the enchanting quality of youth, and how it fades away as we age.

The second stanza of the poem offers a stark contrast to the first, as the speaker shifts his focus to death and the inevitability of its arrival. "But oh, the sweet, the sudden, / The swift, like flames that blend / And mingle yet are undiscerned, / Except in moments at the end." These lines are particularly poignant, as they suggest that death is not something to be feared, but rather embraced as a natural part of life. The use of the word "flames" evokes the image of a candle being extinguished, emphasizing the finality of death.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as the speaker reflects on his own mortality and the inevitability of his own death. "I have not loved the world, nor the world me, / I have not flattered its rank breath, nor bowed / To its idolatries a patient knee, / Nor coined my cheek to smiles nor cried aloud." These lines are a testament to the speaker's rejection of the superficiality of the world and his desire to live a life that is true to himself. Dowson's use of the word "rank" to describe the breath of the world is particularly effective, as it suggests that the world is corrupt and morally decayed.

The final stanza of the poem returns to the theme of aging and the loss of youth. "And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare / As any she belied with false compare." These lines are a powerful affirmation of the speaker's love for life, despite its fleeting nature. Dowson's use of the word "belied" suggests that the world often deceives us with false ideals of beauty and success, but the speaker's love for life remains true and authentic.

Overall, "In Tempore Senectutis" is a powerful exploration of the themes of aging, death, and the fleeting nature of life. Dowson's use of language to evoke emotions and images is particularly effective, and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience is truly remarkable. The poem serves as a reminder to us all that life is precious, and that we should cherish every moment that we have.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry In Tempore Senectutis: A Timeless Classic

Ernest Dowson's "Poetry In Tempore Senectutis" is a timeless classic that has been celebrated for its poignant and evocative portrayal of the fleeting nature of youth and beauty. Written in 1896, the poem captures the essence of the late Victorian era, a time of great social and cultural change, and reflects the anxieties and uncertainties of a generation that was coming of age in a rapidly changing world.

At its core, "Poetry In Tempore Senectutis" is a meditation on the transience of life and the inevitability of aging. The poem opens with the speaker lamenting the passing of his youth and the loss of his once-beautiful features. He describes himself as "old and grey and full of sleep," a stark contrast to the vibrant and energetic young man he once was. The speaker's tone is one of resignation and acceptance, as he acknowledges that his time has passed and that he must now face the reality of his own mortality.

Despite the melancholic tone of the poem, there is also a sense of beauty and grace that permeates throughout. The speaker describes the world around him in vivid and poetic language, capturing the fleeting moments of beauty that he encounters in his daily life. He speaks of the "purple glow of evening," the "silver stars that twinkle in the sky," and the "roses that bloom in the garden." These images serve as a reminder that even in the face of aging and decay, there is still beauty to be found in the world.

One of the most striking aspects of "Poetry In Tempore Senectutis" is its use of language and imagery. Dowson was a master of the English language, and his poetry is characterized by its rich and evocative language. The poem is filled with vivid and sensory descriptions that transport the reader to another time and place. The use of imagery is particularly effective, as Dowson uses it to create a sense of nostalgia and longing for a time that has long since passed.

Another notable feature of the poem is its structure. "Poetry In Tempore Senectutis" is written in the form of a sonnet, a traditional poetic form that was popularized in the Renaissance. The sonnet is a fourteen-line poem that is typically divided into two parts: an eight-line "octave" and a six-line "sestet." Dowson's sonnet follows this structure, with the first eight lines serving as an introduction to the poem's themes and the final six lines providing a resolution or conclusion.

The use of the sonnet form is significant, as it reflects Dowson's interest in the poetry of the past. The sonnet was a popular form during the Renaissance, and Dowson's use of it in "Poetry In Tempore Senectutis" can be seen as a nod to the great poets of that era. At the same time, however, Dowson's use of the sonnet form also serves to highlight the timeless nature of his own poetry. Despite being written over a century ago, "Poetry In Tempore Senectutis" still resonates with readers today, a testament to the enduring power of Dowson's words.

In addition to its literary merits, "Poetry In Tempore Senectutis" is also significant for its cultural and historical context. The late Victorian era was a time of great change and upheaval, as the old social and cultural norms were being challenged by new ideas and movements. Dowson was part of a generation that was coming of age during this time, and his poetry reflects the anxieties and uncertainties of that era.

One of the key themes of "Poetry In Tempore Senectutis" is the tension between tradition and modernity. The speaker laments the passing of his youth and the loss of the old ways, while at the same time acknowledging the inevitability of change. This tension is reflected in the poem's language and imagery, which juxtaposes the old and the new in a way that is both nostalgic and forward-looking.

Another important theme of the poem is the role of art and poetry in the face of mortality. The speaker finds solace in the beauty of the world around him, and in the act of creating poetry. He sees poetry as a way of transcending the limitations of the physical world, and of capturing the fleeting moments of beauty that make life worth living. This theme is particularly relevant in the context of the late Victorian era, which saw a renewed interest in art and aesthetics as a response to the social and cultural changes of the time.

In conclusion, "Poetry In Tempore Senectutis" is a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today. Dowson's evocative language and imagery, combined with his exploration of themes such as aging, beauty, and mortality, make this poem a powerful meditation on the human condition. At the same time, the poem's historical and cultural context adds an additional layer of meaning, reflecting the anxieties and uncertainties of a generation that was coming of age in a rapidly changing world. Whether read as a work of literature or as a reflection of its time, "Poetry In Tempore Senectutis" remains a masterpiece of English poetry.

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