‘The pale roses expire’: Dowson’s Decadent diminuendo

Condé, Alice. 2019. ‘The pale roses expire’: Dowson’s Decadent diminuendo. In: Alice Condé and Jessica Gossling, eds. In Cynara’s Shadow: Collected Essays on Ernest Dowson. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 217-243. ISBN 9781787076259 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This chapter examines Dowson’s two published poetry collections as a diminuendo for the Decadent movement in England. His first volume, Verses (1896), famously opens with a symbolic declaration of the ephemerality of Decadent pleasures: ‘They are not long, the days of wine and roses’. Themes of death and desolation, in association with the figure of the young girl, characterize Dowson’s poems and short fiction. Rather than an aesthetic or Decadent celebration of the morbid and corrupt, death is a path to satisfaction only in the sense that it fixes the ideal and nullifies desire. Dowson’s fin de siècle poetry can be read as a ‘fading’ moment for English literary Decadence as it transforms into Modernism. He records the failure of artifice and vice as defences against natural decay, and acknowledges the exhaustion and ennui of modern man, keynotes that reappear in later Modernist works.

Item Type:

Book Section

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature > Decadence Research Centre


April 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

28 Feb 2022 09:39

Last Modified:

28 Feb 2022 09:39



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