Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae

'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae' is an 1894 poem by Ernest Dowson that was part of his collection Verses published in 1896. Dowson was known for his poetry of tragedy and material excess. These elements are certainly present in this poem so let's explore them in more detail!

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Contents
Table of contents

    Below is a summary and in-depth analysis of 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae'.

    'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae': Summary & Analysis
    Written in1894
    Published inVerses Collection published in 1896
    AuthorErnest Dowson
    FormNo set form
    MetreIrregular metre
    Rhyme schemeABACBC
    Poetic devicesEnjambment, repetition
    Frequently noted imageryRomantic imagery
    ToneMournful, nostalgic, frustrated
    SummaryThe poem begins with the speaker reminiscing about a year that has passed since his affair with Cynara ended. Despite engaging in debauchery and spending time with other women, the speaker finds himself continuously haunted by the memory of Cynara. Towards the end of the poem, the speaker resigns himself to his persistent longing.
    ThemesLost love, regret, the past, and the constancy of passionate love
    AnalysisThe speaker expresses his deep longing for a former lover, Cynara, whom he cannot forget despite indulging in hedonistic distractions. This heartache and longing permeate throughout the poem, and it is this all-consuming, obsessive love that sets the tone for the poem. Dowson's choice of words, combined with the melancholic mood, effectively conveys the profound emotional torment experienced by the speaker.

    'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae': poem

    Let's first consider the poem:

    Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine

    There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed

    Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;

    And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,

    Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:

    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

    All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,

    Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;

    Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;

    But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,

    When I awoke and found the dawn was gray:

    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

    I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,

    Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,

    Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;

    But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,

    Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:

    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

    I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,

    But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,

    Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;

    And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,

    Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:

    I have been faithful to thee Cynara! in my fashion.

    'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae': summary

    Below is a stanza-by-stanza summary of the poem.

    Stanza one

    Stanza one opens with an intimate scene between two lovers. The poem is told in the first person by the narrator. He is reflecting on the previous night he had shared with his lover. However, he cannot stop thinking of his previous partner, whom he addresses as Cynara. Even though he has been kissing his lover and drinking, she has not left his mind. This leaves him 'desolate' and upset, clearly missing her dearly. The narrator then claims he has been faithful to Cynara, but in his own way.

    Stanza two

    This second stanza continues on the same theme of a love lost. The narrator details that his new lover slept close to him the entire night, so close that he could feel her heartbeat. He admits that her kisses were sweet, but also acknowledges that he 'bought' them. However, the desolate feelings once again take hold as he misses Cynara. The grey dawn seems to make these feelings even worse. The narrator repeats his refrain that insists that he has been faithful to Cynara in his own manner,

    A refrain is when a line or phrase is repeated multiple times, often at the beginning or end of stanzas.

    Stanza three

    The narrator tells Cynara that he has forgotten much about their relationship, perhaps purposefully to avoid the pain. He has thrown roses and danced in crowds to forget her and her beauty, which he compares to lilies. The lines that detail the narrator's pain at missing his lover are repeated. He emphasises that even during the long dances he attended, he still missed her. Then, the refrain that assures Cynara of the narrator's faithfulness to her is also repeated.

    Stanza four

    Stanza four details that the narrator wished for more intense music and stronger wine to distract from the pain of missing his lover. However, when any party ends, this pain returns. He spends the nights thinking of Cynara and wishing for her kiss. The refrain of the narrator's faithfulness is repeated once again to end Dowson's poem.

    Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno cynarae, A man in black and white covering his face with his hands to symbolise regret, StudySmarterFig. 1 - The theme of lost love in Ernest Dowson's poem has a sense of a persistent melancholy.

    Non sum qualis eram: title

    Dowson's poem has the long Latin title of 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae'. This translates to 'I am not as I was in the reign of good Cynara'. This is a quotation from a work by the Ancient Roman poet, Horace. Dowson uses the mythical figure of Cynara to represent his lost lover.

    The title itself establishes the speaker's feelings of loss and change, indicating that he is not the same person he was during his time with Cynara. Throughout the poem, the speaker recounts his attempts to forget his past love through pleasures of the flesh and the company of other women, but to no avail. In his solitude, the memory of Cynara haunts him, demonstrating that his passion for her remains undiminished.

    Horace (65 BC-8BC) was an Ancient Roman poet, known for his lyrics. He also made use of the satirical genre. Horace often wrote in the form of an ode, with whole collections of his odes still in publication today. These are translated from the original Latin. Horace was active during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus.

    'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae': meaning

    'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae' is told from the perspective of a narrator who misses his old lover deeply. He does everything he can to forget her, burying himself in alcohol, parties, and other women, but this changes nothing. Every night he misses Cynara just as much. Dowson's poem revolves around the idea that if one is still truly in love with someone, one cannot forget them, no matter what.

    'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae': analysis

    Below is a further analysis of Dowson's poem, summarising the form, meter, rhyme scheme, and poetic devices.

    Form, meter, and rhyme scheme

    Dowson's poem comprises four stanzas, each consisting of six lines. The poem's structure is consistent, but does not follow any specific form.

    The meter of 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae' also does not follow a specific pattern. Different kinds of metres are present in various lines of Dowson's poem, but these are identifiable meters. The fifth line of every stanza is in iambic pentameter.

    Iambic pentameter is when a line consists of five iambic feet. An iambic foot is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one.

    The rhyme scheme in Dowson's poem, however, is continuously consistent. Every stanza follows the pattern ABACBC. This consistency in rhyme scheme and the metre of every stanza's fifth line can be seen as representing the narrator's constancy of love for Cynara. On the other hand, the unpredictability of the rest of the poem's form and metre showcases the chaotic nature of the narrator's life.

    Poetic devices

    Let's consider the poetic devices in the poem.

    Enjambment

    The technique of enjambment is used in this poem.

    Enjambment is when a line continues into the next without being broken up by punctuation. This can go on for multiple lines or stanzas.

    Below is an example of enjambment in 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae'.

    Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine

    There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed

    Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine; (ll. 1-3)

    The important role enjambment plays in Dowson's poem reflects the continuing nature of the narrator's affection for his old lover. As each line continues into the next, his love for her also continues.

    Repetition

    Repetition is key in this poem. Two refrains are repeated throughout, which are quoted below.

    And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,

    ...

    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. (ll. 4, 6)

    Repeating these lines in each stanza of the poem emphasises them. Both of the refrains in Dowson's poem refer to Cynara in some way, showing how essential she is to the narrator.

    Frequently noted imagery

    There is a great deal of romantic imagery in 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae'. Dowson includes imagery of lovers throughout the poem. One such example is found in stanza two. The narrator and his current lover are spending time in bed together; he holds her closely all night and can feel her heartbeat. However, this image is soured by the word 'bought', insinuating the woman is a prostitute.

    Much of the romantic imagery in Dowson's poem revolves around the narrator's new lovers. Regardless, his mind continually returns to Cynara.

    Tone

    The tone of 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae' is mournful and nostalgic. The narrator is unable to stop looking back on his previous relationship and wishing he could be with Cynara once again. Despite the distractions he offers himself, nothing takes his mind off her for long. This also adds slight frustration to the tone of the poem. He cannot escape her.

    'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae': themes

    The main themes noted in Dowson's poem are:

    1. Unrequited Love and Obsession: The central theme of the poem is the speaker's all-consuming, unreciprocated love for Cynara. Even though their relationship has ended, his love for her endures, to the point of obsession.

    2. Memory and Past: The speaker's past with Cynara continues to permeate his present. His reminiscences of their time together, contrasted with his current state, highlight the influence of the past on the present.

    3. Loss and Longing: The speaker expresses a profound sense of loss and an intense longing for a love that he can't reclaim. This results in a persistent melancholy that pervades the entire poem.

    4. Futile Escape: The speaker tries to escape his feelings for Cynara through debauchery and distractions. However, these attempts are in vain as he finds himself continually drawn back to his memories of her.

    5. Transformation and Identity: The Latin title, meaning 'I am not as I was under the reign of good Cynara,' introduces the theme of change. The speaker acknowledges his transformation since the end of his affair with Cynara, suggesting a deep impact on his identity.

    Lost love and regret

    Lost love is a central theme of 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae'. The narrator of Dowson's poem desperately tries to distract himself from his thoughts of Cynara. He drinks and attends parties, surrounding himself with beautiful women and prostitutes. However, as soon as he has a quiet moment, Cynara returns to the forefront of his mind. No current lover can compete with the intense and passionate memories of his lost love.

    Because of these recurring memories, the past is another key theme in Dowson's poem. Cynara haunts the narrator. He is unable to find happiness in the present as the past is so idyllic to him.

    'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae': criticism

    Ernest Dowson was a popular and respected poet of his time, known as a member of the Decadents' movement.

    The Decadents' movement was an artistic movement that began in France and gradually spread to the rest of Europe. It was characterised by its focus on material excess and enjoying all parts of the human experience. Some works appreciated these things, while others used them to criticise wider society. The movement was most popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae' was recognised as a tragic work of the Decadents' movement. It includes both material excess and great sadness. Oscar Wilde, a fellow Decadent, greatly appreciated Dowson's talent for writing tragedy.

    Today, 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae' is acknowledged by academics and critics for its subject matter and use of the English language. Based on this poem, one reviewer described Dowson's 'ability to melt down the staccato language, English, till it flowed like a Romance language.'1

    Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae - Key takeaways

    • 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae' is an 1894 poem by Ernest Dowson, a member of the Decadents' movement.
    • The poem revolves around the narrator's mourning of his lost lover.
    • The poem uses the poetic devices of enjambment and repetition.
    • Dowson also uses a great deal of romantic imagery in his poem.
    • Two key themes in 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae' are lost love and the past.

    References

    1. Carol Rumens, Poem of the week: Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson, The Guardian, 2011.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae

    What does 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae' mean?

    It means I am not as I was in the reign of good Cynara.

    What does Cynarae mean?

    The word can be translated as Cynara, a character from a poem by the Ancient Roman poet Horace.

    What language is 'Non Sum Qualis Eram'?

    The poem is Latin.

    When was 'Non sum qualis' written?

    'Non sum qualis' was written in 1894.

    What is 'Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae' about?

    The poem is about a man mourning his lost lover.

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    When was 'Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae' written?

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