Decadent Poetry

Paperback | March 27, 2007

EditorLisa RodenskybyArthur Symons, John Davidson

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The poems collected in this volume are exquisite and languorous expressions of a spirit of self-indulgence, eroticism and moral rebelliousness that emerged in the late Victorian age. They deal with eternal themes of transition, artifice and, above all, the cruel ravages of time - often depicting flowers, with their heady, perfumed beauty, as the embodiment of decay and desire. Decadent Poetry brings together the works of many fascinating writers - Oscar Wilde on tainted love and the torments of the human spirit, Arthur Symons on an absinthe-induced stupor and the mysteries of the night, Rosamund Marriott Watson on disenchantment and memory, W. B. Yeats on waning passion and faded beauty, Ernest Dowson on lust and despair and Lord Alfred Douglas on shame and secret love, among many others of this exhilarating poetic movement.

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From the Publisher

The poems collected in this volume are exquisite and languorous expressions of a spirit of self-indulgence, eroticism and moral rebelliousness that emerged in the late Victorian age. They deal with eternal themes of transition, artifice and, above all, the cruel ravages of time - often depicting flowers, with their heady, perfumed beau...

Lisa Rodensky is Assistant Professor of English at Wellesley College, and author of The Crime in Mind (OUP, 2003). .

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 7.82 × 5.07 × 0.85 inPublished:March 27, 2007Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:014042413X

ISBN - 13:9780140424133

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The Harlot's HouseWe caught the tread of dancing feet,We loitered down the moonlit street,And stopped beneath the harlot's house.Inside, above the din and fray,We heard the loud musicians playThe 'Treues Liebes Herz' of Strauss.Like strange mechanical grotesques,Making fantasies arabesques,The shadows raced across the blind.We watched the ghostly dancers spinTo sound of horn and violin,Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.Like wire-pulled automatons,Slim silhouetted skeletonsWent sidling through the slow quadrille.They took each other by the hand,And danced a stately saraband;Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressedA phantom lover to her breast,Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.Sometimes a horrible marionetteCame out, and smoked its cigaretteUpon the steps like a live thing.Then, turning to my love, I said,'The dead are dancing with the dead,The dust is whirling with the dust.'But she —she heard the violin,And left my side, and entered in:Love passed into the house of lust.Then suddenly the tune went false,The dancers wearied of the waltz,The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.And down the long and silent street,The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,Crept like a frightened girl.The Art of LoveBook 1Should anyone here in Rome lack finesse at love-making,let himTry me—read my book; and results are guaranteed!Technique is the secret. Charioteer, sailor, oarsman,All need it. Technique can controlLove himself. As Automedon was charioteer to Achilles,And Tiphys Jason's steersman, so I,By Venus' appointment, am made Love's artificer, shall beKnown asThe Tiphys, the very Automedon of Love.He's a wild handful, will often rebel against me,But still just a child—Malleable, easily disciplined. Chiron made young AchillesA fine musician, hammered that fierce heartOn the anvil of peaceful artistry. So this future terrorTo friend and foe alike went in awe, it's said,Of his elderly teacher, at whose bidding the hand that in after-Time bore down Hector was held out for the tawse.As Chiron taught Achilles, so I am Love's preceptor:Wild boys both, both goddess-born—and yetEven bulls can be broken to plough, or spirited horsesSubdued with bridle and bit.So love shall likewise own my mastery, though his bowshotsSkewer my breast, though his torchFlicker and sear me. The worse the wounds, the deeper the branding,That much keener I to avengeSuch outrage. Nor shall I falsely ascribe my arts to Apollo:No airy bird comes twittering adviceInto my eat, I never had a vision of the MusesHerding sheep in Ascra's valleys. This work is basedOn experience: what I write, believe me, I have practiced.My poem will deal in truth.Aid my enterprise, Venus! Respectable ladies, the kind whoWear hairbands and ankle-length skirts,Are hereby warned off. Safe love, legitimate liaisonsWill be my theme. This poem breaks no taboos.First, then, you fledging troopers in passion's service,Comes the task of finding an object for your love.Next, you must labour to woo and win your lady;Thirdly, ensure that the affair will last.Such are my limitations, such the ground I will cover,The race I propose to run.While you are fancy-free still, and can drive at leisure,Pick a girl, tell her, "you're the one I love.And only you.' But this search means using your eyes: amistressWon't drop out of the sky at your fee.A hunter's skilled where to spread his nets for the stag, sensesIn which glen the wild boar lurks.A fowler's familiar with copses, an expert anglerKnows the richest shoaling-grounds for fish.You too, so keen to establish some long term relationship,Must learn, first, where girl is to be found.Your search need not take you—belueve me—on an overseasvoyage:A short enough trek will bring you to your goal.True, Perseus fetched home Andromeda from the colouredIndies,While Phrygian Paris abducted Helen in Greece,But Rome can boast of so many and such dazzling beautiesYou'd swear the whole world's talent was gathered here.The girls of your city outnumber Gargara's wheatsheaves,Methymna's grape-clusters,Birds on the bough, stars in the sky, fish in the ocean:Venus indeed still hauntsHer son Aeneas' foundation. If you like budding adolescentsAny number of (guaranteed) maidens are here to delightYour roving eye. Your prefer young women? They'll charm youBy the thousand, you won't know which to choose.And if you happen to fancy a more mature, experiencedAge-group, believe me, they show up in droves.Here's what to do. When the sun's on the back of Hercules'Lion, stroll down some shady colonnade,Pompey's, say, or Octavia's (for her dead son Marcellus:Extravagant marble facings, R.I.P.),Or Livia's, with its gallery of genuine Old Masters,Or the Danaids' Portico (noteThe artwork: Danaus' daughters plotting mischief for their cousins,Father attitudinizing with drawn sword).Don't miss the shrine of Adonis, mourned by Venus,Or the synagogue—Syrian JewsWorship there each Sabbath—or the linen-clad heifer-goddess'sMemphian temple: Io makes many a maid what sheWas to Jove. The very courts are hunting-grounds for passion;Amid lawyers' rebuttals love will often be found.Here, where under Venus' marble temple the AppianFountain pulses its jets high in the air,Your jurisconsult's entrapped by love's beguilements—Counsel to others, he cannot advise himself.Here, all too often, words fail the most eloquent pleader,And a new sort of case comes on—his own. He mustDefend himself for a change, while Venus in her nearbyTemple snickers at this reversal of roles.