decorated initial 'T' he change of seasons typically functions as a figure for continuity, for eternity. Spring in particular is the moment of rebirth, a potential beginning, filled with an ever-present hope. It can safely be assumed by any party that spring will come again, that there is essentially life after death. It is interesting to note that in Dowson's "My Lady April" the lack of the typical cyclical implications when talking about seasons and the passage of time provides a very decadent twist on a traditional theme. Dowson alters this assumption, and removes that reassuring guarantee of continuity.

Spring is established as a concrete beginning, as youth and beauty. The seasonal progression that is described in the second stanza mimics human life. He crafts this metaphor by personifying spring as a young woman, "My Lady April"

The poem begins with a description of April which intermingles images of humanity with natural imagery. For example, there is dew (nature) on her robe (human). This playful combination strengthens the metaphor by providing a very clear, plausible image of a young woman existing out in nature.

Dew on her robe and on her tangled hair;
     Twin dewdrops for her eyes; behold her pass,
     With dainty step brushing the young, green grass,
The while she trills some high, fantastic air,
Full of all feathered sweetness: she is fair,
     And all her flower-like beauty, as a glass,
     Mirrors out hope and love: and still, alas!
Traces of tears her languid lashes wear.

As we move on to the second stanza, there is again mixed imagery — the visual signifier "withered leaves", the heritage of the word "Autumn" and all the implications it carries, and the human emotion "vanity" all appear together.

Say, doth she weep for very wantonness?
     Or is it that she dimly doth foresee
Across her youth the joys grow less and less,
     The burden of the days that are to be: —
     Autumn and withered leaves and vanity,
And winter bringing end in barrenness.

Questions

Why would Dowson only choose to mention three of the four seasons? Additionally, why would he specify April in the title, as opposed to the generic season?

While it is implied that the reader should be inclined to agree with the second reason behind the lady's tears [Or is it... end in barrenness] as opposed to the first [does she weep for very wantonness], Dowson never actually provides a concrete answer to the question. What conclusions can be drawn from this?

Earlier I mention the "decadent twist" within this poem - what is it? How does this poem conform to decadent impulses?

How is this poem a commentary on human life?

Compare this to the work of some of the romantics, who dealt with very similar themes, especially in their treatment/personification of nature and natural images. Example - P. B. Shelley's Mont Blanc


Ernest Dowson

Last modified 2 December 2003