Sunday, March 3rd: Tercets N’ Dregs, from Ernest Dowson to Robert Graves

“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.”

– Ernest Dowson

We will meet
on Sunday, March 3rd
in JHU’s Mattin Center, in the SDS room
from 2-3:30 pm
to record poems
with live improvised music
upon the theme of Tercets N’ Dregs.

I have been faithful to thee, Ernest Dowson, in my fashion.

I have been faithful to thee, Ernest Dowson, in my fashion.

In keeping with this session being on 3/3/13, we have chosen to focus on the triplicative, triangular, three-sided tercet–a three-line stanza. (The one we have shown you above is actually half of a six-line stanza, but, you know…who’s counting…not us.)

In keeping with the dreaded month of February finally being over, we have taken Ernest Dowson’s poem “Dregs” as the second half of our theme, and also sampled some poetry from him, Robert Graves, and others, that relates to things having dragged on longer than they should.

Those things might be relationships, life, human existence, Phil Jackson’s coaching career, or somebody or other’s long, long poem in tercets (ahem, Wallace Stevens, ahem).

To this end, we will also attempt the first four stanzas of Mary Sidney Herbert’s amazingly named “The Doleful Lay of Clorinda,” but will not attempt the whole thing. We’re not crazy. Well, not that crazy. (Best title ever, though, right?? THE DOLEFUL LAY OF CLORINDA?? C’mon!)

There are more 3s to acknowledge in March–this triplicative month marks the launch of our sister branch, ParOct Austin, which forms a glorious triangle of ParOctivity between Austin, Baltimore, and Łódź. Helmed by our Baltimore alumna Nancy Hoffman, ParOct Austin will be…ParOct Awesome. Nie możemy się doczekać–we can’t wait.

We thank Ellen Freytag, Amy Raasch, and Mark Alan Hilt for their help in creating ParOct’s March theme; we would also like to acknowledge this helpful web page:

We will meet on the JHU campus in the Mattin Center bulding, in the SDS room (right across the hall from our former meeting place, Mattin 105) this Sunday, March 3rd, from 2-3:30 PM. As usual, all actors, musicians, poets, and friends or foes of the tercet are welcome. There will be a piano in the room; otherwise, BYOinstruments.
The SDS room is a large room, the orchestra room–so BYOlargeinstruments. Tubas welcome.
Join us!

Nancy will tell you what to do. But you are probably going to meet in Austin, not in Baltimore. 🙂

Poems include, but are not limited to, the following listed below.

Very truly yours,
The Octaves Parallel



I. The Eagle
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92)

He clasps the crag with crooked hands:
Close to the sun it lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, it stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

II. From Two Voices
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92)

A still small voice spake unto me:
‘Thou art so full of misery,
Were it not better not to be?’

Then to the still small voice I said:
‘Let me not cast in endless shade
What is so wonderfully made.’

III. First and last sections only of Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!


Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?


Ernest Dowson, “Dregs”

The fire is out, and spent the warmth thereof
(This is the end of every song man sings!)
The golden wine is drunk, the dregs remain,
Bitter as wormwood and as salt as pain;
And health and hope have gone the way of love
Into the drear oblivion of lost things.
Ghosts go along with us until the end;
This was a mistress, this, perhaps, a friend.
With pale, indifferent eyes, we sit and wait
For the dropt curtain and the closing gate:
This is the end of all the songs man sings.

Ernest Dowson
“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;
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.

The Lady Visitor in the Pauper Ward (Robert Graves)

Why do you break upon this old, cool peace,
This painted peace of ours,
With harsh dress hissing like a flock of geese,
With garish flowers?
Why do you churn smooth waters rough again,
Selfish old Skin-and-bone?
Leave us to quiet dreaming and slow pain,
Leave us alone.

Not Dead (Robert Graves)

Walking through trees to cool my heat and pain,
I know that David’s with me here again.
All that is simple, happy, strong, he is.
Caressingly I stroke
Rough bark of the friendly oak,
A brook goes bubbling by: the voice is his.
Turf burns with pleasant smoke:
I laugh at chaffinch and at primroses.
All that is simple, happy, strong, he is.
Over the whole wood in a little while
Breaks his slow smile.

[The Doleful Lay of Clorinda; first 4 stanzas]

By Mary Sidney Herbert Countess of Pembroke

Ay me, to whom shall I my case complain,
That may compassion my impatient grief?
Or where shall I unfold my inward pain,
That my enriven heart may find relief?
Shall I unto the heavenly pow’rs it show,
Or unto earthly men that dwell below?

To heavens? Ah, they, alas, the authors were,
And workers of my unremedied woe:
For they foresee what to us happens here,
And they foresaw, yet suffered this be so.
From them comes good, from them comes also ill,
That which they made, who can them warn to spill.

To men? Ah, they, alas, like wretched be,
And subject to the heavens’ ordinance:
Bound to abide whatever they decree.
Their best redress is their best sufferance.
How then can they, like wretched, comfort me,
The which no less need comforted to be?

Then to myself will I my sorrow mourn,
Sith none alive like sorrowful remains:
And to myself my plaints shall back return,
To pay their usury with doubled pains.
The woods, the hills, the rivers shall resound
The mournful accent of my sorrow’s ground.

“Advice to a Girl,” by Sara Teasdale

No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed;
Lay that on your heart,
My young angry dear;
This truth, this hard and precious stone,
Lay it on your hot cheek,
Let it hide your tear.
Hold it like a crystal
When you are alone
And gaze in the depths of the icy stone.
Long, look long and you will be blessed:
No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed.

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