Monthly Archives: March 2015

The White Witch (1902)

Her body is a dancing joy, a delicate delight,
Her hair a silver glamour in a net of golden light.

Her face is like the faces that a dreamer sometimes meets,
A face that Leonardo would have followed in the streets.

Her eyelids are like clouds that spread white wings across blue skies,
Like shadows in still water are the sorrow in her eyes.

How flower-like are the smiling lips so many have desired,
Curled lips that love’s long kisses have left a little tired.

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Masquerade (1902)

Masked dancers in the Dance of life
We move sedately … wearily together,
Afraid to show a sign of inward strife,
We hold our souls in tether.

We dance with proud and smiling lips,
We frank appealing eyes, with shy hands clinging.
We sing, and few will question if there slips
A sob into our singing.

Each has a certain step to learn;
Our prisoned feet move staidly in set paces,
And to and fro we pass, since life is stern,
Patiently, with masked faces.

Yet some there are who will not dance,
They sit apart most sorrowful and splendid,
But all the rest trip on as in a trance,
Until the Dance is ended.

Olive Custance (1902)

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Edwin King brings Olive back into the limelight

English scholar Edwin King has just published a critical edition of Olive’s last published poetry collection, The Inn of Dreams, and is planning to planning to bring out similar editions of The Blue Bird (first published 1905), Rainbows (first published 1902) and Opals (first published 1897). The Blue Bird, in particular is notoriously difficult to obtain, so this is great news.

King is holding back on an edition of the Collected Works until he can track down a number of previously uncollected poems from newspapers and correspondence.

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‘Dedication’ to Inn of Dreams

The following poem, by Anna, Comtesse de Noailles, was included as a ‘dedication’ at the beginning of Custance’s collection ‘The Inn of Dreams’.
J’écris pour que le jour où je ne serai plus
On sache comme l’air et le plaisir m’ont plu,
Et que mon livre porte à la foule future
Comme j’aimais la vie et l’heureuse nature.
Attentive aux travaux des champs et des maisons
J’ai marqué chaque jour la forme des saisons,
Parce que l’eau, la terre et la montante flamme
En nul endroit ne sont si belles qu’en mon âme.
J’ai dit ce que j’ai vu et ce que j’ai senti,
D’un coeur pour qui le vrai ne fut point trop hardi,
Et j’ai eu cette ardeur, par l’amour intimée,
Pour être après la mort parfois encore aimée,
Et qu’un jeune homme alors lisant ce que j’écris,
Sentant par moi son coeur, ému, troublé, surpris,
Ayant tout oublié des épouses réelles,
M’accueille dans son âme et me préfère à elles.
Edwin King’s translation  (Copyright EJ King, 2015):
I write for the day when I’ll no longer be,
So they’ll know how fresh air and fun pleased me,
That my book might future folks remind
That I loved life and was the happy kind.
Watching the work of the fields and the home
And the seasons’ turn, where’er I roam
Water and earth and flame, for my part
Seem nowhere more fair than in my own heart.
What I’ve seen and felt I have honestly told
With a heart for which truth was not too bold
And I’ve had this desire, whispered by love’s breath :
To be sometimes loved still even after my death.
And that some young man who then reads what I write,
In a trice thoughts of living wives put to flight,
Moved, troubled, surprised by a heart long dead
Will then welcome me in his dear soul instead.
La comtesse de Noailles, a celebrated Parisian literary figure, published this poem in 1901 .

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Olive Custance (Lady Alfred Douglas) back in print

The Inn of Dreams: Poems by Olive Custance

Edited, with a substantial biographical introduction by Edwin James King

List Price: $6.30
6.14″ x 9.21″ (15.596 x 23.393 cm)
Black & White on White paper
116 pages
Saint Austin Press
ISBN-13: 978-1901157697
ISBN-10: 1901157695
BISAC: Poetry / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh

Olive Custance was the beautiful wife of Lord Alfred Douglas, the disgraced lover of Oscar Wilde. Apart from that, the literary world knows little of her today. Her reputation lies very much in the shadow of the men who knew and loved her. And yet this woman was a gifted poet in her own right and a friend of many key figures of the ‘fin de siècle’.

In this edition of The Inn of Dreams, a selection of poems made by Custance herself in 1911, editor Edwin King casts new light on the woman and her work with a substantial biographical introduction.

It is about time for lovers of poetry for rediscover this charming girl who once wrote to her husband :”Like a shy child I bring you all my songs”.

Available soon via, etc

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