April 12th, 2007


Text and commentary

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 woke 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.
-- Ernest Dowson

This melodramatic Victorian poem is about someone whose intended has died of tuberculosis. He has not allowed himself to fall in love again (that's being faithful -- after a fashion), but he has tried to compensate by riotous living (unsatisfactorily).

That said, this poem is now remembered primarily as the source of the title of Margaret Mitchell's epic of the Civil War, Gone With The Wind, which (if memory serves) quotes a couple of these lines as a preface or dedication of sorts before the commencement of the story.

Fiat iustitia et ruant coeli

So, what is human justice capable of in the Duke rape case?

The original accuser is probably mentally ill. Merely being identified by name and face is probably punishment enough. Others who might risk being accused of something by her will give her a wide berth from now on.

DA Mike Nifong ought to be removed from office, at a minimum. If it were up to me, I'd disbar him, too -- at least for a good long while. Hey, he's young and healthy enough, he can get a job. As for bringing a civil suit against him for money damages, I don't know that money is the point, but it might be the only vehicle by which the wrongly accused young men can gain vindication. The best outcome might be to sue him, have him lose, and be assessed $1 in damages.

The deep pockets here (necessary to recoup the costs of the defense so far) are with the State of North Carolina. I think they ought to allow themselves to be sued and negotiate a quick settlement so that the families of the three former defendants aren't out any money for having maintained their innocence.

Finally, there is Duke University and its faculty, which jumped to judgment early on. The lacrosse coach was sacked, the lacrosse season canceled (punishing all the players for what nobody did), the defendants were expelled, and various faculty members said slanderous things about them. If it were up to me, the University would pay through the nose for this. But that's probably asking more than human justice can deliver. And I'll bet neither the University nor any officer or faculty member ever apologizes for their shameful part in this.