Welcome to this weekend's entry in our Mark Steyn Club anthology of video poetry. One hundred and fifty years ago, 1869, the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti had his late wife's body exhumed from Highgate Cemetery in London so that he could retrieve the book of his poetry he'd had buried with her seven years earlier.
With that macabre background in mind, for today's poem I picked a piece Rossetti wrote that same year, a translation of a medieval French poem with a famous refrain:
Mais oÃ¹ sont les neiges d'antan?
Which Rossetti translated as:
But where are the snows of yesteryear?
In French and in English, the line has echoed down the centuries, in songs by Bertolt Brecht and George Brassens; in Ibsen's Peer Gynt, NoÃ«l Coward's Blithe Spirit and Tennessee Williams' Glass Menagerie; in Lady Chatterley's Lover and Catch-22 and Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose; in Mad Men and Downton Abbey and Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. This much quoted image originated with FranÃ§ois Villon in the fifteenth century, and was given a new lease of life by Rossetti in the nineteenth. In this video I discuss the background to the poem, and then give it a whirl. To watch (or hear) "The Ballad of Dead Ladies", translated from Villon's "Une Ballade des dames du temps jadis", please click here and log-in.
If you'd like to catch up on earlier poems in the series, you can find them on our brand new Sunday Poems home page. As with Tales for Our Time, we're archiving our video poetry in an easy-to-access Netflix-style tile format that we hope makes it the work of moments to prowl around and alight on something that piques your interest, whether Keats or Kipling,
Steyn's Sunday Poem is made possible by members of The Mark Steyn Club. We launched the Steyn Club two years ago, and as we prepare to embark on our third season I'm immensely heartened by all the longtime SteynOnline regulars - from Fargo to Fiji, Madrid to Malaysia, West Virginia to Witless Bay - who've signed up to be a part of it. Membership in The Mark Steyn Club does come with some non-poetic benefits too, including:
~Our nightly radio serial Tales for Our Time, the twenty-eighth of which starts this Friday;
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The opportunity to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly;
~Transcript and audio versions of Mark's Mailbox, SteynPosts, and other video content, including today's poem;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~The opportunity to join me and my guests later this year on the Second Annual Mark Steyn Club Cruise;
~and the chance to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
One other benefit to Club Membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, if you like or dislike this feature, or consider my poem reading a bust, then feel free to comment away below. Please do stay on topic on all our comment threads, because that's the way to keep them focused and readable. With that caution, have at it (in verse, if you wish).