THE DANCE OF LIFE
by: Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)
and lovable and sweet,
- She made his jaded pulses beat,
- And made the glare of streets grow dim
- And life more soft and hushed for him....
- Over her shoulder now she smiled
- Trustfully to him, like a child,
- The while her fingers gayly moved
- Alonge these white keys dearly loved,
- Making them laugh a jocund measure,
- Making them show and sing her pleasure....
- A smile that dwelt upon his eyes,
- To see what mood might therein rise,--
- What point of soft light seen afar
- Which might dilate to moon or star....
- A smile that for a second space
- Brooded wistfully on her face,
- Opening soft her spirit's door,
- Disclosing depths undreamed before:
- Passionate depths of half-seen flame,
- Young loveliness despising shame,
- Desire that trembled to meet desire,
- And fire that yearned to fuse with fire....
- And lightly then she turned away,
- Ironic music rippled gay,--
- Subtle sarcastic flippancies
- Disguising speechless ecstasies...
- "Play something else..." He rose to turn
- The pages, while the deep nocturne
- Struck slow rich chords of plangent pain,
- Beautiful, into heart and brain;
- A tortured, anguished, suffering thing
- That seemed at once to cry and sing;
- Despairing love that strove to find
- The face beloved with fingers blind.
- He saw her body's slender grace,
- This drooping shoulder, shadowed face;
- All of her body, hidden so
- In saffron satin's flush and flow,--
- Its white and simple loveliness,--
- Came on his heart like giddiness,
- Seductive as this music came;
- Until her body seemed like flame,--
- Intense white flame, so swiftly moving
- That it gave scarcely time for loving;
- But rapid as the sun she seemed,
- A blinding light that flowed and streamed
- And sang and shone through roaring space....
- The sun itself! for now her face,
- Wherein this music's whole soul dwelt,
- Drew him like helpless star, he felt
- A fierce compulsion, reckless, mad,
- A sweet compulsion, troubled, glad,
- His trembling hands went out to her,
- Her cool flesh made his senses blur;
- While, head thrown backward, sinking dim,
- She opened wide her soul to him....
- Past his life went whirls of lights,
- Chaos of music, days and nights,
- Her wild eyes yearned to lure him in
- And close him up in dark of sin,
- To lure him in and drink him down
- And all his soul in love to drown....
- Her nakedness he seemed to see.
- And breast to breast, and knee to knee,
- Tremulous, breathless, swaying, burning,
- Body to beautiful body yearning,
- In joy and terror, flesh to flesh,
- They flamed in passion's fine red mesh,--
- Living in one short breath again
- The cosmic tide's whole bliss and pain,
- Darkness and ether, nebulous fire,
- Vast suns whirled forth by vast desire,
- Huge moons flung out with monstrous mirth
- And stars in glorious hells of birth,
- All jubilating, blazing, reeling,
- An orgiastic splendor wheeling,
- Moon torn from earth and star from sun
- In screaming pain, titanic fun,
- And stars whirled back to sun again
- To be consumed in flaming pain!...
- In them at last all life was met:
- They were God's self! This earth had set.
- Mad fires of life sang through their veins,
- Ruinous blisses, joyous pains,
- Life the destroyer, life the breaker,
- And death, the everlasting maker....
POEMS BY CONRAD AIKEN
"The Dance of Life" is
reprinted from Turns and Movies and Other Tales in Verse.
Conrad Aiken. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916.