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Dance Poems

Table of Contents

  1. I cannot dance upon my Toes by Emily Dickinson
  2. My Last Dance by Julia Ward Howe
  3. The Minuet by Mary Mapes Dodge
  4. The Dance by Anonymous

  1. I cannot dance upon my Toes

    by Emily Dickinson

    I cannot dance upon my Toes—
    No Man instructed me—
    But oftentimes, among my mind,
    A Glee possesseth me,

    That had I Ballet knowledge—
    Would put itself abroad
    In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe—
    Or lay a Prima, mad,

    And though I had no Gown of Gauze—
    No Ringlet, to my Hair,
    Nor hopped to Audiences—like Birds,
    One Claw upon the Air,

    Nor tossed my shape in Eider Balls,
    Nor rolled on wheels of snow
    Till I was out of sight, in sound,
    The House encore me so—

    Nor any know I know the Art
    I mention—easy—Here—
    Nor any Placard boast me—
    It's full as Opera—

  2. My Last Dance

    by Julia Ward Howe

    The shell of objects inwardly consumed
    Will stand, till some convulsive wind awakes;
    Such sense hath Fire to waste the heart of things,
    Nature, such love to hold the form she makes.
    Thus, wasted joys will show their early bloom,
    Yet crumble at the breath of a caress;
    The golden fruitage hides the scathèd bough,
    Snatch it, thou scatterest wide its emptiness.
    For pleasure bidden, I went forth last night
    To where, thick hung, the festal torches gleamed;
    Here were the flowers, the music, as of old,
    Almost the very olden time it seemed.
    For one with cheek unfaded, (though he brings
    My buried brothers to me, in his look,)
    Said, `Will you dance? ' At the accustomed words
    I gave my hand, the old position took.
    Sound, gladsome measure! at whose bidding once
    I felt the flush of pleasure to my brow,
    While my soul shook the burthen of the flesh,
    And in its young pride said, 'Lie lightly thou!'

    Then, like a gallant swimmer, flinging high
    My breast against the golden waves of sound,
    I rode the madd'ning tumult of the dance,
    Mocking fatigue, that never could be found.

    Chide not,— it was not vanity, nor sense,
    (The brutish scorn such vaporous delight,)
    But Nature, cadencing her joy of strength
    To the harmonious limits of her right.

    She gave her impulse to the dancing Hours,
    To winds that sweep, to stars that noiseless turn;
    She marked the measure rapid hearts must keep
    Devised each pace that glancing feet should learn.

    And sure, that prodigal o'erflow of life,
    Unvow'd as yet to family or state,
    Sweet sounds, white garments, flowery coronals
    Make holy, in the pageant of our fate.

    Sound, measure! but to stir my heart no more—
    For, as I moved to join the dizzy race,
    My youth fell from me; all its blooms were gone,
    And others showed them, smiling, in my face.

    Faintly I met the shock of circling forms
    Linked each to other, Fashion's galley-slaves,
    Dream-wondering, like an unaccustomed ghost
    That starts, surprised, to stumble over graves.

    For graves were 'neath my feet, whose placid masks
    Smiled out upon my folly mournfully,
    While all the host of the departed said,
    `Tread lightly— thou art ashes, even as we.'

  3. The Minuet

    by Mary Mapes Dodge

    Grandma told me all about it,
    Told me so I could not doubt it,
    How she danced, my grandma danced, long ago!
    How she held her pretty head,
    How her dainty skirts she spread,
    How she turned her little toes,
    Smiling little human rose!

    Grandma's hair was bright and shining,
    Dimpled cheeks, too! ah! how funny!
    Bless me, now she wears a cap,
    My grandma does, and takes a nap every single day;
    Yet she danced the minuet long ago;
    Now she sits there rocking, rocking,
    Always knitting grandpa's stocking—
    Every girl was taught to knit long ago—
    But her figure is so neat,
    And her ways so staid and sweet,
    I can almost see her now,
    Bending to her partner's bow, long ago.

    Grandma says our modern jumping,
    Rushing, whirling, dashing, bumping,
    Would have shocked the gentle people long ago.
    No, they moved with stately grace,
    Everything in proper place,
    Gliding slowly forward, then
    Slowly courtesying back again.

    Modern ways are quite alarming, grandma says,
    But boys were charming—
    Girls and boys I mean, of course—long ago,
    Sweetly modest, bravely shy!
    What if all of us should try just to feel
    Like those who met in the stately minuet, long ago.
    With the minuet in fashion,
    Who could fly into a passion?
    All would wear the calm they wore long ago,
    And if in years to come, perchance,
    I tell my grandchild of our dance,
    I should really like to say,
    We did it in some such way, long ago.

  4. The Dance

    by Anonymous

    Let the music play!
    I would dance alway—
    Dance till the dawn of the bright young day!
    Wild notes are sounding—swift lights are glancing,
    And I—I am mad with the rapture of dancing—
    Mad with a breathless delight.
    With thine arm to enfold me,
    Thy strong hand to hold me,
    I could dance through an endless night.

    Doth the music play?
    Or is it—oh, say—
    But the sound of thy voice that I hear for alway?
    Is it thy smile or the sweet lights glancing?
    Is it thy presence or only the dancing
    Makes the whole world so glad?
    Love I—ah me!—
    Or the dance, or thee?
    Am I mad? Am I mad? Am I mad?

    Bid the music play!
    Let us dance alway—
    Through all life—through all time—dance forever and aye!
    Such wild notes are sounding! Such bright lights are glancing!
    And I—I am mad with the madness of dancing—
    Of dancing?—or dancing with thee?
    Let thy heart's love enfold me!
    Thy heart's strength uphold me!
    Let us dance till earth ceases to be!