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Danse Macabre


It's farewell to the drawing-room's civilized cry,

The professor's sensible whereto and why,

The frock-coated diplomat's social aplomb,

Now matters are settled with gas and with bomb.


The works for two pianos, the brilliant stories

Of reasonable giants and remarkable fairies,

The pictures, the ointments, the frangible wares

And the branches of olive are stored upstairs.


For the Devil has broken parole and arisen,

He has dynamited his way out of prison,

Out of the well where his Papa throws

The rebel angel, the outcast rose.


Like influenza he walks abroad,

He stands by the bridge, he waits by the ford,

As a goose or a gull he flies overhead,

He hides in the cupboard and under the bed.


O were he to triumph, dear heart, you know

To what depths of shame he would drag you low;

He would steal you away from me, yes, my dear,

He would steal you and cut off your beautiful hair.


Millions already have come to their harm,

Succumbing like doves to his adder's charm;

Hundreds of trees in the wood are unsound:

I'm the axe that must cut them down to the ground.


For I, after all, am the Fortunate One,

The Happy-Go-Lucky, the spoilt Third Son;

For me it is written the Devil to chase

And to rid the earth of the human race.




W.H. Auden

Dance Poetry
A comprehensive anthology
Edited by Alkis Raftis
Copyright 2012