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Before the Curtain is drawn up, the Music of the very latest thing in rapid waltzes is heard.

            TIME - Christmas. 1892

The Scene is a stately Ball-room in an old Castle.  As the servants extinguish the candles, the moon-light floods through the tall windows and lies in pools of opaline colour upon the polished black oak floor, and faintly illuminates the musicians’ gallery at the end of the salon.

From the mysterious shadows of the gallery, a delicate figure, clad in a dainty dress of the middle of the last century, is seen to glide down the stairway and across the ball-room.  She looks about her, recognising the scene of many conquests past, and merry days that have flown.  She trips along through the moon-light, she flirts her fan, shrugs a pretty shoulder, and makes a little moue.

At last the dancers of to=day

Have tired of our dear old hall ;

How sweet the silence, sweet the way

The moon=light and the shadows fall.

(The music of a minuet is heard)

On such a glistening floor ‘tis bliss

To dance like this, to dance like this.


How oddly rang their tunes to=night,

They trip and turn a deal too fast ;

I wonder can they find delight

In whirling till all breath is past.

Gone’s the bel air of my fresh youth,

Now men grow hot and red, and rude,

The girls are pretty-but, in truth

I vow their steps are all too crude.

          (Music of some old measure is heard.)

She has not learned, the modern miss,

To dance like this, to dance like this.


So long ago, those olden days,

When I was really flesh and blood,

Methinks I have forgot some ways

Of happiness, that made life good.

Well, I recall a distant time

When gladness lived in heart and brain ;

Through Life’s dance flowed so sweet a

I fain would haunt old earth again. [rhyme,

So here I glide when light is spent,

They guess not of my passing near,

Tho’ lobers tell of subtle scent

From a rose of yester=year.

Oft have I wished, in summer days,

To mingle with this later race

Who see my portrait there, and praise

The beauty of the Lady Grace.

They know me not, tho’at midnight hour

I’ve heard them talk of another ghost ;

‘Tis grim Sir Raymond : in the tower

He slew his kinsman and his host.

An ancestor, sure, but years before

I came to the Castle he’d passed away :

I only vow when we meet.  There’s gore

On the track of his steps, they say.

          (The air of a lively country dance is heard.)

He is too wicked and old, I wis,

To dance with me, to dance like this.


So I foot my measure, a solitaire ;

Tho’ there’s one I know who’d like to come.

The reason he fought, was a lock of hair,

That matched my own, said some.

I loved him not in the days agone :

That night he died ... ‘Twas here he stood.

In the morn the brow I had joked upon

Was stained with his own life’s blood.

Oh yes, I grieved, in thoughtless fashion ;

To jest, to dance, was my whole desire.

Poor boy, I laughed at his ferbid passion,

I laughed, and bade the world admire.

Old Time, you ring the changes still,

Sure, could he come this very night

His heavy heart I’d try to fill

With joy, and set our lives aright.

Hist ! ‘tis his form beside the door,

He comes at last.  Once more we’ve met

Dear Hugh, life’s gone.  Let’s take the floor

And dance, tho’ late, our minuet.

(The music of the minuet is heard more softly than at first.)

Ghosts have forgotten how to kiss,

But we can dance : yes, dance like this.

CURTAIN.           (They Dance.)


Egan Mew

Dance Poetry
A comprehensive anthology
Edited by Alkis Raftis
Copyright 2012