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No Slur, Else-slur: A Dancing Poem or Satyr




A fling at baltimore-Boston-Philadelpjia and New York, touching the Reception-Invocation to two kinds of UNDERSTANDING-Austria-Vienna the happy birth place-Schlefgel-Old Proverb-Phrenology and Podology-Cambridge and Transcendentalism-History-Poetry about the Danube-The Muses-Terpsichore and Fanny compared-Fat father, humdrum Yankees-Hard times and hard dollars-Modest difficulties of the description-Praise of the Modesty of American maidens-Young Napolen-Metternich and his destiny-Arrival-Modest beginning-Innocence dancing-Modesty of the dancing Dervishes-Coney Island-rejected invitations-The momentous German Serenade-Homily.


SHALL Baltimore the heavenly dancer draw ?

Shall biped asses, giving horses law,

Unyoke the charges from her four-wheeled throne,

Unharness horses’ necks to fit their own ?

Shall Boston gravity and Boston sins

Melt down before her well-turned, public shins ;

Shall great, small, pompous, empty-headed men

Pay scores to see such angels dance, and then

In plausive wonder let the stage disclose

Immortal Fanny running on her toes ?

Shall Philadelphia Quakeresses dare

Breathe ion the purlieus of the poisoned air ?

In this wise drama shall it come to pass

That Fame and Dollars crown the greatest ass ?


Must York’s sons, matrons, widows, glorious maids

Court, feast, and marry Europe’s renegades ?

And I not sing ? Ye Muses, no !  I will

My full brains empty-empty pockets fill.

Does she kick out their cash with pedal strains ?

I’ll win that cash by throwing out my brains.


O UNDERSTANDING !  goddess of the crowd !

Thee I invoke by all the plaudits loud

That ever deafened ten such graceful toes

As hers, whereon a German dancer goes

Leading wits, fools, and dandies by the nose :

Thee I invoke ; for unto thee belong

The bones, toes, tendons, sinews of my song :

Or else, good sooth, I will (it better were)

Fall down, like other sheep, a worshipper

Of her, chief priestess, of thy sole-full shrine

And swear her understanding is divine.


    FAR as Apollo may excel my songs,

So far the theme excels all mortal tongues.


    Lo ! all the mental powers of Austria meet,

And shower perfection on a woman’s feet :

O blest Vienna ! who has heard before

That thy voluptuous bosom held such store

Of mortal graces ?  True it is, we knew

Thee unsurpassed in dinners not a few ;

(Five times a day Vienna’s sons may dine,

Five times a day hot coffee follow wine :)

True that great Schlegel, Criticism’s law,

Poured out his life by filling up his maw


With Austria’s sauces and Vienna’s wine ;

So Schlegel dies, where Schlegel meant to dine.


      SUCH powers we knew thine ; for long before

Our untaught feet kissed Europe’s classic shore,

‘Twas sung that Spain of old--ye gods ! not Spain,

The emblem was of Europe’s head and brain,

And France the bosom ;  set that bosom low,

And France, for us, may as the bosom go ;

Old Italy, and England now her arms,

But thine, blest Austria, were the stomach’s charms


      ALL this we knew, to Austria honor meet ;

But never deemed her first upon her feet

Till now, when we behold the nineteenth age,

Send such a wonder on the world’s wide stage,

That wits and fools and dandies sit entranced

To think how well a pretty woman danced.


      O SHADE of Spurzheim ! whither flies Phrenology ?

Where’s now that old new humbug, Magnet-ology ?

Where Atheistic Transcendental-ology ?

Undone for aye by Viennese Podology !


Our wits, as always, late upon the road,

Catch up what Europe saw long since explode ;

If yet you doubt, ask Cambridge, she can tell

How many fragments there from Deutschland fell :

How many notions puzzle Harvard men,

That erst in England boggled Carlyle’s pen,

And will, we doubt, be mysteries again !

How many wonders mighty Coleridge sung !

He too saw Germany while very young.


       My theme demands : in Francis’ time at Wien

A burgher dwelt : such often have I seen

Where glorious Donau rolls his waters on

Almost like rivers of the setting sun,

Slow winding where the hill of Leopold

Bathes him at sunset in whole floods of gold,

He stays his silver waters calm to see

The far famed home of  modern minstrelsy,

And bids the boatman from Bavaria’s shore

Rest, O blest moment ! his forgotten oar,

That midway hangs between the wave and air

Glistening entranced, as if eternal there

Where music fixed it ; while the helmsman bends,

And all his spirit to the Syren sends ;

And still, as Donau wafts him to his goal,

Gives up to Wien a willing, captive soul,

Nor all her outward glories stoops to see,

Locked up in chains of blissful harmony.


      ‘Twas there, where Prater sees the city dame

Walk with her husband-or soon other flame,

Was born a child, marked out, by Fate’s decree,

More graceful goddess than Terpsichore,

Yea, more, for never have the Muses Nine,

Though Greece and Rome bowed suppliant at their shrine,

Snuffed adoration, Fanny, equal thine.


       O BLEST fat father ! little didst thou know

Thy daughter’s feet should thy honor flow,

Far as a steam-ship in a year can go.


Ye wiling nations, come, and bending pay

Such homage to that old man as ye may ;

Pay fast, and pay it hard in dollars good,

Which Fanny laughing takes beyond the flood ;

O bright Celeste, thy game is understood.


Ye winds propitious fill the honored sail !

Let Fanny laugh in Europe at the tale,

And when she sings of fools, the great and good,

“Dear humdrum Yankees there, ayont the flood !”

Be all her songs of praise addressed to thee,

Our city goddess, Guillibilty.


      LET her not sink with that sweet, well-earned gold,

For which in TIMES SO HARD her dances sold,

By public views which never can be told.

Cannot be told ?  O Jove !  I had forgot,

Our gentle damsels go to see-what not ?

Be not abashed my country-women fair ;

The Muse may glance at that whereon ye stare.

Use you those lovely eyes ! use I my pen !

I’ve seen fools dance, nor need to see again.

Once, fool !  I thought, thus ! thus ?  you cannot sing ;

But lo ! small scruples to the winds I fling ;

For sure where’er Columbia’s sons may roam,

The greatest modesty is left at home.

No maidens like America’s I see,

Renowned earth-wide for gentle purity,

Which never sinks to foolish prudery :

If then our maidens in their daily walk,

Are pure in heart as pure in private talk,

O blame them not for loving well to see

Pure German models of pure modesty ;

And saw we not a modest painter grieve,


They paid not all for Adam and for Eve ;

Then surely I am pure who do but twirl

On paper, what they  see, a dancing girl.

     SEE ! the great Western from Bristowa’s shore,

Disgorges here what Europe keeps no more :

Pickpockets, murderers, thieves, grace ye my song,

Swindles, rogues, counterfeiters, fill the throng,

My dancing, timid angel, come along ;

Fly ! Fly !  for Frenchmen ask with angry glare,

“Where now is Reichstadt ? young Napoleon, where ?

“The hope of Europe sunk !”  The Conqueror’s son,

By Metternich’s Satanic grin undone,

Lies all dishonored, a corrupted corse,

Where erst his father’s nod was law perforce !

Such arts of Hell, O Austria, he knows,

Who leads to hell thy princes by the nose,

Until himself straight to the Devil goes.

The time shall come when Metternich must die,

And if he stays form hell, I know not why.


      THE ocean crossed, behold, where run the sheep,

To catch of this immortal maid a peep :

And now, how modestly on skilful toes,

She nothing yet but well-turned ancles shows !

Fearful lest Yankees deem her short of clothes.

Cunning, thy name is Fanny ! see her then,

By just degrees, the pulse of western men

Feeling with tact, until, in sooth, they find,

Small part of modesty is left behind :

Yet what in secret were a monstrous shame,

When viewed in public plainly asks no blame,


For this good reason : What so many see

Is not the polar star of purity :

But then each damsel taking such small part

How can it harm her tender, youthful heart ?

Then Fashion bears them with o’erwhelming tide,

And says, ‘Dear maids, behold, take Virtue’s side.

“See injured Innocence before you dance,”-

Such innocence was far too good for France.


      Now, at the threshold, Innocence but half

Displays the glory of a well fed calf,

Yet still the dress, by slow degrees, curtail ;-

Imagination, come ! tell thou the tale.


So have I seen, whilome, in great Stambool,

Some pious dervish of the Prophet’s school

Religious whirl : but in that sacred dance,

The mode displeased me-’twould displease in France :

For while he whirled, and dizzy grew my head,

Full fifteen minutes-I observed some lead,

Sewed in his fine long robes, did still prevail

To guard his person from the pious gale,

With which so many whirlers there did fill

That ancient dome in Con-stan-ti-no-ple.


The glorious dance is done : now, rest awhile,

Or go with me to Coney’s lovely isle,

Let some blest dandy take her forth to ride,

“Dash on, my steeds ! lo ! Fanny at my side !”


     AGAIN in Broadway !  “Will the Fanny come ?”

Then ask all Fashion in, rich, new humdru’m,

But ah ! for once it proved a greater task

To get them there, than when you gave the masque,

While all New York in February’s gale,

Did shivering ask-”Will not their courage fail,

Should death the old man take-or some such ail ?”


     Now Germany’s great sons their homage pay,

And bring such honors as their music may :

Ye butchers, and ye butchers’ sons, beware !

Ye blackguards, how with Virtue may ye dare,

Mix up your cruel, blood-stained, gory hands ?

With virtue, such as by yon window stands,

Dancing to Deutschland’s serenading bands.


     “Butchers and loafers, hear, O hear !”  But no !

“Blackguards” ! and “Music.”! “Yet no blood must flow

“In vain for me,”! the modern Helen cries :

But all for nought : the brickbats threat the skies

Frequent : and now, midst music’s raptured throes,

One gaunt musician misses half his nose,

And oft some eye-bung from the battle goes.

The scattered instruments lie here and there,

But now by Fanny’s Innocence we swear,

Such blackguard rowdies did behave unfair ;

For Germany’s proud thousands would but bring

A serenade to her, whose charms I sing.


      MY FATHERLAND ! High Heaven  O what shall be

In time to come thy doubtful destiny !-

Once there was hope : long years it was our care

Of this Republic never to despair :

Alas !  alas ! how shall I, free from blame,

Here drop the song, without one word of shame

Shame for my country !-shame that she will ape

Each rascal Count who can from France escape:

Shame that my country-women, ever dear,

(When I was far, then to this heart most near ;)

So far forget the muddy crimes of France,

As in the mazes of the waltz to dance !

O, if I grieve, ‘tis when a lovely maid,

Who should of shadows almost be afraid,

Submits to let some foreign scoundrel whirl

Her maiden figure : O, beware sweet girl !

“The first step costs,”-I tell thee now, beware !

Thy fate hangs here on trifles light as air-

O !  didst thou know that atmosphere, like me,

Ball-rooms and theatres should never see

Such heavenly charms, such angel purity !

What ! breathe the air !-O no ! far, ever far,

Be thy pure soul from such unholy war !

Where dandies congregate and scoundrels meet,

Both male and female-never soil thy feet.

For by a soul sincere let me declare,

What holier thoughts may not permit me swear,

I deem thy feet dishonored, as they go

Where like a stream our Broadway dandies flow,

A stream impure of “goats, imperials, curls,”

And as they go-just heavens ! our blooming girls

Seem all unknowing as the million pass,

That near the Astor House they met an ass,

One ass ! you cannot walk from twelve to four,

And scape, in Broadway, asses by the score.


     My sober song is done-I close the scene ;

I’ve sung, for this time, quite enough, I ween,

Should Fame and Critics disallow my song

The Second Canto will not tarry long.




Nobody (James Cook Richmond)

Dance Poetry
A comprehensive anthology
Edited by Alkis Raftis
Copyright 2012