Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Danse Russe by William Carlos Williams

If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?


I love this poem because of the way it makes its speaker both glorious and ridiculous. Genius, by the way, doesn't only mean a very smart person; it also means, in the words of the OED: "With reference to classical pagan belief: The tutelary god or attendant spirit allotted to every person at his birth, to govern his fortunes and determine his character, and finally to conduct him out of the world; also, the tutelary and controlling spirit similarly connected with a place, an institution, etc." So Williams's speaker is not only celebrating his own intellectual powers but is also, more literally, thinking of himself as someone who will care for the sleeping family, who will, by virtue of his skill at loneliness, watch over those he loves. This little scene seems to me very connected with the simultaneously social and solitary impulse to write. A teacher of mine once described as "I have something I really, really want to say to you, so I'm going to go into my room by myself to say it," and I think this poem dramatizes that contradiction very beautifully.

2 Comments:

Blogger Naseem said...

I like this poem because it makes me happy. I think that when he say that he is lonely it is because his family is sleeping, not because he is alone. The speaker exudes this sort of happiness and strong self esteem that empowers the reader.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Esther said...

I enjoyed reading this poem as well. It has so many words that create an image that the reader can explore on their own. By using words such as "flame-white disc" and "shining trees," it allows the reader to be able to make their own image and perception of the poem. The diction that is chosen by the speaker makes the poem all that more real. It brings out a sense of mystery.

10:56 PM  

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