Summer 1947 • Vol. IX No. 3 PoetryJuly 1, 1947 |

Dancing, Joyously Dancing

And all throughout a Breughel matineeThose buxom waltzes rang. Good people, criedThe fiddler, dance! Fiddler, the dancers cried,Addressing perhaps the sun, teach us this joyThat is no more than dancing it in shadeOr on bright streets, teach us this simple trade. The fiddler was a man of consequence,Responsive to a morning's imperfections;He found too many elbows in the danceAnd too much pity in the cobblestones;And flowers shriveling in the pride of handsDropped to the ground as dancers in a dance. And daring to be gracious the fiddler grewUnmoved by all but his most private music,Drew then cold pulses with his fiddlestick,So cold the dancers halted in their whirlings,So long the dancers lost their worlds and knewThe different musics and steps of solitude. And in each one there was a kind of danceSuch as breath makes upon a frosted airAnd in this stillness there was a kind of joy. And for three days such was the dancing there.

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In the Summer of 1947, James Merrill had just graduated from Amherst College, but he had already published his first book of poems, The Black Swan, which won the prestigious Glascock Prize for Poetry awarded by Mount Holyoke College. In April, he published four poems in Poetry Magazine, followed quickly by this first appearance in KR.

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Caesarion

By James Merrill

And all throughout a Breughel matineeThose buxom waltzes rang. Good people, criedThe fiddler, dance! Fiddler, the dancers cried,Addressing perhaps the sun, teach us this joyThat is no more than dancing […]

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