The Jazz

Thrills of vibrant discord,
Like the shivering of glass;
Some people dislike it; but I do not dislike it.
I think it is fun,
Approximating to the fun
Of merely smashing a window;
But I am told that it proceeds
From a musical instrument,
Or at any rate
From an instrument.

Black flashes . . .
. . . Flashes of intermittent darkness;
Somebody seems to be playing with the electric light;
Some may possibly believe that modern dancing
Looks best in the dark.

I do not agree with them.
I have heard that modern dancing is barbaric,
Pagan, shameless, shocking, abominable.
No such luck—I mean no such thing.
The dancers are singularly respectable

If I were writing an essay
—And you can put chunks of any number of essays
Into this sort of poem—
I should say there was a slight disproportion
Between the music and the dancing;
For only the musician dances
With excitement,
While the dancers remain cold
And relatively motionless
(Orpheus of the Lyre of Life
Leading the forests in fantastic capers;
Here is your Art eclipsed and reversed,
For I see men as trees walking.)

If Mr. King stood on his head,
Or Mr. Simon butted Mr. Gray
In the waistcoat,
Or the two Burnett-Browns
Strangled each other in their coat-tails,
There would then be a serene harmony,
A calm unity and oneness
In the two arts.
But Mr. King remains on his feet,
And the coat-tails of Mr. Burnett-Brown
Continue in their customary position.

And something else was running in my head—
—Songs I had heard earlier in the evening;
Songs of true lovers and tavern friends,
Decent drunkenness with a chorus,

And the laughter of men who could riot.
And something stirred in me;
A tradition
Strayed from an older time,
And from the freedom of my fathers:
That when there is banging, yelling and smashing to be done,
I like to do it myself,
And not delegate it to a slave,
However accomplished.
And that I should sympathise,
As with a revolt of human dignity,
If the musician had suddenly stopped playing,
And had merely quoted the last line
Of a song sung by Mrs. Harcourt Williams:
“If you want any more, you must sing it yourselves.”
Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.