“On with the Dance!”, by Ambrose Bierce

xi

Lust, Quoth’a!

You have danced? Ah, good. You have waltzed? Better. You have felt the hot blood hound through your veins, as your beautiful partner, compliant to the lightest pressure of your finger-tips, her breath responsive, matched her every motion with yours? Best of all — for you have served in the temple — you are of the priesthood of manhood. You cannot misunderstand, you will not deliver false oracle.

Do you remember your first waltz with the lovely woman whom you had longed like a man but feared like a boy to touch — even so much as the hem of her garment? Can you recall the time, place and circumstance? Has not the very first bar of the music that whirled you away been singing itself in your memory ever since? Do you recall the face you then looked into, the eyes that seemed deeper than a mountain tarn, the figure that you clasped, the beating of the heart, the warm breath that mingled with your own? Can you faintly, as in a dream —blasé old dancer that you are — invoke a reminiscence of the delirium that stormed your soul, expelling the dull demon in possession? Was it lust, as the Prudes aver — the poor dear Prudes, with the feel of the cold wall familiar to the leathery backs of them?

It was the gratification — the decent, honorable, legal gratification — of the passion for rhythm; the unconditional surrender to the supreme law of periodicity, under conditions of exact observance by all external things. The notes of the music repeat and supplement each other; the lights burn with answering flame at sequent distances; the walls, the windows, doors, mouldings, frescoes, iterate their lines, their levels, and panels, interminable of combination and similarity; the inlaid floor matches its angles, multiplies its figures, does over again at this point what it did at that; the groups of dancers deploy in couples, aggregate in groups, and again deploy, evoking endless resemblances. And all this rhythm and recurrence, borne in upon the brain — itself rhythmic — through intermittent senses, is converted into motion, and the mind, yielding utterly to its environment, knows the happiness of faith, the ecstasy of compliance, the rapture of congruity. And this the dull dunces — the eyeless, earless, brainless and bloodless callosites of cavil — are pleased to call lust!

O ye, who teach the ingenuous youth of nations

    The Boston Dip, the German and the Glide,

I pray you guard them upon all occasions

    From contact of the palpitating side;

Requiring that their virtuous gyrations

    Shall interpose a space a furlong wide

Between the partners, lest their thoughts grow lewd  —

So shall we satisfy the exacting Prude.

Israfel Brown.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/bierce/ambrose/on-with-the-dance/chapter11.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31