Gaudy painted hangings, fringed by many a tatter,
       Daubed with bird or beast! Pipe, whistle and scream,
Flute and clarion, trump and drum, and clatter
       Of the doll-musicians, blown by steam!
There before the screen a damsel tinkling
       With a timbrel, timed by bell and gong,
Sashed with scarlet, blue, and tinsel twinkling,
                        Danced and leapt along.

With her shadow on the painted canvas dancing
       Fitful cast by the jet's nickering glare,
Sinuous limbs, arms waving, quick feet glancing,
       True to cymbal's clash and clarion's blare!
How the pure grace of her girlish motion
       Made the vulgar show seem half divine,
Steeped my breast as with an opiate potion
                        Of enchanted wine!

But the shadow on the waving back-ground thrilled me,
       For it seemed a skeleton on springs,
And its jerky leaps and gestures filled me
       With a dream of hollow eyeless rings,
Bony shanks, and blackened teeth a-grinning,
       Lurid damp-fires of sepulchral dew, —
Till my dizzy brain, betwixt them, spinning,
                        Wondered which was true.


Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s: An Anthology of British Poetry and Prose. Ed. Karl Beckson. Chicago: Academy, 1981.

Last modified 1 November 2006