Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BURLESQUE, by VICTOR GUSTAVE PLARR



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BURLESQUE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The footlights glint, the house is set
Last Line: They have played plays in heaven?'
Subject(s): Bands; Burlesque; Criticism & Critics; Dancing & Dancers; Music & Musicians; Plays & Playwrights; Singing & Singers; Orchestras; Striptease


The footlights glint, the house is set,
Fair ladies rustle fans and laces;
Flutings proclaim a tuning clarionet,
Fiddles go through their paces.

The gloved conductor mounts his chair,
Whilst programme-hawkers sink their voices:
He raps his desk: his baton sweeps in air—
His overture rejoices.

And then, in soft and swift eclipse,
The curtain out of sight goes winging,
And, with a glow of moving limbs and lips,
The Chorus fall a-singing.

'A trite old scene,' grim critics say:
'A harbour—ships!' may, but you're boorish
To quarrel with these skies more bright than day,
These quays and houses Moorish.

Critic, I dote upon this throng
That swings, retreating and advancing,
As though this weary world were set to song,
And always, always dancing.

Look, to the front, with beck and nod,
With jibe and infinite gyration,
The mime of mimes has sprung, the groundling's god,
The king of this mad nation.

'Brava!' cries gallery, and stall,
Avers the man's as mad as ever.
Strange now, dear critic, I laugh not at all
Although he's monstrous clever.

'Tis drawing on—that old attack,
That mood confounding brain and senses:
You know this playhouse is my Church—alack!
I cannot make pretences.

Critic, you damn an Arabesque
In art—a 'Music Hall Tradition':
Well, be it so, good sir: this base burlesque
Is my sublime perdition.

For as I watch it, evermore,
Sweet pain upon my heart encroaches,
Delightful languors knock at my heart's door,
Dreams haunt in its approaches.

And when, in clouds of roseleaf rain,
The dancers storm the scenic city,
And all the panting playhouse thrills again
To hear some well-loved ditty,

I, with a difference, also thrill
In joyance, vague, divine, immortal,
As in the old legends fasting hermits will,
Who see heaven's opened portal,—

Till blind with light and gorgeous hue,
O'erborne with music wild and tender,
Crazed with the incessant joyous dance, I view
An unimagined splendour.

The orchestra's music changes—dies;
The stage seems far away and shrunken;
Sudden, I plunge alone 'mid fiery skies,
As one with opium drunken.

Around me, through me, everywhere,
As lightnings in dark violent weather,
Sound, Hue, and Shape, great angels past compare,
Sweep triumphing together.

And Sight, Touch, Hearing, grown intense,
Pursue them with a dancer's motions,
Till, merging in one quintessential sense,
They die in luminous oceans.

Then silence: then a shock, a jar,
A shivering, and a lamentation:
In heaven the untoward falling of a star,
At heart a desolation.

And then a voice: 'Well done, say I.
Gad, it's a quarter past eleven.
Liked you the piece, sir?' Can one make reply:
'They have played plays in heaven?'





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