Danse Macabre

David Park Barnitz

I saw a line of corpses old,
Dead with diseases manifold,
Solemnly dancing'neath the moon.

Their perish'd limbs moved to the tune
Of some worm-orchestra unheard--
A sight enormously absurd.

First in the valse, with fishy eye
Tripped something dead of leprosy,
All silvery like a virgin's breast.

A buried glutton danced with zest,
All greenish and all dropsical,
Like a deform'd and vital ball.

The third was very beautiful,
Of charming small-pox sorelets full;
A small-pox ending, corpse, was thine.

There danced one in that naked line
Whose corpse was rotten with much love;
I wish the white worms joy thereof.

A suicidal corpse came next,
Who wish'd to illustrate the text:
--better to be chewed than to chew;

So he became a worm-ragout
And cholera-corpses weirdly black
Carrying their dead flesh like a sack,

Vals'd graceful beneath the sun.
Blue fever, and Consumption,
And hollow-pated lunacy.

Bowed, in that dance with courtesy
Cover'd with sores from foot to head,
Like flowers in a flower-bed,

Strange plagues all beautifully green
Went pirouetting through the scene;
And shrunken corpses dead of Age.--

These things went dancing o'er the stage.
Smelling of graves and worm-tooth scars,--
Death's musty-meated avatars."

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