Dance till you drop

Monday, 19 May 2014



 The earth is an oyster with nothing inside it,
Not to be born is the best for man;
The end of toil is a bailiff’s order,
Throw down the mattock and dance while you can.

This is the first refrain from Death’s Echo by WH Auden. I was looking at Auden because I’m using his poetry on this weekend’s radio show. This one caught my attention because it has wonderful carpe diem echoes of Herrick’s To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time.

Gather ye rose-buds while ye may:
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles to-day,
To-morrow will be dying.

I think these themes appeal to me be because I’m getting older and am now more aware that time is speeding up. We’re already more than half way through the month of May. Deadlines, which seemed so impossibly far away when they were first set, are now looming so close I can see them in the rear view mirror.

Perhaps it’s not so much an awareness that time is speeding up. Just a grim realisation that time is a finite resource. Or perhaps I’m just feeling bleak because it’s Monday morning and I'm still wondering where the weekend went. This is how Auden ends Death’s Echo. Love that final line.


The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews,
Not to be born is the best for man;
The second-best is a formal order,
The dance’s pattern; dance while you can.

Dance, dance for the figure is easy,
The tune is catching and will not stop;
Dance till the stars come down from the rafters;
Dance, dance, dance till you drop.


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