Although I’ve found this beast atop the northwest tower difficult to photograph, I’ve long wondered why he—she? it?—holds such a savage grip on a mere bird. Then I realized: From a monster’s point of view, they’re dancing.
(after Edgar Degas, “Four Dancers,” c.1899, National Gallery of Art)
In the wings, a measured rest.
Four as one in florid fits
Flitter in. The wald submits.
Autumns rise upon the scene:
In a rush of salmoned green
Tender tressings flip, exchanged,
Battened fast, or rearranged.
Trellising her arm, the first
Honors artifice reversed:
“Wasted branches bow, and then
Painted planklings bough again.”
Half as daft, the second sets
Flambent straps, but scarce forgets
Quips that crab her brittle heart:
“Oui, technique—mais où est l’art?”
Sembling innocence, the third,
Primping, pincing, undeterred,
Shoulders not a knot of shame
Lest regret, or light acclaim
Drag her down, or bow her stance.
Note the last; no lasting glance
Lingers there for us to see.
Music lifts her. Fanions flee—
Blithe she twirls, and none observe
Lesser lines we scarce deserve
(You and I) to leer and know.
Laud her flourish. Let her go
Pattern grace, while we pretend
Faux Novembers never end.
Autumn twilight sets too soon;
Fumbling, we belie the tune
(You and I) that times the turns
Every gilded dancer learns.
Let their line, from fourth to first,
Misperceive why we rehearsed,
Wrought the light from blighted rhyme,
Warped the chord in common time,
Daubed the gloss, as their debut
Burnished our façade anew.
Late, they loiter back, to find
Nothing I disclose in kind.
Fold your program; feign we see
Faith in faint simplicity,
False in sight, divine in show,
Pas de deux de deux, they go,
Pirandelles of perfect stone
Turn together, dance alone.
(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tab, or read the gargoyle FAQ.)