Sunday, March 9

The Beautiful Blue Danube

This poem comes from Poems of Passion by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

"The Beautiful Blue Danube"

They drift down the hall together;
He smiles in her lifted eyes.
Like waves of that mighty river,
The strains of the "Danube" rise.
They float on its rhythmic measure,
Like leaves on a summer-stream;
And here, in this scene of pleasure,
I bury my sweet, dead dream.

Through the cloud of her dusky tresses,
Like a star, shines out her face;
And the form his strong arm presses
Is slyph-like in his grace.
As a leaf on the bounding river
Is lost in the seething sea,
I know that forever and ever
My dream is lost to me,

And still the viols are playing
That grand old wordless rhyme;
And still those two are swaying
In perfect tune and time.
If the great bassoons that mutter,
If the clarinets that blow,
Were given a voice to utter
The secret things they know,

Would the lists of the slain who slumber
On the Danube's battle-plains
The unknown hosts outnumber
Who die 'neath the "Danube's" strains?
Those fall where cannons rattle,
'Mid the rain of shot and shell;
But these, in a fiercer battle,
Find death in the music's swell.

With the river's roar of passion
Is blended the dying groan;
But here, in the halls of fashion,
Hearts break, and make no moan.
And the music, swelling and sweeping,
Like the river, knows it all;
But none are counting or keeping
The lists of these who fall.

Everyone - or nearly everyone - has suffered a broken heart, so can identify with the emotions behind the words of this poem.  While not my favorite emotions, this poem is my favorite of all the poems in the book, for the clarity of communicating those emotions.  Love can feel like life and death.  This poem juxtaposes its supposed softness with the harshness of war.  At least, it says...  At least the misfortune of falling in a physical battle is acknowledged.  The pain of love's death wants to be acknowledged as well.

On a less romantic note, the love most often thought of in poems like these is eros.  Far sadder is the forsaking of agape, selfless love, love that sacrifices itself for the beloved or beloveds.  Death in battle, motivated by agape, is far more noble than any momentary pain caused by unrequited eros.