William Carlos Williams

When Fresh, It Was Sweet

Balieff's actors from The Bat 
in Moscow seem as if from the 
center of the onion — the vision 
predominates. Removed from the intimate 
it is all intimate, closely observed 
to be deftly translated to the stage — 

The swiftness, fullness, delicacy 
of their compositions dance with 
the imaginations of peasants and 
musicians, philosophers, and 
gipsies — The keen eyes of humor 
look from tall women's faces 
gently; the ensemble is felt 
above the detail; the music goes 
free of the fact; the satire puts 
a varicolored bridle on the donkey — 
the old and the young 
engage in the same pastimes — 

Pantomime and gesture 
woman or man — a power suffuses everything 
gathering it altogether 
uniting without brushing even the bloom — 
The free air 
welcomes them to itself, the footlights 
obey as if it were some lost master — 
The Americans of the audience 
crumble, sweetness escapes their lips, 
their straining comedians feel 
a lightness that bids them play — 
They are relieved of their lot 
Jolson is entranced 

To what is this that everybody 
comes with gifts as of old they used 
to bring gifts to shrines or altars? 

Russian skill of dancing? No. 
Dadaistic scenery? No. Excellent 
as these things are. The whole 
reveals these things. 
The quaintness of Russian types, 
the depth, sweetness, gaiety, color 
of the Russian character? No. 
The symmetry, reserve, force, tallness 
of the woman? The diverse simpleness 
and open humor of the men? 
The sheer skill as singers, the 
ingenuity of the managers, the composers, 
the depth of tradition? No. 

All these things existed before 
the performance. Is it Balieff? 
There are other Balieffs. All these things 
are essential — But it is not that 
which makes men ashamed and tender and 
wistful and submissive — ready to learn: 

         Katinka dances her polka 
on the contracted stage of composition 
Gaiety is formalized in her dress 
and her make-up. Youth is in 
the choice of the actress. Her father blinks 
to the music 
to show his joy in her dancing 
The mother with severe face of renunciation 
in a shawl — 

It cannot be more than it is 
without in a peasant's cottage 
being mercenary to the landlord 
who kills the splendor of national character 
by his demands for rent, the filth of 
stupidity which has no escape 
— blend to make impossible 
all that is not imagined by men who have 
lived yet unsated 
by life's endless profusion 
and color 
and rhythms, who seeing the brevity 
of their transit through the spinning world 
have resort to — 
           Here life's exquisite diversity 
its tenderness 
ardor of spirits 
find that in which they may move — 

All enters — Katinka dances 
The father blinks 
The mother severely stares 
— hey-la! 
we all laugh together — Life has us 
by the arm. 

Katinka dies by bending 
her body down in a crouch about her knees 
there she stays panting from 
the exertion of dancing — 

The parents relent in alarm 

Katinka rebegins to dance —

spoken = Leon Branton