The Indecent Waltz

We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the “waltz” was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last. This is a circumstance which ought not to be passed over in silence. National morals depend on national habits: and it is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies, in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the evil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion…We owe a due reverence to superiors in rank, but we owe a higher duty to morality. We know not how it has happened (probably by the recommendation of some worthless and ignorant French dancing master) that so indecent a dance has now been exhibited at the English Court; but the novelty is one deserving of severe reprobation, and we trust it will never again be tolerated in any moral English society.

The Times, July 1816 editorial.

Lord Byron: Venice

I STOOD in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs,
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand:
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying Glory smiles
O’er the far times, when many a subject land
Looked to the wingéd Lion’s marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!

She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,
Rising with her tiara of proud towers
At airy distance, with majestic motion,
A ruler of the waters and their powers:
And such she was—her daughters had their dowers
From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
Poured in her lap all gems in sparkling showers:
In purple was she robed, and of her feast
Monarchs partook, and deemed their dignity increased.

In Venice Tasso’s echoes are no more,
And silent rows the songless gondolier;
Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
And music meets not always now the ear:
Those days are gone—but Beauty still is here;
States fall, arts fade—but Nature doth not die,
Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,
The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!


From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Lord Byron: We’ll Go No More a-Roving

SO, we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have a rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.


Included in a letter to Thomas Moore on February 28, 1817.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: It is Good

IN Paradise while moonbeams played,
Jehovah found, in slumber deep,
Adam fast sunk; He gently laid
Eve near him—she, too, fell asleep.
There lay they now, on earth’s fair shrine,
God’s two most beauteous thoughts divine—
When this He saw, He cried: ‘Tis good!
And scarce could move from where He stood.

No wonder, that our joy’s complete
While eye and eye responsive meet,
When this blest thought of rapture moves us—
That we’re with Him who truly loves us,
And if He cries—Good, let it be!
‘Tis so for both, it seems to me.
Thou’rt clasped within these arms of mine,
Dearest of all God’s thoughts divine!


First published 1815 in West-östlicher Divan, Book of Parables (Mathal Nameh). Translation by John Storer Cobb.

Pierre van Hanselaere: Self-Portrait, 1817

This self-portrait is Pierre van Hanselaere’s earliest known work. He painted it in 1817, shortly after his arrival in Rome. He was thirty years old at the time.

John Keats: A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

A THING of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.


From the poem Endymion, first published 1818.

Heinrich Heine: Two Grenadiers

TO France there wandered two grenadiers,
In Russia once captives made.
To German quarters they came after years,
And bowed their heads, dismayed.

And there they were sorrowful tidings told
That France was lost—and repelled,
Destroyed and defeated the army bold—
And the emperor captive held.

The grenadiers wept grievously
When told this mournful lore.
Then said the one: “Ah, woe is me,
How my old wound is sore!”

“The song is sung” the other said,
“I too would die with thee;
But wife and child, if I were dead,
Would perish utterly.”

“For wife and child what do I care!
Far better longings I know:
As hungry beggars let them fare—
My emperor, emperor—woe!

“But grant me, brother, one only prayer:
Now when I here shall die,
My body take to France and there
In French earth let me lie!

“My cross of honour with scarlet band
Upon my heart be placed;
And put my gun into my hand,
My sword gird round my waist!

“Then quietly I’ll lie and hark,
A sentry in my tomb,
Till I the horses’ prancing mark,
And hear the cannon’s boom.

“Then my emperor rides across my grave,
And swords will be clashing hard:
And armed I’ll rise up from my grave,
My emperor to guard!”


Written 1816. Translation by Margarete Münsterberg, first printed 1916.

Jacques-Louis David: Cupid and Psyche

As the subject of painting or sculpture, the story of Amor and Psyche became a lot more popular during the 18th and in the 19th century. Jacques-Louis David’s massive (241×184 cm) painting, which now hangs in the Cleveland Museum of Art, dates from 1817, when the artist was nearly seventy years old. He seems to take little interest in the mythological or allegorical aspects of the story. Note how Cupid’s wings blend into the bed sheet. In the end, it’s just a picture of two teenage lovers, and Cupid seems quite proud of his conquest.

Lord Byron: She Walks in Beauty

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d that nameless grace,
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Lord Byron: I have not loved the World

I HAVE not loved the World, nor the World me;
I have not flattered its rank breath, nor bowed
To its idolatries a patient knee,
Nor coined my cheek to smiles,—nor cried aloud
In worship of an echo; in the crowd
They could not deem me one of such—I stood
Among them, but not of them—in a shroud
Of thoughts which were not their thoughts, and still could,
Had I not filed my mind, which thus itself subdued.

I have not loved the World, nor the World me,
But let us part fair foes; I do believe,
Though I have found them not, that there may be
Words which are things,—hopes which will not deceive,
And Virtues which are merciful, nor weave
Snares for the failing; I would also deem
O’er others’ griefs that some sincerely grieve—
That two, or one, are almost what they seem,—
That Goodness is no name—and Happiness no dream.


From Canto III of Childe Harold.

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