Poem Explication: “The Dance” by William Carlos Williams

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Poem Explication: “The Dance”
Paraphrase
Brueghel has a notable painting called The Kermess,
where dancers spin, they spin in circles and
circles, there are the long, high-pitched cries and the
musical chirps of bagpipes, bugles and fiddles also
contribute their sounds, and the dancers’ tummies (they are as circular as the thick cups whose bath they seize)
the dancer’s hips and stomachs are awkward
as they spin. The dancers move vigorously around
the “Fair Grounds,” and they move their bottoms too, those lower parts must be full of energy to hold up so much
enthusiastic dancing, so move as the dancers move
in Brueghel’s notable painting called The Kermess.
General Explication
William Carlos Williams’s “The Dance” (1944) illustrates the joyous, lively atmosphere of a fair. It also uses textual patterns to represent the dance depicted in Brueghel’s great painting, The Kermess. The speaker, who is describing the painting, uses the poem’s tempo, rhymes, and repetitions to accomplish this effect.

“The Dance” stands out from some of Williams’s more famous poems. "The Red Wheelbarrow" (1923) and "This Is Just To Say" (1934) are both entirely motionless and describe specific moments in time. While “The Danse” address a single moment as well, it is full of motion. This obvious difference comes to life in the first line when the poem begins to describe Brueghel’s painting, The Kermess. “Kermess” literally means peasant dance. It depicts men and women dancing in celebration of the founding of a church. The speaker makes it clear that the dancers are not professionals with his description of their bodies, “their hips and their bellies off balance to turn them…swinging those butts” (7-9). These are evidently ordinary people dancing for joy.

Williams’s text is overwhelmingly joyful. “The squeal and the blare and tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles tipping their bellies” (3-5). These peasants are happy and lost in the “squeal” of music. One can...
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