If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,—
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
‘I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so! ‘
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,—
Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?
Short Poem Analysis
"Danse Russe" by William Carlos Williams is a vivid and introspective poem that offers a glimpse into the private thoughts and actions of the speaker. Through its fragmented structure, conversational tone, and personal reflection, the poem delves into the concept of privacy and the inner life.
The poem captures a moment of solitary freedom as the speaker dances alone in his room while his family is asleep. The opening lines, "If I when my wife is sleeping / and the baby and Kathleen" establish the setting and the sense of secrecy surrounding the speaker's actions.
The poem's structure is distinctive, with the text divided into two columns. The left column presents the speaker's inner monologue, while the right column portrays his physical movements and gestures as he dances. This visual division represents the dual nature of the speaker's experience—his private thoughts and his outward actions.
The poem's conversational and informal tone reflects the speaker's intimate thoughts. His contemplation of life's mysteries and his relationship with God are revealed as he dances, emphasizing the blending of the physical and the metaphysical.
The speaker's decision to dance while alone highlights the idea of finding personal moments of liberation and authenticity within the confines of everyday life. The juxtaposition of the speaker's private dance with his family's sleep suggests the individual's capacity to maintain inner freedom and self-expression even within societal roles and responsibilities.
"Danse Russe" is a reflection on the complexities of identity and the dualities within a person's life—between the public and private self, between physical action and inner contemplation. The poem invites readers to consider the moments of solitude and authenticity that exist beneath the surface of our outward roles and interactions. Through its unique structure and introspective content, the poem captures the notion of individuality and the value of maintaining a connection to one's true self, even within the constraints of daily life.