I saw a line of corpses old,
Dead with diseases manifold,
Solemnly dancing'neath the moon.
Their perish'd limbs moved to the tune
Of some worm-orchestra unheard--
A sight enormously absurd.
First in the valse, with fishy eye
Tripped something dead of leprosy,
All silvery like a virgin's breast.
A buried glutton danced with zest,
All greenish and all dropsical,
Like a deform'd and vital ball.
The third was very beautiful,
Of charming small-pox sorelets full;
A small-pox ending, corpse, was thine.
There danced one in that naked line
Whose corpse was rotten with much love;
I wish the white worms joy thereof.
A suicidal corpse came next,
Who wish'd to illustrate the text:
--better to be chewed than to chew;
So he became a worm-ragout
And cholera-corpses weirdly black
Carrying their dead flesh like a sack,
Vals'd graceful beneath the sun.
Blue fever, and Consumption,
And hollow-pated lunacy.
Bowed, in that dance with courtesy
Cover'd with sores from foot to head,
Like flowers in a flower-bed,
Strange plagues all beautifully green
Went pirouetting through the scene;
And shrunken corpses dead of Age.--
These things went dancing o'er the stage.
Smelling of graves and worm-tooth scars,--
Death's musty-meated avatars."
From "The Book of Jade" by David Park Barnitz