The Dancers

The dance is the dancers, the dancers the dance –
Shall we reverse us? The others are then – but now, you and I –
This foliage Perthshire, not heavy, as France –
The steps are as light as the virtues are high –

Meredith called Heaven ‘a space for winging tons’ –
The bodies are weighty as flesh, bone, but buoyant,
The air carries all of us, living, the healthy ones –
The pattern is movement, secure yet flamboyant –

All sails are set in the best kind of rig –
Free and well-billowing, poised up and big –
Each sailor’s a captain on watch from the brig
And each movement fine and neat, well-placed and trig –

Lifting your legs in broad, gamesome turning –
Like fully-charged tumblers unstoppably tumbling –
No slips or spins or stops, no errors or stumbling –
All fires aflame and every fire burning –

The dancers will fly
On the earth, in the sky

Formal and free, in step yet unruly
Godless and sacred, by rite in the hooley –
Crooked and straight, sharply angled and bent,
Hooked, and nooked, and given, and lent,

Glancing and prancing, well-stepped and high-leaping
Co-ordination observed – formal, in keeping –
Nothing stale there at all – and no sense of dropping –
Skip, and turn, and once again, hopping

Bounce and flounce and throw down the gauntlet –
Baby, if you’ve got it, flaunt it –

No hesitation distracts from the statement –
No doubt will ever create an abatement -
They are with us forever, these figures of health –
They are Scotland, the image, eternal, the wealth

Of the senses and mind in the stories and songs
They arise from, and the lie of the wrongs
Of a hundred years, more, since they came to pass,
Exile and statelessness, murder in mass –

Since 1913, and all that then followed
The painting unseen, wrapped up, simply swallowed
In darkness, while equally so, people die for the lack
Of what Fergusson shows us, the bounce and great swack

Of their dancing – all story, life, and pattern and song –
Stays with them and turns then, and counter-turns, long
As the ages. – Their health is ideal.
What Fergusson says, though, is: This is for real.

Alan Riach