Tarantula, or The Dance of Death (op. 86, no. 2)

"Tarantula, or The Dance of Death" is the second song from Lowell Liebermann's song cycle Two Songs on Poems of Anthony Hecht, op. 86.

Date: 2003Composer: Lowell LiebermannText: Anthony HechtSong Collection: Two Songs on Poems of Anthony Hecht, op. 86

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Tarantula, or The Dance of Death

By Anthony Hecht


During the plague I came into my own.

It was a time of smoke-pots in the house

Against infection. The blind Head of bone

Grinned its abuse


Like a good democrat at everyone.

Runes were recited daily, charms were applied.

That was the time I came into my own.

Half Europe died.


The symptoms are a fever and dark spots

First on the hands, then on the face and neck

But even before the body, the mind rots.

You can be sick


Only a half day with it before you’re dead.

But the most curious part of it is the dance.

The victim goes, in short, out of his head.

A sort of trance


Glazes the eyes, and then the muscles take

His will away from him, the legs begin

Their funeral jig, the arms and belly shake

Like souls in sin.

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