William Empson

The Beautiful Train (1937)

Argentina is one swing of the bell skirt,
Without visible steps, shivering in her power,
Could shunt a call passing from wing to wing.

Laughing the last art to syncopate
Or counterpoint all dances in their turns,
Arbours and balconies and room and shade,
It lopes for home;
And I a twister love what I abhor,

So firm, so burdened, on such light gay feet.



Empson’s note:

This was when I was going to a job in China a few weeks after the outbreak of the Chinese war. The thing is about a surprised pleasure in being among Japanese again, though the train itself was beautiful after the Russian one all right. What I abhorred or rightly felt I ought to abhor was Japanese imperialism. They have got themselves into a tragically false position, I think; the Chinese with their beautiful good humour were always patient when I told them I was more sorry for the Japanese than for China. . . . Argentina was a famous Spanish dancer when I was young.



For critical notes about ‘The Beautiful Train’ see the Bibliography BF9b; for an overview of Empson’s relation with Japan see William Empson and Japan; for notes about Empson titles in print see Aubade.




















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