Monday, April 20, 2015

Danse macabre (Saint-Saëns)

A very big thanks to Sarah from the blog Tales from The Geordie Goth  for commenting on my Danse Macabre post. She is a fairly new blogger, let's show her some love. If you haven't done so already, go follow her! Sarah commented the following: "... When I sometimes go to work I enjoyed listening to the classical music radio, where would play the song I can't remember the song or the play it came from. Anyway the host would describe the scene of Death Dancing in the a cemetery. My mind always conjured up some hilarious images, as two words aren't something I would combine. Also it maybe to some reference to the images. I will look into it's intrigued me"

Well Sarah, your comment intrigued me so I did a little research on this topic because I like Classical music too and I never heard of this before! Now dear readers, I know I lost some serious Goth points here so don't rat me out to the Secret Goth Cabal now, OK?

There is indeed a Classical piece called Danse Macabre and it was composed by Camille Saint- Saëns. It was originally a tone poem written by Henri Cazalis with orchestra.The poem was based off of Danse Macabre (dance of death, images depicting death summoning people from their graves).

In 1874, the composer removed the vocals and replaced them with the violin. According to superstition, Death appears every year on Halloween and summons the dead from their graves to dance with him while he plays the fiddle (represented in the musical piece by the violin). The skeletons dance with death until the rooster crows at dawn the following morning. Then the dead must return to their graves until next year. The piece begins with a harp, simply playing the D note twelve times to symbolise the 12 strokes of midnight. The xylophone in the piece is to represent the rattling of the bones from the skeletons.

Sounds like part of the soundtrack to those Addams Family movies, doesn't it?


An English translation of the poem follows:
Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking a tomb with his heel,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zag, on his violin.
The winter wind blows, and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden trees.
White skeletons pass through the gloom,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking,
You can hear the cracking of the bones of the dancers.
A lustful couple sits on the moss
So as to taste long lost delights.
Zig zig, zig, Death continues
The unending scraping on his instrument.
A veil has fallen! The dancer is naked.
Her partner grasps her amorously.
The lady, it's said, is a marchioness or baroness
And her green gallant, a poor cartwright.
Horror! Look how she gives herself to him,
Like the rustic was a baron.
Zig, zig, zig. What a saraband!
They all hold hands and dance in circles.
Zig, zig, zag. You can see in the crowd
The king dancing among the peasants.
But hist! All of a sudden, they leave the dance,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.
Oh what a beautiful night for the poor world!
Long live death and equality!


  1. My fella can play this on the piano ;p

  2. One of my favourite compositions, and I love the '80s cartoon, too! :)

    The other images are from one of Disney's 1929 'Silly Symphonies', it's called 'Skeleton Dance'.

  3. Wow, it's hard to imagine my comment has inspired you to write a blog post. Thanks Sylvie

  4. This is really cool!!! Thank you for sharing - I need all the fun/unique/absorbing distraction I can get this week and this certainly delivers there.

    Big hugs & many sincere thanks for all of your wonderful recent blog comments,
    ♥ Jessica

  5. Great post, I love the "Silly Symphonies" cartoon and watch it whenever I need a laugh! And the poem was excellent, thanks for the translation! :-)

  6. Sarah is a sweetie. We don't live that far apart and I suspect that one day she and I will bump into each other at an event, if I ever persuade myself to go out and be sociable. She's probably the only other person who reads this comment who knows what a proggy mat is! She's posted about making one so go read :)

  7. uuuuuh i love this piece! <3 not sure if i've hear it before ever so thank you for sharing!

  8. had no idea it was a poem....was only familiar with the instrumental version

  9. How should this lose you points? Classical music, death, skeletons and a bit of history and myth. I say you just earned lots of goth points. Lovely music and a lovely poem. Thank you so much for sharing. Now I'm going to have to go off and watch the silly symphony again.



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