The Dead Girls Are Dancing In Their Beautiful Dresses


Great-great grandmother Catherine, who came from Virginia
By coach to Kentucky with her chattels and Negroes,
Is dancing the dances with the plantation neighbors.
Henry Berry of Berryville will carry her away
Through the Cumberland Gap and on into the wilderness
Where few will be dancing or dressing for dances;
But now she is dancing the gay reels of Virginia.

Her daughter Virginia born deep in the Blue Grass
Is dancing with young Owen Bullitt the doctor
The grandson of Ann Clark of colonial Virginia.
He will die in the 60s and leave his Virginia
In the years of the war with their four little children.
She will live on without him a half-century longer;
But now they are young and the fiddles are playing.

Their daughter Ann Clark in her prettiest ruffles
Remembers the school years in the convent at Kenwood,
A Protestant child among Catholic schoolmates,
Nannie the naughtiest girl and the merriest
Dancing the waltz with a suitor named Henry
Into years unforeseen of poverty and sorrow;
But now she is moving with joy to the music.

Her daughter, young Katharine, most beautiful dancer
Whirls through the Kentucky fraternity dances
In beautiful dresses her mother creates for her.
Tomboy and Gibson Girl, grower of flowers,
Most loving and giving and laughing and weeping.
She will marry her Robert and move from the Blue Grass.
She will dance to the end and I still see her dancing.

And I their one daughter Virginia, who danced
Through New Jersey, New England, Kentucky, Wisconsin,
At Harvard danced into the great heart of Douglass
In the loveliest ball gown of pale rose lace.
For thirty-six years in his arms I was dancing;
But now my Beloved has ended the dancing
Till I join the dead girls in their beautiful dresses.

for the And you our one daughter, the bluest-eyed Katharine
In the arms of another dear Robert from Harvard,
Dance away with the living, dance into the future,
Have beautiful daughters in beautiful dresses
To dance on forever; but tossed by the music
Devote a wild instant of love and compassion
To the dead girls dancing in their beautiful dresses.

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Virginia Hamilton Adair - In a puffy wedding dress