Delmore Schwartz Uncredited and Undated Photograph
Twenty-eight naked young women bathed by the shore
Or near the bank of a woodland lake
Twenty-eight girls and all of them comely
Worthy of Mack Sennett’s camera and Florenz Ziegfield’s
They splashed and swam with the wondrous unconsciousness
Of their youth and beauty
In the full spontaneity and summer of the fieshes of
Heightened, intensified and softened
By the soft and the silk of the waters
Blooded made ready by the energy set afire by the
nakedness of the body,
Electrified: deified: undenied.
A young man of thirty years beholds them from a distance.
He lives in the dungeon of ten million dollars.
He is rich, handsome and empty standing behind the linen curtains
Which girl does he think most desirable, most beautiful?
They are all equally beautiful and desirable from the gold distance.
For if poverty darkens discrimination and makes
perception too vivid,
The gold of wealth is also a form of blindness.
For has not a Frenchman said, Although this is America…
What he has said is not entirely relevant,
That a naked woman is a proof of the existence of God.
Where is he going?
Is he going to be among them to splash and to laugh with them?
They did not see him although he saw them and was there among them.
He saw them as he would not have seen them had they been conscious
Of him or conscious of men in complete depravation:
This is his enchantment and impoverishment
As he possesses them in gaze only.
…He felt the wood secrecy, he knew the June softness
The warmth surrounding him crackled
Held in by the mansard roof mansion
He glimpsed the shadowy light on last year’s brittle leaves fallen,
Looked over and overlooked, glimpsed by the fall of death,
Winter’s mourning and the May’s renewal.—
Delmore Schwartz, “A Dream Of Whitman Paraphrased, Recognized And Made More Vivid By Renoir” 1962