“Theatre of Varieties” by Aldous Huxley

Theatre of Varieties

Circle on circle the hanging gardens descend,
Slope from the upper darkness, each flower face
Open, turned to the light and laughter and life
Trembling heat, quicken and awake the air.
Flutes and crying of strings assail the sense—
Music, the revelation and marvellous lie;
What is, what is not, truth and falsehood,
Swim and mingle together.
On the bright trestles tumblers, tamers of beasts,
Dancers and clowns affirm their fury of life,
And in a thousand minds beget a thousand
Hallucinations, dreams of beauty, nightmares.

"The World-renowned Van Hogen Mogen in
The Master Mystery of Modern Times. . . . "
He talks, he talks; more powerfully than music
His quick words hammer on the minds of men.
"Observe this hat, Ladies and gentlemen;
Empty, observe, empty as the universe
Before the Head for which this Hat is made
Was, or could think. Empty—observe, observe. . . .'
The rabbit kicks; a bunch of paper flowers
Blossoms in the limelight; paper tape unrolls,
Endless, a clue. "Ladies and gentlemen . . . ."
Sharp, sharp on malleable minds his words
Hammer. The little Indian boy
Enters the basket. Bright, an Ethiop's sword
Transfixes it and bleeding is withdrawn.
Horror, like a magnet, draws the watching crowds
Toward the scene of massacre. The walls
Bend forward to the revealing light,
And the pale faces are a thousand gargoyles
Thrust out, spouting the ichor of their souls.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the great Van Hogen Mogen
Smiles and is kind. A puddle of dark blood
Creeps slowly out. " The irremediable
Has ceased to be."
Empty of all but blood the basket gapes.
" Arise! " he calls and blows his horn. " Arise! "


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Aldous Huxley's poem "Theatre of Varieties" was published in 1920 in the fifth "cycle" of the Wheels anthologies. To read this poem in full in a digitized version of this publication, follow the links below:


The Modernist Journals Project