"Quietly Sweating Palm To Palm"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this deeply ironic poem the writer depicts himself as sitting with a girl in the balcony of an ornate restaurant. They are under its "bubble-breasted" dome, from which hangs a crystal chandelier that resembles a frozen water-fall. Below them, the patrons–"human bears"–are "champing with their gilded teeth." There is the further irony of an echo of Keats ("What songs? What gongs? What nameless rites?" which sardonically hints at "What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy" in the "Ode on a Grecian Urn") and of the interior of a cathedral. The dome of the restaurant suggests to the poet a nave below, where, instead of church music or the "unheard" melodies of Keats, a Negro jazz-band is producing "blasts of Bantu melody." Yet, in the final irony, this vulgar spot is the poet's "spiritual home," just as a cathedral might be such for a devout person. Here is the disillusionment of the post World War I years, for from all the noise, confusion, and blaring rag-time, the tragi-comic climax is only a sensual experience:

But when the wearied Band
Swoons to a waltz, I take her hand,
And there we sit, in blissful calm,
Quietly sweating palm to palm.