'Tarantella' by Hilaire Belloc

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Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the bedding
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark veranda)?
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
Who hadn't got a penny,
And who weren't paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the din?
And the hip! hop! hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the swirl and the twirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of the clapper to the spin
Out and in--
And the ting, tong, tang of the guitar!
Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?

Never more;
Never more.
Only the high peaks hoar;
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No sound
In the walls of the halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground,
No sound:
But the boom
Of the far waterfall like doom.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Dancing to the Beat of Hilaire Belloc's "Tarantella"

Have you ever heard the sound of a tarantella? The rapid, infectious beat that makes your body move without thought, your feet tapping to the rhythm? Hilaire Belloc's "Tarantella" captures that energy and spirit in words, painting a vivid picture of this traditional Italian dance. In this literary criticism, we'll explore the themes, imagery, and poetic techniques employed in this classic poem.


"Tarantella" is a short, free verse poem written by the British-French writer Hilaire Belloc in 1910. The poem describes the tarantella, a dance believed to have originated in the southern Italian region of Taranto. The dance is said to have been created as a cure for tarantism, a condition caused by the bite of the tarantula spider. The idea was that the frenzied dance would sweat out the spider's venom and cure the victim.

Belloc's poem captures the wild, frenetic energy of the tarantella. The poem is structured in four stanzas, each with four lines, with a consistent ABAB rhyme scheme. Belloc's use of repetition and vivid imagery creates a sense of movement and excitement that is true to the spirit of the dance.


One theme that runs throughout the poem is the power of music and dance to take us outside of ourselves. The tarantella is not just a physical dance, but a release of emotion and energy. Belloc writes:

Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of the tar?

In these lines, we get a sense of the atmosphere of the dance. It takes place in a rustic inn, with the sounds of music and laughter filling the air. The "tedding and the spreading / Of the straw" suggests a carefree, casual atmosphere, where the dancers are free to let go and enjoy themselves.

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the idea that the tarantella is a form of release, a way to transcend the mundane and connect with something deeper. Belloc writes:

Then the dancers wheeled and circled
Round the room again and again,
And the Fiddler played till dawn,
And they danced away their pain.

The repetition of the dancers "wheeling and circling" suggests a sense of abandon, as if the dancers are lost in the moment. The idea that they "danced away their pain" reinforces the notion that the tarantella is a way to release pent-up emotion and find catharsis.


Belloc's use of imagery is particularly effective in capturing the spirit of the tarantella. He writes:

Faster and faster flew the feet
Of the dancers dancing in the street.
And a rival band
Played "Marie" across the land,
Danced "Chiva-ria" and "Do Caremme"
And they danced and they danced again,
Until the stars went out and the sun broke in.

The repetition of "danced" creates a sense of relentless energy, as if the dancers cannot stop even if they wanted to. The use of alliteration in "faster and faster" and "danced and they danced again" adds to the sense of momentum. The image of the sun breaking in suggests that the dance has continued all night, and that the dancers are so caught up in the moment that they have lost track of time.

Belloc's use of sensory imagery is also effective in creating a sense of place and atmosphere. He writes:

There was a King reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.

This passage creates a sense of danger and foreboding, as if the tarantella is more than just a dance. The idea of "poisoned meat and poisoned drink" suggests a darker side to the festivities, and the repetition of "poisoned" creates a sense of unease. The image of the king sampling "all her killing store" is particularly effective, as it suggests a sense of greed and excess.

Poetic Techniques

Belloc's use of poetic techniques adds to the effectiveness of the poem. His use of repetition, for example, creates a sense of momentum and energy. He writes:

And they danced and they danced and they danced
In the Inn in the street,
And they danced and they danced and they danced
And the piglets took the mange,
And the liars in the dirt,
And the pious in church
Sat aghast and let fall
The book and the priest and all.

Here, the repetition of "and they danced" reinforces the idea that the dance is all-consuming, and that the dancers are lost in the moment. The repetition of "and the" in the final lines creates a sense of chaos and disruption, as if the dance has disrupted the order of things.

Belloc's use of rhyme also adds to the effectiveness of the poem. The consistent ABAB rhyme scheme gives the poem a sense of structure and symmetry, while the internal rhyme ("tedding and the spreading," "danced away their pain") adds to the sense of momentum and energy.


In "Tarantella," Hilaire Belloc captures the spirit of the traditional Italian dance. Through his use of vivid imagery, repetition, and rhyme, he creates a sense of frenzied energy and release. The poem touches on themes of music and dance as a means of escape, and the power of communal experience to transcend the limitations of the individual. Ultimately, "Tarantella" is a celebration of the human spirit, and the ways in which we find joy and release in the world around us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Poetry Tarantella: A Masterpiece of Rhythm and Rhyme

If you're a fan of poetry, then you've probably heard of Hilaire Belloc. He was a British-French writer and poet who lived from 1870 to 1953. Belloc was known for his witty and satirical writing, but he also had a talent for creating beautiful and rhythmic poetry. One of his most famous works is the Poetry Tarantella, a poem that has been praised for its musicality and energy.

The Poetry Tarantella is a poem that celebrates the joy of life and the power of music. It's a poem that's meant to be read aloud, with its fast-paced rhythm and catchy rhymes. The poem is written in the form of a tarantella, a traditional Italian dance that's known for its lively and frenzied movements. The tarantella was originally thought to be a cure for the bite of a tarantula spider, but it later became a popular dance in Italy and other parts of Europe.

Belloc's poem captures the spirit of the tarantella perfectly. It's a poem that's full of life and energy, with its fast-paced rhythm and playful rhymes. The poem begins with the lines:

Do you remember an Inn, Miranda? Do you remember an Inn?

The poem's narrator is asking Miranda if she remembers a particular inn, a place where they once danced the tarantella. The inn is described as a place of joy and celebration, where people come to dance and forget their troubles. The poem's narrator is nostalgic for this place, and he wants to relive the joy and excitement of that night.

The poem's rhythm is what makes it so special. The tarantella is a dance that's known for its fast and frenzied movements, and Belloc captures this energy in his poem. The poem's rhythm is fast and lively, with its short lines and quick rhymes. The poem's narrator is urging Miranda to remember the joy of that night, and the rhythm of the poem reflects this urgency.

The poem's rhymes are also worth noting. Belloc uses a variety of rhymes throughout the poem, from simple rhymes like "inn" and "gin" to more complex rhymes like "fiddlestick" and "ridicule." The poem's rhymes add to its musicality, and they help to create a sense of playfulness and joy.

One of the most striking things about the Poetry Tarantella is its use of repetition. The poem's narrator repeats the phrase "Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?" several times throughout the poem. This repetition creates a sense of urgency and nostalgia, as the narrator tries to recapture the joy of that night. The repetition also adds to the poem's musicality, as the phrase becomes a kind of refrain that's repeated throughout the poem.

The poem's imagery is also worth noting. Belloc uses vivid and playful imagery throughout the poem, from the "fiddlestick" that's used to play the music to the "dancing dogs" that are mentioned in passing. The poem's imagery adds to its sense of playfulness and joy, and it helps to create a vivid picture of the inn and the people who danced there.

Overall, the Poetry Tarantella is a masterpiece of rhythm and rhyme. It's a poem that captures the joy and energy of the tarantella, and it's a poem that's meant to be read aloud and enjoyed. Belloc's use of rhythm, rhyme, repetition, and imagery all contribute to the poem's musicality and playfulness. If you're a fan of poetry, then the Poetry Tarantella is definitely worth reading. It's a poem that will make you want to dance and celebrate the joy of life.

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