The meaning of Tarantella
This poem (see previous post) is a song we’re singing in Men’s Chorus this semester, and one day we had a talk in class about what it means. The poem itself is a bit ambiguous, but my personal interpretation goes thusly:
The protagonist, a young man travelling in Europe, comes across a small youth hostal high in the Pyrenees where he decides to spend the night. It’s a pretty horrible dive; it’s noisy, crowded, there are fleas in the beds, the wine tastes like tar, and generally if a health inspector came along the place would be shut down instantly. And yet, with its scenic location and such it has a sort of rustic charm about it, a romantic spirit that is as wild as the mountains around it.
That night, at the inn, there is a wild Spanish fiesta. Many muleteers looking for fun have stopped by the inn, and and it seems a few girls are around as well. The dance begins with the accompaniment of a Spanish guitar, and as the night goes on it gets wilder and wilder, as the Tarantella dance is wont to do. At some point during this dance this young man meets the lovely, beautiful, and fair Miranda, who twirls and swirls on the dance floor, spinning out an in to the beat of the clapper, and generally being a coquettish Spanish maiden, with fire in her eyes and a wild mane of raven hair. She endures many cheers and jeers from the muleteers, but in the end she dances with our protagonist, beginning the most wonderful romantic night of his life, which ends in a straw bed infested with fleas, but neither of the two care.
Miranda becomes this man’s life. Everything he does daily he does for her. He doesn’t breathe air and eat food, he breathes and eats Miranda. They have a romantic relationship for a while, possibly even marrying. However, the years pass and soon the wild Miranda yearns for something more than the steady life that our man can provide her. She grows discontented with their relationship, and eventually, she leaves him.
Distraught, disconcerted, and desperate, the despondent man doesn’t know what to do, for the very purpose of his life is now gone; the very reason for his existence is out of his reach forever. Eventually, he begins travelling again, hoping that that spark of life he found once would somehow reignite, but no matter where he goes and what he sees, he can never capture the magic of that one night. In the end, he finds his way back to the inn in the Pyrenees, and in his mind’s eye he can see the events of that magical night.
“Do you remember an inn, Miranda?” Do you remember all those wonderful experiences we had here? Do you remember the fleas, the muleteers, the horrible wine, but none of that mattered because we had each other. “DO YOU REMEMBER AN INN?!?” he shouts. But nobody is there. Miranda is gone. The inn was abandoned long ago, and now is a hollow, burnt-out shell. The cheery image from his mind’s eye fades into the dark, harsh reality, and he finally realizes that she will never come back. It’s too late. He’s a much older man now. He had one shot at happiness, and it failed.
Outside the inn, there is a river that flows, the Aragon river. Not far away, a waterfall cascades down a mountain face. The old man stands in the middle of the river near the waterfall, the water swishing about his ankles. As he contemplates his lot, it begins to rain, then pour. The raindrops mingle with his own tears, and it seems to him that the entire world is weeping for his past life, his lost chances, his youthful exuberance swallowed up by the ravages of time. He stands, arms outstretched. On another level he is aware of the rain, the river, the boom of the waterfall, but it is all very far from where his mind is. There are no other sounds.
Then he falls. . .