Duncan, Isadora (1878-1927)
Yesterday Rodin died, aged seventy-five. Did we look together at 'The Thinker' within the iron railways of the Pantheon in Paris? He was devoted to Isadora and always said her dancing was his greatest inspiration. When she read my first bookVisions and Revisions, she sent me so many red roses that they filled the little flat, but I was too nervous to go and see her. She has been one of the most thrilling sensations but that is a wretched word to express it of my whole existence. She has danced for me alone with a beauty that makes the most beautiful young girls' dancing seem mere child's play. It was as though Demeter herself, the mater dolorosa of the ancient earth, rose and danced.
Well, she has gone and I enclose to you the red rose she gave to me as she went.
(18 Nov. 1917, Letters to His Brother Llewelyn)
With the gesture of a god,
("To Isadora Duncan" (extract) in Mandragora, poems by J.C.Powys, 1917)
You trampled on fate,
You lifted up on high
Those that had fallen -
All the oppressed,
All the humiliated,
All the offended;
You lifted them up on high
And they were comforted.
|from Samuel Dickson's |
biography of Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan, through the medium of her dance, thought her mission was to free people from their shackes, so that they were revealed to themselves and could discover the divine that was in them. Hostile to marriage, but believing in motherhood, she led a very momentous life: She had a daughter from the producer Edward Gordon Craig and a son from the rich Eugene Singer. They both died tragically in 1913, drowned in the Seine, in Paris. She left for Russia, married the poet Essenine in 1921, came back to Europe and died in 1927 at the age of 49, strangled by her scarf which had been caught in the spokes of her car. She was Powys' inspiration for Elise Angel in After My Fashion (published posthumously):
Once more, as if all between this moment and when he had last seen her were a dark and troubled dream, she lifted for him the veil of Isis. In the power of her austere and olympian art, all the superficial impressions that had dominated him through that long summer dissolved like a cloud of vapour.
This was what he had been aiming at in his own blundering way; this was what he was born to understand! The softness of ancient lawns under immemorial trees, the passion of great winds in lonely places, the washing of sea tides under melancholy harbour walls, the retreats of beaten armies, the uprising of multitudinous oppressed, the thunder of the wings of destroying angels, the 'still small voice' of the creative spirit brooding upon the foundations of new worlds all these things rose up upon him as he watched her, all these things were in the gestures of her outspread arms, in the leap and the fall and the monumental balance of her divine white limbs. (John Cowper Powys, After My Fashion)