“Dancing is a vertical expression of horizontal desire,”
said Robert Frost,
maybe America’s most famous poet.
The first time I heard that line quoted
who said it first.
I was in a crowd of shag dancers.
I can’t remember who told me,
but at the time,
thinking “vertical expression of horizontal desire”
was a perfect definition of shag dancing.
Robert Frost said it originally.
The old shagger I heard it from
told me a cat named Lacey Moore made it up.
And I believed him.
Lacey Moore was a legendary shagger.
All the coolest people I knew
as a boy
“A vertical expression of horizontal desire”
sounded like a line you keep on a shelf,
until you and the partner you’re dancing with
combine with the music,
and all your desire wants
is one line of poetry quoted.
But Robert Frost said it first,
the preeminent American poet of the 20th Century.
No wonder the line rings true.
He probably wrote it
about the time
teenagers in Great Britain,
where Frost was living at the time,
invented a dance
they called “the shag”
in the 1920’s.
It was a really an awful, ugly
dance, if you have ever seen a film:
the couple are bouncing
on the balls of their feet,
all pertinent points of the body touching,
appearing to shag vertically, fully clothed,
as the verb “to shag” is defined in British slang.
The dancers pantomime clumsy fornication,
doing vertically and publicly
what should be performed in horizontal solitude.
Maybe Robert Frost
saw a dance floor in Piccadilly
crowded with teenagers
doing the British shag dance
and observed the obvious,
“a vertical expression of horizontal desire.”
Of course to shag,
as we know it in the southern United States,
is not to shag
as the Brits define it.
shag dancing is a fundamental drive
almost like sex;
the dancers are addicted.
Shagging attracts near religious devotion,
having one commandment written in stone:
“Thou shalt dance when invited to shag.”
You can always find a partner.
As to vertically expressing
The shaggers boogie walk,
and wag their silver tongues,
quoting famous lines.
Then spinning through a pivot step,
they belly roll in rhythm.
In the Land of Shag,
if you want to dance
no shagger will turn you down.
Not to dance when you’re invited
is against the law of nature.