“Bringing Back the Morris Dance” (E62)

  • Originally printed:  Detroit Athletic Club News, June 1929
  • First reprinted in:  The Treasurer’s Report and Other Aspects of Community Singing (1930)
  • Original Byline:  Robert C. Benchley; Drawings by Gluyas Williams



Patented Benchley refutation-by-recommendation, with the author pushing good old-fashioned Morris-dancing until the jig goes up in smoke. Adopting a one step forward, two steps back approach to physical fitness advocacy, the author trips repeatedly over his exhortation to orbit a pole. Soon, we reel haphazardly into history, as RB’s persona searches in vain to discover some deep-seated folk reason for engaging in the rhythmically strenuous life. Benchley takes issue with those who would draw a parallel between Terpsichorean worship and sexual congress – arguing that the caloric requirements of the former push all possibility of the latter into sometime next week – but he accedes to the contention that these frenetic displays might bear some metaphorical relationship to the chaotic forces which threaten to rip our cosmos asunder. Benchley’s ramble through the ages yields few factoids to entice himself or his readers away from their places at the bar – at least, not until he returns to his original notion that Morris-dancing ought to have something to do with Morris chairs. It doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop our author from sitting this one out.  

Favourite Moment:

We are told that, in Merrie Englandie, one of the dancers was always decked out as Robin Hood ‘with a magpye’s plume to hys capp and a russet bearde compos’d of horses hair,’ which is as lousy spelling as you will see grouped together in any one sentence anywhere. At first, the only music was that of the bells, but that got pretty tiresome after a while and they brought out a flute or ‘tabor,’ which probably added nothing. I can, offhand, think of nothing more dismal than that must have been.  

Reprint Notes:

  • All text and illustrations reprinted

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