Dance the Orange

Dance the Orange


Well, as summer continues fiercely hot, I’m reading Color, A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay (2002). This is a fascinating book of colour adventures, histories, facts and stories. As you know, I’ve recently been thinking about colour and writing and so was intrigued when Finlay made a reference to a poem Dance the Orange by the Austrian poet Rilke. So I bought a book: Dance the Orange, Selected Poems, hoping to discover the sonnet in question. Unfortunately, despite the title, the desired poem (Sonnet 15 to Orpheus) was not included. So I turned to the internet where I found several translations, one of which, I have reproduced here, for your enjoyment:

Stay,...this is good...But already it's flown.
...Murmurs of music, a footing, a humming:-
Maidens, so warm, so mute, are you coming
to dance the taste of this fruit we've known?

Dance the orange. Who can forget it,
The way it would drown in itself, -how too,
it would struggle against its sweetness. And yet it
's been yours. Been deliciously changed into you.
Dance the orange. The landscape, create it
warm from yourselves, till its airs be enfolding
again the splendour they ripened! Loose,
glowingly, fragrance on fragrance!Relate it
all to the peel, so chastely withholding,
all to the joyfully plentiful juice!

Translated by J.B. Leisham (1936)

A tri-lingual (German, French, English) edition of the sonnets, translated by Claude Neuman (2017) can be found HERE.

By complete coincidence, I am also reading Etre ici est une splendeur (2016) by Marie Darrieussecq, which is about the life of the painter Paula M. Becker (1876 to 1907) a close friend of Rilke. (The title is a quote taken from Rilke’s Elegies de Duino).

If I translate the Folio edition book blurb we delightfully learn that Paula liked ‘rice pudding, stewed apple, walking in the Land, Gauguin, Cézanne, bathing in the sea, being naked in the sun, reading rather than earning a living, and Paris.’ Nb creative writing exercise: have students write a book blurb for their own book?

I also thought of another possible exercise based on ‘Dance the orange (verb + definite article + colour) and came up with the following text as an example:

Stretch out the white.
Tip the pink.
Embrace the red.
Sway the saffron.
Dance the orange.

Shiver the green.
Crush the yellow.
Shatter the turquoise.
Smoke the blue.

And storm the violet.
Scatter the grey.
Pool the ink.
Acknowlege the black.

Photo by Fig_tart on instagram

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