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Unread 12-09-2018, 05:08 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Default Rilke, Spanish Dancer

Spanish Dancer
by Rainer Maria Rilke

As in one’s hand a sulfur match, still white,
extends small, twitching tongues on every side
before it blazes up, so—ringed by a crowd
of nearby watchers—hasty, hot and bright,
her round dance starts to flicker and spread out.

And suddenly it’s utterly on fire.

With just a glance she sets alight her hair,
and all at once with daring art she whirls
all of her dress into this fiery blaze,
up from which, like startled serpents, spring
her naked arms, aroused and clattering.

And then, as if the fire were running low,
she sweeps it all up, tosses it away
haughtily, with a gesture of disdain,
and looks: it lies on the ground there, raging on,
and blazes still, refusing to concede.
And yet, triumphant, sure, and with a sweet
and gracious smile, she raises up her head
and stamps it out with sturdy little feet.

Revisions:
S1L3-4 was "before it blazes up—so, ringed by a crowd / of nearby watchers, hasty, hot and bright,"
S3L4 was "from which, like startled rattlesnakes, up spring"
S4L6 was "Triumphant, though, assured, and with a sweet"


Spanische Tänzerin

Wie in der Hand ein Schwefelzündholz, weiß,
eh es zur Flamme kommt, nach allen Seiten
zuckende Zungen streckt -: beginnt im Kreis
naher Beschauer hastig, hell und heiß
ihr runder Tanz sich zuckend auszubreiten.

Und plötzlich ist er Flamme, ganz und gar.

Mit einem Blick entzündet sie ihr Haar
und dreht auf einmal mit gewagter Kunst
ihr ganzes Kleid in diese Feuersbrunst,
aus welcher sich, wie Schlangen die erschrecken,
die nackten Arme wach und klappernd strecken.

Und dann: als würde ihr das Feuer knapp,
nimmt sie es ganz zusamm und wirft es ab
sehr herrisch, mit hochmütiger Gebärde
und schaut: da liegt es rasend auf der Erde
und flammt noch immer und ergiebt sich nicht -.
Doch sieghaft, sicher und mit einem süßen
grüßenden Lächeln hebt sie ihr Gesicht
und stampft es aus mit kleinen festen Füßen.


Literal translation:
Spanish Dancer

As in the hand a sulfur match, white,
before it comes ablaze, on all sides
stretches out flickering tongues, so, in the circle
of nearer watchers, hasty, bright, and hot,
her round dance starts to flicker and spread out.

And suddenly it is utterly and completely in flames.

With one glance she ignites her hair
and all at once with daring art whirls
her whole dress into this conflagration,
from which, like frightened snakes,
her naked arms stretch, roused and rattling.

And then, as if the fire were becoming low,
she draws all of it together and throws it away
very imperiously, with a haughty gesture,
and watches: it lies there on the ground, raging,
and flames still, and does not surrender—.
But triumphant, self-assured, and with a sweet,
greeting smile, she lifts up her face
and stamps it out with firm little feet.

Last edited by Susan McLean; 12-10-2018 at 02:44 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 12-09-2018, 07:46 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Love the overall scenario, and especially "and stamps it out with sturdy little feet." The range of shifting emotions and attitudes, from disdainful to gracious/greeting, is also very interesting. It reminds me a bit of Beethoven's jumble of conflicting emotions.

Three wee nits:

First--and this is Rilke's fault, not yours--the "hasty, hot and bright" bit seems to be describing the watchers, rather than her dance. Perhaps adjusted punctuation can help to remedy this:

As in one’s hand a sulfur match, still white,
extends small, twitching tongues on every side
before it blazes up, so—ringed by a crowd
of nearby watchers—hasty, hot and bright,
her round dance starts to flicker and spread out.

Second, for me, "rattlesnakes" is so strong that it displaces the image of arms holding castanets with an image actual rattlesnakes, and makes me wonder what North American snakes are doing in Europe. I would prefer if you kept the more general "snakes" or "serpents" in S3L4 so that I can imagine their "clattering" or "rattling" at the end of S3L5 as either generic hissing or rattlesnake rattles.

Third, "from which ... up spring" would be more graceful as "up from which ... spring."

Lovely stuff.
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Unread 12-10-2018, 12:43 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Thanks, Julie, I have taken your suggestions. I did hesitate to identify the snakes as being rattlesnakes, which is more than the poem says, but that fit the sound of the castanets so well that I couldn't resist. I agree with you, though, that it is best to let the reader make the connection. Hissing is also a warning sound.

Susan
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Unread 12-10-2018, 05:04 AM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
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Splendid, Susan!

Clive
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  #5  
Unread 12-20-2018, 12:18 AM
AZ Foreman's Avatar
AZ Foreman AZ Foreman is offline
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This is I think a very successful take on the poem. I cannot help but offer the point that, reading it, I took away as a rhyme for disdain, and concede as a rhyme for sweet/feet. The assonant effect is very strong there. I'm not sure whether that was intended or not, as a counterpoint to away/low and disdain/on (the former in particular I wouldn't have recognized as consonance if I didn't know the German's rhymescheme.)

"And suddenly it’s utterly on fire" is good. The echo of suddenly/utterly, and the rhythm they give the line, offers a nice mirror of sound and sense.

The extra unstressed syllable in "on the ground, there" also gives a nice sense of roiling.

For some reason I want to reverse the normal adjective order in English and end with "little sturdy feet" to give the reader a moment to pause on the phrase a bit.
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