Rainer Maria Rilke: Spanish Dancer

Spanish Dancer

As a struck match, before becoming flame, white
flickering tongues in all directions sends,
so, bystanders looking on, unfolds her dance: bright,
hot and hurried, a circular rite,
pulsating with passion, and intense.

And suddenly it is fully aflare.

With just a glance she lights her hair,
and then, with daring art, turns her entire
dress into this flaming ball of fire,
from which, each like a startled snake,
her naked arms dart, rattling and awake.

Then, deeming too close the lambent heat,
she gathers all of if it together and flings it to her feet
with an imperious gesture, haughtily gazing.
There it lies on the floor, enraged and blazing,
and burning still, refusing to retire.
But, confident of victory, her smile assured and sweet,
she lifts her face as if in greeting to the fire,
and stamps it out with solid little feet.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Thomas Geydan, published here by kind permission of the translator. Copyright by Thomas Geydan.