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Saturday, 29 May 2010

Poetics of Colour (Goethe/Rimbaud)



Colour Wheel: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Zur Farbenlehre (Theory of Colours), 1810


A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,

One day I will reveal your mysterious latencies:

A, velour jacket of shining flies

Divebombing round things that are decomposing,

Abysses of shade; E, whitenesses of tents and vapours,

Blades of arrogant glaciers, pale kings, sprays of lily of the valley;

I, dark arterial blood, coughed up, beautiful lips

Drenched with anger or drunken penitential sighs;

U, cyclic waves, divine vibrations of deep green seas,

Peacefulness of animals in fields, and of

Ancient alchemists' visages;

O, mighty Trumpet of the weirdest dissonances,

Of silences traversed by Worlds, and Angels

-- O the Omega, ultraviolet ray of her eyes!

Fichier:Rimbaud manuscrit Voyelles.jpg

Voyelles: Arthur Rimbaud, autograph manuscript, 1871-1872: image by Siren-Com, 2010 (Musée Rimbaud, Charleville-Mézières)


A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes:
A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,

Golfes d’ombre; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d’ombelles;
I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes;

U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d’animaux, paix des rides
Que l’alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;

O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
Silences traversés des Mondes et des Anges:
— O l’Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux!

Fichier:Rimbaud Voyelles caricature.jpg

Arthur Rimbaud: caricature by Luque, from Revue: Les Hommes d'aujourd'hui, no. 318, janvier 1888 (Couverture humoristique photographié lors de l'exposition "Rimbaudmania" Paris): image by Siren-Com, 2010

Vowels: Arthur Rimbaud, 1871: translated by TC


TC said...

But I was astonished, as I looked at a white wall through the prism, how it stayed white! That only there where it came upon some darkened area, it showed more or less some colour, then at last, around the window sill all the colours shone, in the light grey sky outside there was no colour to be seen. It didn't take long before I knew here was something significant about colour to be brought forth, and I spoke as through an instinct out loud, that the Newtonian teachings were false.

— Goethe

Curtis Roberts said...

It's remarkable to receive these colorful words and images (all of them are priceless) on Memorial Day weekend, which I think of as being full of color. This continues the meditations on Et In Arcadia Ego (Pastoral), which is great. I hope you have a very good weekend.

Curtis Roberts said...

Eduardo the opossum stepped up on the terrace and joins in the holiday greeting to you and yours. He would like to say that he's doing well, but that he finds "Goethe" difficult to pronounce, despite the presence and tutelage of the German neighbor who daily calls "Bruno" (he's a dog), plus verbs, objects, etc., through the woods.

TC said...


Bruno has just charged into my Pastoral Database in that way new impressions do when one is suffering from prolonged chronic sleep deprivation: that is, with a loud, searing intensity. The gate of the mind has now been gently padlocked behind him so that it should be safe for Eduardo to poke around in the pasture with the sheep (and Goethe).

So there it is, and this was it: my
Memorial Day memory. For which, thank you very much. And here's to a great holiday for you, Jane, Caroline, Eduardo, all the dogs and cats and budgies & c. (not forgetting the bush baby).

"Our" possum has been missed these recent nights, and I do worry. The king of the resident cats has just been out for one of his serial nocturnal forays, and upon his return (4:31 a.m.), the sight of a pink snout at the door caused me momentarily to think "possum"; but no.



Thanks for all this -- G's color wheel (w/ note on his white wall!), R's vowels (w/ TC's translation!). Light / color continuum still going on here today - - -


pink cloud in pale blue sky above still
shadowed ridge, white of moon by branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

that moves, portion of space-
time continuum exactly

light, corresponding to this,
the same gravitational

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
cormorants flapping across toward ridge

TC said...


A beauty. Pink/white/ the world color wheel turns.

Goethe's text reminds me a bit of your series: paratactic observations strung together like a string of glass beads, some opaque, some transparent.

What's really interesting is his perception that colors are born not out of light but out of darkness.

As your poems seem to be, from here, coming up with the dawn as the earth

moves, portion of space-
time continuum exactly

light, corresponding...

Here is Rudolf Steiner, from Goethe's World View (1897), Chapter III: The Phenomena of the World of Color:

"Light presents itself to observation as 'the simplest, most undivided, most homogeneous being that we know' (Correspondence with Jacobi). Confronting it is the darkness. For Goethe darkness is not the completely powerless absence of light. It is something active. It confronts the light and enters with it into a mutual interaction. Modern natural science sees darkness as a complete nothingness. According to this view, the light which streams into a dark space has no resistance from the darkness to overcome. Goethe pictures to himself that light and darkness relate to each other like the north and south pole of a magnet. The darkness can weaken the light in its working power. Conversely, the light can limit the energy of the darkness. In both cases color arises. A view in physics that thinks of darkness as that which is completely inactive cannot speak of any such interaction. It must therefore trace the colors back to light alone. Darkness arises for observation as a phenomenon just as much as light does. What is dark is content of perception in the same sense as what is light. The one is only the opposite of the other. The eye that looks out into the night mediates the real perception of darkness. Were the darkness an absolute nothingness, then no perception at all would arise when the human being looks out into the dark.

"*Yellow is a light which has been dampened by the darkness; blue is a darkness which has been weakened by the light*."

(That last bit a quote from G's text.)



Thanks for all such thoughts -- not yet having read Goethe's Theory of Colors, line on "yellow" and "blue" is wonderful. . . .

George Dance said...

I've written my own translation of "Voyelles," which IMO is a bit more faithful to the form of Rimbaud's original than the translation you give. Permit me to give a link for those who'd like to take a look: