Rilke's Blue Hydrangea

The hydrangea petals are turning/fading. Seems a fitting time to share the poem by Rilke that inspired this painting,blue hydrangea.

blue hydrangea, oil on canvas, 40x40", $2000

The poem is about perception and description, about metaphor and its associative coalescings, about thematic material and its wrestle with formal limit, about mortality and renewal, about lyric self-making. More plainly, the poem is about this, too: a speaker happens onto a hydrangea plant, is moved to describe its characteristics by way of melancholy analogies, and experiences—if we see the plant’s rejuvenation as indicative of the speaker’s own—a sudden self-awareness




‘These leaves are like the last green in the paint pots—dried up, dull, and rough, behind the flowered umbels whose blue is not their own, only mirrored from far away.

In their mirror it is vague and tear-stained, as if deep down they wished to lose it; and as with blue writing paper there is yellow in them, violet and gray;

washed out as on a child’s pinafore, no longer worn things, which nothing can befall: how one feels a small life’s shortness.

But suddenly the blue seems to revive in one of the umbels, and one sees a touching blue’s rejoicing in green.’




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    SHARON KINGSTON