TO SURPRISE AN EFFECT was often Degas' idea. His variety of treatments of the ballet is enormous and none is more original than a series of scenes on
the stage, glimpsed from an opera box, where space between spectator and dancer is telescoped and we feel thrust suddenly into the very midst of a performance. The
theme of the dancer, caught in a characteristic moment, is also found in one of Degas' best sonnets:
She dances, dying. As around the reed
Of a flute where the sad wind of Weber plays,
The ribbon of her steps, twists and knots,
Her body sinks and falls in the movement of a bird.
The violins sing. Fresh from the blue of the water
Silvana comes, and carefully ruffles and preens:
The happiness of rebirth and love on her cheeks,
In her eyes, on her breasts, on her whole new being . . .
And her satin feet, like needles embroider
Patterns of pleasure. The springing girl
Wears out my poor eyes, straining to follow her.
With a trifle, as always, the beautiful mystery ends.
She bends back her legs too far in a leap, It's the leap of a frog in the Cytherean pond.