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In the blog post Famous Poems Rewritten as Limericks on LanguageHat.com (2 April 2018), a certain Trond Engen posted the following limerick:

The earth, like an orange, is blue.
Your love and your smile — yes, you do!
The window, the bee,
the sun, la-dee-dee…
I wish I were sure it was true.

He asked whether anyone knew this but nobody seems to have provided an answer. My own searches have led to nothing. Can anybody else do better?

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The key phrase is “blue like an orange”. This is from a poem by French surrealist Paul Éluard, published in L'Amour la poésie.

The poem is somewhat well known in France, and has been analyzed by many, but I've never read it. It may be less well-known in English, although “blue like an orange” does seem to be a somewhat well-known phrase in English as well. Here is my translation of the first stanza. (This is a very literal translation which likely misses some subtext. The original does not rhyme.)

The earth is blue like an orange
Never an error words do not lie
They no longer give you something to sing
It is the kisses' turn to come to agree
The mad and the loves
She her alliance mouth
All the secrets all the smiles
And what indulging clothes
As if she were wholly naked

The next stanza features wasps, the sun and windows.

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This an adaptation of a poem by Paul Éluard. I’ve bolded the elements that appear in the limerick.

La terre est bleue comme une orange
Jamais une erreur les mots ne mentent pas
Ils ne vous donnent plus à chanter
Au tour des baisers de s’entendre
Les fous et les amours
Elle sa bouche d’alliance
Tous les secrets tous les sourires
Et quels vêtements d’indulgence
À la croire toute nue.
Les guêpes fleurissent vert
L’aube se passe autour du cou
Un collier de fenêtres
Des ailes couvrent les feuilles
Tu as toutes les joies solaires
Tout le soleil sur la terre
Sur les chemins de ta beauté.

Paul Éluard (1929). L’Amour la poesie. Paris: Gallimard.

“Guêpes” (wasps) have become the “bee” in the limerick (for reasons of rhyme) and “I wish I were sure it was true” satirizes “les mots ne mentent pas” (the words do not lie).

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    It's odd, the original French version actually loses something in this case, as the word "bleue" comes before "orange" rather than after. The translation in the limerick adds a playful element of surprise to it, because one might expect a comparison between the Earth and an orange to be talking about their shape rather than their color, but the expectation is subverted by the last word being "blue", a factor that is missing when you see the original word ordering. May 17 at 16:34
  • @DarrelHoffman: There's no loss really, just a different surprise. In the French version you read "The Earth is blue like" and you expect the comparison to be based on the color, and then you get "an orange" which evokes the image of a blue orange until you realize they meant the Earth was spherical like an orange, not blue like it. Just a different surprise, nothing lost really. May 18 at 8:15

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