Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Last week I discussed the meaning of mandorla in Christian iconograpy and explained its use in Paul Celan’s poem Mandorla. Here is my translation of the poem.

Note the various plays on the word Mandel, almond in German. Almond eyes in German is translated as Mandelaugen.

Once I think of eyes in reference to a Celan poem, I think of his most famous poem- Todesfugue: “er greift nach dem Eisen im Gurt er schwingts seine Augen sind Blau,” (he grasps the iron at his belt he swings his eyes are blue) and later “Er ruft spielt suesser den Tod der Tod ist ein meister aus Deutschland" (he shouts play sweetly Death Death is a master from Germany).

I believe the “royal-blue” is an oblique reference to the color of the uniform of both the soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian empire, during Celan's childhood, and Germany soldiers during the occupation of Bukovina.

By Paul Celan

In der Mandel-was steht in der Mandel?
Das Nichts.
Es steht das Nichts in der Mandel.
Da steht es und steht.

Im Nichts-wer steht da? Der Koenig.
Da steht der Koenig, der Koenig.
Da steht er und steht.

Judenlocke, wirst nicht grau.

Und dein Aug-wohin steht dein Auge?
Dein Aug steht der Mandel entgegen.
Dein Aug, dem Nichts stehts entgegen.
Es steht zum Koenig.
So steht es und steht.

Menschenlocke, wirst nicht grau.
Leere Mandel, koenigsblau.

In the almond-what stands in the almond?
It stands the Nothingness in the almond.
It stands there and stands.

In the Nothingness-who stands there? The King.
The King stands there, the King
He stands there and stands.

Jewish locks, you will not turn gray.

And your eye-where does your eye stand?
Your eye stands against the Almond.
Your eye stands against Nothingness.
It stands for the King.
It stands and stands.

Human locks, you will turn not gray.
Empty Almond, royal blue.

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