Monday, April 03, 2006

Macbeth and Malcolm in Paul Celan's-"Encounter"

Today, I will continue with the second stanza of the Paul Celan poem-Encounter- written in Romanian and translated by Julian Semilian and Sanda Agalidi.

And thus the trees will arrive in fury
To wait for the leaf that speaks, delivered in an urn,
The heralds of the coast of sleep sent off to the tide of
Let it douse in your eyes, so I’ll think that we’ll die together.

Sea, coast, container, and military imagery unify the first stanza with the second. The image “dunes of limestone” relate and reflect “the coast of sleep” and the “tide of banners,” while “banners” connects with “trumpet audacity in a helmet” and “bell,” “helmet,” and “urn” carries the sense of container. The phrase -“trees arrive in a fury” -seem to allude to Shakespeare's play Macbeth, where the attackers cut limbs off the trees and march toward Macbeth, disguising their number. The connection to Macbeth is also made in the first stanza, last line, “a human tongue will trumpet audacity in a helmet.” In Macbeth, an armored head, conjured by the witches, predicts the end of Macbeth, while a third apparition, a child with a tree in its hand, predicts that Macbeth will not die until the forest comes to his castle.

Third Apparition

Be lion-mettled, proud; and take no care
Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are:
Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him.



That will never be
Who can impress the forest, bid the tree
Unfix his earth-bound root? Sweet bodements! good!
Rebellion's head, rise never till the wood
Of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth
Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath
To time and mortal custom. Yet my heart
Throbs to know one thing: tell me, if your art
Can tell so much: shall Banquo's issue ever
Reign in this kingdom?

Before the end of Macbeth, however, Lady Macbeth dies (Act V, Scene V). Scene V begins with a description of banners on the wall.


Hang out our banners on the outward walls;
The cry is still 'They come:' our castle's strength
Will laugh a siege to scorn: here let them lie
Till famine and the ague eat them up:
Were they not forced with those that should be ours,
We might have met them dareful, beard to beard,
And beat them backward home.

Remembering that limestone made up the “dune” of the first stanza and “tide of banners” on the “coast of sleep” is the situs of the poem’s action in the second stanza, there is a sense or an impression of “castle,” knights,” heralds,” “invasion,” and “war.”

When I first read the poem I had the impression that the “leaf” that speaks, is almost like Henry speaking to his troops before battle, but instead I believe that the leaf is the “I” of the poem, a representative of the forest that comes to displace the murderer within.

As I said above, Scene V of Act V heralds the death of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s famous speech.

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

After the speech, a messenger comes and announces the approach of the forest.


Gracious my lord,
I should report that which I say I saw,
But know not how to do it.


Well, say, sir.


As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I look'd toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
The wood began to move.


Liar and slave!


Let me endure your wrath, if't be not so:
Within this three mile may you see it coming;
I say, a moving grove.

If Celan were thinking of the play Macbeth, the “I” of the poem is not Macbeth but Duncan’s son, Malcolm.

The “leaf” that speaks is the son that speaks for the father, who has been murdered. However, in Celan’s poem, the one murdered is the father and, also, the mother.

The mother will appear in stanza three, which I will discuss tomorrow.

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