Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Metaphors and Archetypes in Paul Celan's "Love Song"

The imagery in Love Song, translated from the Romanian by Julian Semilian and Sanda Agalidi, is a triumph of surrealism because it moves from the personal unconscious of the poet to the archetypal and it does so through just a few key images.

Bill Zavatsky writes in his introduction to AndrĂ© Breton, Earthlight, Green Integer 102, 2004, “metaphor making, the dynamic principle that motivated Surrealism, asserts that all is connected, even if we must puzzle through a glass darkly.” He goes on to say that the purpose of this metaphor making is to penetrate to the archetypal. In this regard, I believe that Paul Celan is successful in connecting his metaphors and images, no matter how abstruse and difficult that they might be, and penetrating the archetypal.

In Love Song, Celan connects the primary images and metaphors: eyes, walnuts, hair, water, shipwreck, and vacant rooms.

The phosphorescent eyes are associated through their shape to the walnuts. Walnuts possess a sexual connotation, just as the other’s tresses do.

The lovers are up during the night but as dawn breaks they fall- tresses hang, walnuts chime and are then juggled, and the day brings a shipwreck.

From above they will descend but not all the way. They are stuck, shipwrecked, above the vacant room, above reality, above the everyday. They will not be saved; instead they will drown together.

Tomorrow I will discuss the symbolic and archetypal nature of the walnut.

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