Thursday, May 25, 2006

Blue in Paul Celan's "Sand from The Urns"

"Im Irisgarten", 1968
Christian Schad

I am back from a quick business trip and I want to continue our discussion of Paul Celan’s “Sand from the Urn.” In the last post we began a discussion of Celan’s use of color. More specifically, we concentrated on his painting the metaphoric "house of forgetting," “mold green.” In the second line he continues his use of color and develops his conceit of the “house of forgetting” by stating that it has many gates and that the gates are “blowing.” Vor jedem der wehenden Tore/ Before each of the blowing gates. Grammatically, the first sentence is tied to the second by the use of the pronoun “each,” which refers to the gates of the house of forgetting.

In my reading of the poem I imagine a large house, a chateau perhaps, with its windows, doors, and gates open and a frigid wind blowing from within the containment of the edifice. I imagine the wind as frigid because of the remainder of the second line- Vor jedem der wehenden Tore blaut dein enthaupteter Spielmann./ Before each of the blowing gates your decapitated minstrel turns blue. The wind, through the gates, turns the minstrel-the poet-blue. Blueness associated with cold seems right to me because coldness, as demonstrated through images of ice, snow, and glaciers are prominent in Celan’s poetry. However, I believe that blue here also expresses loss, depression, melancholy, despair, and death. The minstrel turns blue in multiples equal to the number of gates. I imagine an almost cubist painting similar to Schad's above. He might turn blue from singing the blues or his corpse might turn blue as it begins to decay, which aligns us once again with “mold green.” Additionally, blue is connected with the great deep, the feminine principle of the waters, and the Void, which connects us to the word "oblivion."

The image here is surreal in that a decapitated minstrel stands before each of the gates. In other words, the image is multiplied, as we apprehend many versions of the same minstrel before many gates. I believe the message is that the process of forgetting is on going and active and that the winds emerge from within the house, the edifice itself, creating a circular action. In forgetting, there is a process of remembering and in remembering there is a forgetting or a relegating of a memory to a place or a house.

“Your minstrel” stands before each of the gates, which situates the poem. The poem is addressed to “you,” and it is the “you” that is the subject and object of the minstrel’s art-his music or his painting. In reading the poem I have the sense that the “you” is female because the minstrel is male and because the “you” in most of Celan’s poems is an abstract feminine other. I believe the “you” is a expression of an ongoing psychological communication with Celan’s anima, reminiscent of the "you" in the Song of Songs’ Cantiques. In support of this proposition, I want to point out a quote from Andréa Lauterwein’s Paul Celan: Voix Allemand, Belin 2005, where she discusses the importance of knowldge of Celan's biography in reading his poetry: Il vaut mieux savoir notamment que l'omniprésence de la 'soeur' dans la poésie de Celan ne se réfère pas-comme chez Trakl- á une soeur de sang, mais plutôt a une altérité féminine de côté de la soeur du Cantique des Cantiques. . . . (It is better to know that the omnipresence of the sister in Celan's poetry does not refer-like the poetry of Trakl-to an actual sister but to a feminine other similar to the sister in Song of Songs.)

Tomorrow, I will focus on the image of the "headless" minstrel.

No comments: