Friday, June 02, 2006

Talking Drum in Paul Celan's "Sand from the Urns"

Before we move on to the fourth line, I want to concentrate on the image in the second and third line. A headless minstrel, turning blue, beats a drum made of moss and pubic hair. This is a vivid and precise image of a surrealistic phenomenon. In other words, it is exactly what a surrealist image should be. The minstrel is both a musician and an artist, just as a poet is both a singer and a painter of verbal imagery. As a minstrel, Celan is saying that he is servant or a performer in the service of someone else, someone in charge, someone superior. In this case, this someone is the unidentified “you,” a “you, who through the minstrel’s performance, grows through the performance. The painting or drawing within the poem occurs in the sand, the same sand that fills the urns. So through the painting in the sand the urns are filled and the “you” is nourished. More precisely, the minstrel’s performance is a celebration of the memory of the “you” in the face of the forgetting and thereby a remembrance and an enhancement of the “you”.

Additionally, the minstrel plays the drum for the ”you.” The playing could be an entertainment but also a communication. Drums were used in Africa to communicate over long distances and were called the “talking drums.” Interesting enough is the fact that the “talking drums” were shaped like an hourglass, a container of sand that measured time. The communication here is between the forgetting and the remembering.

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