Monday, August 14, 2006

"Das Wort vom Zur-Tiefe-Gehn" By Paul Celan

I am continuing to wrestle with Paul Celan’s Die Niemandsrose. In a previous post we discussed the first poem of the group-Es War Erde in Ihnen, which on the surface is clearly a reference to the holocaust and his parents’ death. However, there is also a movement toward something-to that unknown other-where a marriage of opposites might occur. This movement toward “marriage” is expressed in the last line of the poem and seems to be the purpose of the poem. From reading his poetry, I believe the movement is toward depth, depth in the sense of psychological depth as set forth in the literature of die Tiefenpsychologie.

The second poem in the sequence-Das Wort vom Zur-Tiefe-Gehn- is more problematic; however, I sense that themes established throughout the work are also here. The poem is quite personal and was written on his anniversary as a gift to his wife. The title refers to a line in a poem by Georg Heym. The title of Celan's poem refers to a direct quote from Heym's poem, where the protagonist asks to be allowed to plunge into the other’s eyes in order to descend to their depth. Here, once again, we have the movement toward the other. And once again we have a movement to the deep/depth of the other through darkness.

The complexity of this short poem arises from the use of a cluster of images involving “word,” “write,” “room,” “deepen,” and “depth.” I believe that Celan is saying that through the “word”-through poetry that they have read together-they have deepened their relationship and this relationship once formed is endless. Through seeing the other through writing they deepen each other in their depth. On one level this is an expression of love from Celan to his wife. On another level it is an expression of love to the unknown other. This unknown other could be God or the Self.

The following translation is mine. I used the German version from Paul Celan, Die Gedichte, Suhrkamp 2003.

The word from To the Depth Goes
that we have read.
The year, the word since then.
We are it still.

You know the room is endless,
you know you do not need to fly,
you know what you have written in your eye
deepens in the depth.

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