[The image of man] by Paul Eluard – translated by Mary Ann Caws

by Steven McCabe

eluard magic

The image of man, not now underground, is resplendent. Plains

of lead seem to assure him that it will no longer be reversed,

but this is only to plunge it again into this great sadness which

gives it an outline. The former strength, yes, the former strength

used to suffice unto itself. Any succour is useless, it will perish by

extinction, a death gentle and calm.

eluard celuard aa

She enters the dense forest, whose silent solitude hurls the soul

into a sea whose waves are lamps and mirrors. The lovely star of

white leaves that, on a more distant level, seems the queen of the

colors, contrasts with the stuff of gazes, leaning on the trunks of

the incalculable incompetence, of harmonious plants.

eduard beluard's eye

Not now underground, the image of man wields five raging

sabres. It has already unearthed the hovel housing the black reign

of the enthusiasts of begging, lowliness, and prostitution. On the

largest ship displacing the sea, the image of man sets out and

recounts to the sailors returning from shipwrecks a story about

brigands.: “When he was five, his mother gave him a treasure.

What to do with it? Except calm her down. She crushed with her

hellish arms the glass container where the poor marvels of man are

sleeping. The marvels followed her. The poet’s carnation sacrificed

the skies for a blonde mane of hair, the chameleon lingered in

a clearing to construct there a tiny palace of strawberries and

spiders, the Egyptian pyramids made the passerby laugh, because

they didn’t know that the rains slake the earth’s thirst. Finally, the

orange butterfly shook its seeds over the eyelid of the children

who thought they felt the sandman going by.”

here eluardEluards 4

The image of man dreams, but nothing more is hanging on

his dreams than the unparalleled night. Then, to recall the sailors

to some semblance of reason, someone who had seemed drunk

slowly uttered this sentence:

“Good and evil have their origin in a few errors carried out

to excess.”


Capital of Pain, Black Widow Press, 2006

translated by Mary Ann Caws, Patricia Terry, Nancy Kline

originally published 1926.