[The image of man] by Paul Eluard – translated by Mary Ann Caws
by Steven McCabe
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.
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.
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.”
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
Capital of Pain, Black Widow Press, 2006
translated by Mary Ann Caws, Patricia Terry, Nancy Kline
originally published 1926.
I don’t know what to do with this one yet. There are so many layers of relationship between your images and that amazing poem- that thing makes me tremble a bit. The first four images are especially striking to me. With all of them though, it is obvious how well you have felt the poem and translate your images around and through it.
Thanks Jack for taking so much time to look at this in depth. And for bringing to it your own multi-dimensional perspective. After the 4th image I needed to transition with the poem and think perhaps the effect is like when the browser on the monitor suddenly shudders and takes you to a new URL. Or a previous page. I could be inspired to create endless images to go with this poem & would have liked to have broken it up into shorter segments inserting art but wanted to remain true to how the translator (and poet I assume in the 1926 original) formatted the work. I appreciate how you’re looking at the landscape of the two mediums together. Sometimes one wants to take the train further than the schedule allows. That’s how I felt about this.
Lots of colour, approaching the psychedelic. Wonderful to see an Eluard.
Thanks for that observation Pierre. Now I’ll have to think about the relationship of surrealism to the psychedelic and the colours here to the psychedelic. I agree, nice to see an Eluard. Such a visual poet.
Entrancing dance between poem and images – some of the best art I’ve seen from you – kudos…
Thank you John. Glad to hear your thoughts. . I felt ‘quite danced with’ by this poem, surely it was light on its feet, magnetic, and taking me to corners of the dance floor I wasn’t sure existed.
Dance on my friend…
Some exceptional images in this sequence, Steven. Shadow and light in the words, too. Amazing.
I am particularity drawn to the last one and The blue/white “harmonious plants”.
Thank you Karen. Yes interesting you would see the images in the words as light and shadow.
His glass and rain, lamps and mirrors might not be explicit but the implication
is there. Must be there. Both images you mention essentially end a sequence. Which means, I suppose,
they are starting points too.