Gadamer’s hermeneutical exegesis of the first poem from Paul Celan’s Breath-turn

CONSOLED YOU may
welcome me with snow:
whenever I strode through the summer
shoulder to shoulder with the mulberry tree,
its youngest leaf
screamed.

DU DARFST mich getrost
mit Schnee bewirten:
sooft ich Schulter an Schulter
mit dem Maulbeerbaum schritt durch den Sommer,
schrie sein jüngstes
Blatt.

This is like a proem to the entire sequence. It is a difficult text which begins with strange directness. The poem is controlled by a sharp contrast. Snow makes everything the same, freezes and stills. Yet here it is not only accepted, but welcomed. This is because the summer, which remains behind the speaker, was apparently impossible to endure in the profusion of its germinating, budding, and blooming. Clearly, no actual summer lies behind the speaker, just as the You addressed in the poem does not mean winter or make an offer of real snow Apparently it was a time of abundance, in contrast to which the sterile deprivation of the winter works like an act of charity. The speaker strode through the summer shoulder to shoulder with the tirelessly germinating mulberry tree. The mulberry tree here is undoubtedly the emblem of germinating energy, and the constantly lush production of new growth is a symbol of an insatiable thirst for life. Unlike other shrubbery, the mulberry tree produces fresh leaves not only in the spring, but throughout the entire summer. I don’t think it’s correct to recall the old metaphorical tradition of baroque poetry. Admittedly, Paul Celan was a poeta doctus, but more importantly, he had an extraordinary knowledge of nature. Heidegger told me that up in the Black Forest, Celan knew more about the plants and animals than he did.

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