quarta-feira, 26 de maio de 2010

"Two views of a cadaver room", um estranho poema de Sylvia Plath

“ (1)

The day she visited the dissecting room
They had four men laid out, black as burnt turkey,
Already half unstrung. A vinegary fume
Of the death vats clung to them;
The white-smocked boys started working.
The head of his cadaver had caved in,
And she could scarcely make out anything
In that rubble of skull plates and old leather.
A sallow piece of string held it together.

In their jars the snail-nosed babies moon and glow.
He hands her the cut-out heart like a cracked heirloom.

In Brueghel's panorama of smoke and slaughter
Two people only are blind to the carrion army:
He, afloat in the sea of her blue satin
Skirts, sings in the direction
Of her bare shoulder, while she bends,
Finger a leaflet of music, over him,
Both of them deaf to the fiddle in the hands
Of the death's-head shadowing their song.
These Flemish lovers flourish;not for long.

Yet desolation, stalled in paint, spares the little country
Foolish, delicate, in the lower right hand corner.”

Hoje o meu comentário vai em inglês.
Just for a change!

"In 1959 Sylvia Plath wrote one of her more disturbing poems, ‘Two Views of a Cadaver Room’. The poem’s structure reminds of a diptych: in the first part/scene the reader is told a story that takes place in a hospital dissecting room; in the second part/scene the speaker ponders on a painting by Pieter Breughel, the Elder.
In the first part the speaker picks up an episode that Plath inserted in her Diary, and that would emerge a few years later in her novel, The Bell Jar: The protagonist, Esther Greenwood, is led by her boyfriend into a hospital room where, in a gothic-like atmosphere, he and his colleagues will dissect a body.
The poem ironically reinscribes this narrative in a gothic setting: among ‘snail-nosed babies’ kept ‘in their jars’, the boyfriend literally puts a heart in her hands: ‘He hands her the cut-out heart like a cracked heirloom’. The second part is an ekphrasis of Breughel’s 1568 The Triumph of Death.
Narratives of slaughter and death fill the painting. A minor counter-point narrative stands however on the right lower corner, ‘Two people only are blind to the carrion army’ (Plath, 1981: 114). Plath seems to forget the whole panorama and the numerous narratives in this apocalyptic scenery when she brings centre stage this detail. She knows that ‘These Flemish lovers flourish, not for long’. Love and death emerge then as two sides of the same reality. The two parts of the diptych mirror each other like distortions that reveal both a subconscious and a tradition.
I stated at the beginning that this was a rather disturbing poem. Since Plath’s poetry is known for its ability to disquiet emotional and ethical boundaries, my statement requires some clarification.
This poem stands on a rather obvious dysphoric gothic atmosphere. But this poem enhances another level of disquiet ness: the expression ‘cadaver room’, since only one cadaver room is explicitly mentioned in the first part, and no visible cadaver room appears in the second part. Which ‘two views’ are these? We are not only dealing with an emotional disturbing atmosphere but mostly with a hermeneutic one. Ambiguity actually prevails: The ‘cadaver room’ of the second part summons a subliminal room, the one of the Prado Museum where the painting is exhibited. In this reading the cadaver room becomes a whole pictorial and narrative tradition. Consequently the apocalyptic atmosphere is transplanted from somewhere in a distant time – Breughel’s - into the present.
Despite Plath’s debunking of tradition she still unveils a narrative, a moral. In her reading Breughel remains a Master, someone who provides relevant lessons. In ‘Two Views of a Cadaver Room’ the Old Master's presence has a specific meaning, the denial of an idealized (Romantic?) concept of love, and of its clichés. In Plath the moral strategy prevails.

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