s Wifes SignificancIn his poetry which he wrote during his time in jail, Breyten Breytenbach shows that his wife and his love for her had a tremendous influence on his survival under the physically and emotionally harsh conditions of prison. The thought of his wife allowed Breyten Breytenbach to escape from the horrors of his surroundings in prison and gave him psychological freedom; word from her let him escape into a world of space, peace and freedom created for him in her letters, memories of being together with his wife transported him psychologically to another time and place where he had been free.
Breytenbachs poem your letter is delightful shows the important role that his wife plays in his life. She is his God, for even as Gods powers become useless in the chaotic world around him, she is able to bring him joy and hope and free his mind. Breytenbach compares his wife to God in this poem by using biblical allusions.
The letter from his wife is lighter than the thoughts of a flower when the dream is the earth of a garden She brings light into his world, just as God brings light to the world at the beginning of time. With her letter comes images of light, of freedom, of joy. The earth of a garden brings to mind the garden of Eden, a paradise, to where Breytenbach can escape from reality. His wife also brings word from the outside, and in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.
The poem contains many allusions to Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd, which reinforces this role of Breytenbachs wife. allow me to live in your letter / all the days of my life is an allusion to the part of Psalm 23 and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord throughout the years to come. Her letter creates a safe place for Breytenbach to mentally escape to, and he would like to be able to stay in that place, away from reality, from prison, for all the days of his life.
Breytenbachs wife needs to replace God in Breytenbachs life because God seems to have forsaken him. I slept in green pastures is an allusion to Psalm 23, but sleep is used in the past tense, emphasising that the peace that God gave him is no longer his. the table before me, in the presence of my enemies, / is bare; I have ash on my head, my cup is empty is another biblical allusion, but in Psalm 23, God has furnished his table and anointed his head with oil, and the cup overflows. And so, Breytenbach fled to his wifes letter, escaped. This also shows that God is no longer able to help Breytenbach escape from his misery, as his wife alone can.
Word from or the thought alone of his wife allows Breytenbach to escape mentally from the agony and gloom of prison. In your letter is delightful, her letter brings him word from the outside suggests that the letter allows him a glimpse of a world outside the miserable one he currently is in. He will be suspended by the sky of her words her words, the letter, allow him to temporarily escape from prison and the horrors of imprisonment.
In do you still remember, Breytenbach is reminiscing about the old days of freedom (assumed to be spent with his wife from the last line you and I, best beloved?). This journey down memory lane through all the tunnels and sluices of the city allows Breytenbach to completely escape from reality and into another time and place where freedom was still his. The fact that Breytenbach described every scene, every place in detail shows that he was completely detached from the present and had fully escaped back to the past. He shows that indulging in memories of days spent with his wife, also help him to achieve psychological freedom.
Space, psychological or physical, is linked with freedom, and in your letter is delightful there is a lot of imagery concerning large, open spaces. Breytenbachs wifes letter is larger and lighter than the thoughts of a flower, and as it opens, there is an unfolding of sky of ample spaces. As soon as the letter opens, there is a sense of release from confinement. Unfolding suggests opening, loosening, as if the ties that bound him as a prisoner are coming loose. The image of sky is of vast expanse of space, of freedom to soar in all directions, not being confined to the ground there are no boundaries in the sky, it is an infinite space. His thoughts are, therefore, with her letter, free to soar in any direction with no boundaries. That is shown in the style of most of the poem (the parts that deal with the letter) it is a steady stream of thought which roams in all directions. The word sky is used in another part of the poem suspended by the sky of your words emphasising that her words, her letter, bring him freedom. your letter is delightful, stretching out lighter than thoughts of a flower – stretching out portrays the same idea as unfolding; of releasing, freeing from confinement. Stretching out increases space and therefore freedom, space to develop thoughts and feelings.
When Breytenbach thinks of his wife, he feels joy and hope, and even when he is not entirely escaping from reality, his perspective on the world around him is slightly altered, and is not quite as grim and hideous. In the poem in the middle of the night, he describes the prisoners on death rowthe voices of those / to be hanged within days / rise up already sounding thin / with the terror of stiff ropes In your letter is delightful (after having just read the letter from his wife) how they sing, / they who will jolt from obscurity to the light The tone describing the prisoners in latter poem is less blunt and hideous and more poetic. The prisoners in the second poem are singing, instead of having thin voices, and death has a positive view instead of the terror of stiff ropes, the death-row prisoners will be jolted into the light, and would therefore be escaping their terrible life of imprisonment, like residents about to quit a burning city, into a new world where there is light. The difference in the descriptions in two poems show that Breytenbach was certainly in more positive mood in your letter is delightful, while in in the middle of the night he is in despair. The letter from his wife as allowed him to see the world differently, if even just for a moment.
Breyten Breytenbachs wife was the source of his strength her letters, memories of happier days spent together, and the thought of his love for her, permitted him to flee psychologically from his ugly, confused surroundings. She could still bring him joy, peace and comfort even though she could be seen or physically reached by him in this way she is his saviour, his God.
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