Ann Lundvall, Gunnar Ekelöfs dikt "Samothrake" och segergudinnan Nike från Samothrake. (Gunnar Ekelöf’s Poem "Samothrace" and the Goddess of Victory Nike from Samothrace.)
Gunnar Ekelöfs poem "Samothrace" in Non serviam (1945) has been well examined by many scholars; Gunnar Tideström (1947), Brita Tigerschiöld (1959), Gunnar Brandell (1966), Ingmar Stenroth (1981), Anders Olsson (1983) and Sverker R Ek (2005), to mention the most important studies.
This study, which is a chapter in a coming thesis about Gunnar Ekelöf and the visual arts, differs from the earlier essays mainly through the interartial perspective. By this concept I mean that there is a connection with one or several forms of art to be found in the poem. I also search into a metapoetical dimension of the poem, where the poem has something to say about itself and about the creative process. Furthermore, I point to the possibility of an approach related to gender and society.
There are several indications of the presence of an interartial dimension in "Samothrace". I investigate the different versions and variants of the poem to find evidence of this. It was published two times before 1945, the first time in 1941 as "Paian", in Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning, and the second time in 1943 as "Samothrace. A democratic antiphon", in Bonniers Litterära Magasin (BLM). Ekelöf made several drafts of "Samothrake"; I follow them along the way in the manuscripts towards the third and final version, analysing changes and differences.
The poet saw the sculpture Nike from Samothrace (200–190 B.C.) at the Louvre 1925, and wrote about the impression it made on him in a letter to his mother. In another letter to a friend, written 1941, Ekelöf confirms that he had the sculpture in mind when he wrote the poem. He also mentions Nike in connection with "Samothrace" in a letter written in 1967.
Some of the questions I ask in my study are: Who is Nike and what is she doing in Gunnar Ekelöf’s poem? What is the function of the work of art in "Samothrace"? I also point to thefact that the scholarly tradition concerning the poem "Samothrace" is dominated by men. This may be why the voice of Nike herself, the goddess of victory, has not been heard in the poem, or has been neglected, until here, and recently in Sverker R. Ek’s essay "The vision of victory in a time of darkness" (in In Dialogue with the Text, 2005).
As previous research shows, "Samothrace" is a very rich poem, containing numerous echoes of other poems in the literature of the Western World. There is a discussion of the poem and previous studies of it in the first part of the analysis. In another section, I compare the metaphorical language of "Samothrace" to that of the poem "Skidbladner" (1812), by the Swedish poet Esaias Tegnér (1782–1846). I also point to some similarities concerning the imagery in a Norwegian folktale found in a collection of folktales from 1934. Ekelöf refers to this book in the aforementioned letter from 1967, and more specifically to an illustration of a ship he calls "Draugen", which, as the poet himself declares in his letter, bears some resemblance to the ship in "Samothrace".
Further, I analyse some important themes and symbols in "Samothrace", such as victory, the Virgin, the ship, the cloak, the fold and the ocean, which are all in some way connected with the famous sculpture of Nike from Samothrace, and with the mythological figure of Nike, whose history I briefly touch upon, referring to Marina Warner’s book Monuments and Maidens. The Allegory of the Female Form (1985).
As a result of this study, I conclude that Gunnar Ekelöf’s poem "Samothrace" is not an ekphrasis, i. e. a poem which describes and interprets a work of art. Instead it interacts with the sculpture, to intensify the experience and the visualization of the poem. This interaction also aims to reveal its own conditions and the creative process. "Samothrace" contains what seems to be an infinite variety of dimensions. In this paper, I have focused on the interartial and the metapoetical dimension. The possibility of an approach related to gender and society was mentioned, but I leave it to further study to shed more light upon this perspective.
Uppsala: Svenska Litteratursällskapet , 2006. Vol. 127, 232-282 p.