Plath Research Essay, Research Paper
Blue light clear atoms
Ariel, published by Harper & Row, 1966
The Bell Jar (1963)
Sylvia Plath was born in Boston in
1932. She grew up in a comfortably
middle-class style and attended
Smith College. She suffered a
breakdown at the end of her junior
year of college, but recovered well
enough to return and excel during
her senior year, receiving various
prizes and graduating summa cum
laude. In 1955, having been awarded
a Fulbright scholarship, she began
two years at Cambridge University.
There she met and married the
British poet Ted Hughes and settled in England, bearing two
children. Her first book of poems, The Colossus (1960),
demonstrated her precocious talent, but was far more
conventional than the work that followed. Having studied with
Robert Lowell in 1959 and been influenced by the “confessional”
style of his collection Life Studies, she embarked on the new
work that made her posthumous reputation as a major poet. A
terrifying record of her encroaching mental illness, the poems
that were collected after her suicide (at age 31) in 1963 in the
volumes Ariel, Crossing the Water, and Winter Trees are
graphically macabre, hallucinatory in their imagery, but full of
ironic wit, technical brilliance, and tremendous emotional power.
Her Selected Poems were published by Ted Hughes in 1985.
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
Nick and the Candlestick
by Sylvia Plath
I am a miner. The light burns blue.
Drip and thicken, tears
The earthen womb
Exudes from its dead boredom.
Black bat airs
Wrap me, raggy shawls,
They weld to me like plums.
Old cave of calcium
Icicles, old echoer.
Even the newts are white,
Those holy Joes.
And the fish, the fish
Christ! They are panes of ice,
A vice of knives,
Its first communion out of my live toes.
Gulps and recovers its small altitude,
Its yellows hearten.
O love, how did you get here?
Remembering, even in sleep,
Your crossed position.
The blood blooms clean
In you, ruby.
You wake to is not yours.
I have hung our cave with roses.
With soft rugs
The last of Victoriana.
Let the stars
Plummet to their dark address,
Let the mercuric
Atoms that cripple drip
Into the terrible well,
You are the one
Solid the spaces lean on, envious.
You are the baby in the barn.
This is winter, this is night, small love —
A sort of black horsehair,
A rough, dumb country stuff
Steeled with the sheen
Of what green stars can make it to our gate.
I hold you in my arm.
It is very late.
The dull bells tongue the hour.
The mirror floats us at one candle power.
This is the fluid in which we meet each other,
This haloey radiance that seems to breathe
And lets our shadows wither
Only to blow
Them huge again, violent giants on the wall.
One match scratch makes you real.
At first the candle will not bloom at all —
It snuffs its bud to almost nothing, to a dull blue dud.
I hold my breath until you creak to life,
Small and cross. The yellow knife
Grows tall. You clutch your bars.
My singing makes you roar.
I rock you like a boat
Across the Indian carpet, the cold floor,
While the brass man
Kneels, back bent as best he can
Hefting his white pillar with the light
That keeps the sky at bay,
The sack of black! It is everywhere, tight, tight!
He is all yours, the little brassy Atlas —
Poor heirloom, all you have
At his heels a pile of five brass cannonballs,
No child, no wife.
Five balls! Five bright brass balls!
To juggle with, my love when the sky falls.
Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo’s mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fool’s Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.
Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our travelled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.
The Sunday lamb cracks in its fat.
Sacrifices its opacity….
A window, holy gold.
The fire makes it precious,
The same fire
Melting the tallow heretics,
Ousting the Jews.
Their thick palls float
Over the cicatrix of Poland, burnt-out
They do not die.
Grey birds obsess my heart,
Mouth-ash, ash of eye.
They settle. On the high
That emptied one man into space
The ovens glowed like heavens, incandescent.
It is a heart,
This holocaust I walk in,
O golden child the world will kill and eat.