Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Plath Poetry on Percy

"Among the Narcissi"

Spry, wry, and gray as these March sticks,
Percy bows, in his blue peajacket, among the narcissi.
He is recuperating from something on the lung.

The narcissi, too, are bowing to some big thing :
It rattles their stars on the green hill where Percy
Nurses the hardship of his stitches, and walks and walks.

There is a dignity to this; there is a formality-
The flowers vivid as bandages, and the man mending.
They bow and stand : they suffer such attacks!

And the octogenarian loves the little flocks.
He is quite blue; the terrible wind tries his breathing.
The narcissi look up like children, quickly and whitely.

Sylvia Plath

In the spring of 1962 the fields around Devon were covered with such flowers.

There actually was a "Percy." Percy Key. He was a handyman sort who lived with his wife in a cottage by the one Ted and Sylvia had in Devonshire. He helped the young couple with some house remodeling.

After lung surgery he was recuperating at home. On that Easter Sunday Ted, Sylvia, and their children were outside in the garden taking family pictures.

They heard Rose Key next door frantically shouting to them for help. They rushed to see Percy; he was slouched in a chair, stricken by a lethal stroke. (They didn't have post-operative Lovenox therapy to reduce risk of embolism back then.)

Plath and Hughes attended his funeral in late June and Sylvia wrote one of her more famous poems, the stunning and substantial "Berck-Plage," about Percy's death and burial though in that long poem Plath does not cite him by name.


Ruth said...

Thank you for the wonderful post. It's particularly meaningful to me because my ex is presently in a second month of unconsciousness, has been kept alive against the wishes he had always expressed to our son. It's horrible for us all. Nice to have a beautiful association like this.

Ruth said...

I also stole from you, for Sunday poetry, but credited you, with a link.