Saturday, October 20, 2007

Plath for an October Sunday

By Candlelight

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 on 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,
Balled hedgehog,
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 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.

Sylvia Plath

This was written in the last year of Plath's life and it evokes the interior of Plath's thatch-roof cottage in Devonshire where we can see her with her infant son and a humorous little candle-holder. I have always considered this poem to be a companion-piece, obviously, to Nick and the Candlestick from her Ariel collection.

In Candlelight was published in the New Yorker magazine and later in the Winter Trees collection put out by Ted Hughes well after Plath died.

It's too easy for us to slip Plath into the category of the anguished, tortured, jilted suicide. She was all that of course, but she was mostly a very excellent poet who had absolutely mastered her craft and she was capable, even near her end, of directly expressing the most tender and beautiful things.

When she was about seven years old.


may said...

how i wish i can have passion for poetry like you have. but i don't, because i am not smart enough to decipher what poetry REALLY means. i'm just this clueless prose only girl who is not deep enough to be touched by poetry :(

i have a curious question though: other than plath's excellence in poetry, is there any reason why you are sort of obsessed with her and her work?

you don't have to answer if that is a stupid question :)

Eli Blake said...

The poem and your description of Plath caused me to think about Don McLean's song, 'Vincent' (a.k.a. 'Starry, starry night'), about Van Gogh.

Souls lost, forever tormented somewhere in the infinite reaches of eternity, and whose value the world stubbornly would not appreciate until only their ghosts remained behind, in the works that they left for us.