Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sunday Plath: The Title Poem


Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.

God's lioness,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees! ---The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,

Berries cast dark
Hooks ---

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Something else

Hauls me through air ---
Thighs, hair;
Flakes from my heels.

Godiva, I unpeel ---
Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child's cry

Melts in the wall.
And I
Am the arrow,

The dew that flies,
Suicidal, at one with the drive
Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.

Sylvia Plath

Ariel is one of the many known moons of Uranus. I think it is beautiful. Discovered by William Lowell in 1851, I doubt this figures importantly in Plath's poem.

Ariel means "lion of god" and the angel, though originally male, is often depicted in female form.

But there was a real "Ariel" in Plath's life, even at the time of the writing of this poem in 1962 most likely: a horse. By all accounts a rather slow and gentle old horse, upon which Plath occasionally rode for her lessons when she was living in Devon.

A "tor" is a hill, usually with an outcropping of rocks at its summit. This is a picture of Vixen's Tor in Devon, and I think it's possible Plath was familiar with it.

I love how the poem starts out motionless and then accelerates to a wild ride towards the sun.

All on a horse that very likely could not outrun a houseplant.

Because the "Ariel" voice had sprung so full-formed and quickly into her poetic imagnation, often allowing Plath to write two and sometimes three fully accomplished poems in one day, I think the speeding-up depicted in this represents what she was going through at the time. Mania, perhaps. That's probably why she chose it as the title poem for what posthumously became her greatest collection.

And the irony of naming this for such a quaint, mild, and assuredly pedestrian old animal.

1 comment:

GingerJar said...

I love how after a shift of holy hell you can still come home and enjoy opposed to watching the evening news and mayhem.

I think I like this Sylvia gal.