Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Plath:Colonial Era Superstition

Goatsucker

Old goatherds swear how all night long they hear
The warning whirr and burring of the bird
Who wakes with darkness and till dawn works hard
Vampiring dry of milk each great goat udder.
Moon full, moon dark, the chary dairy farmer
Dreams that his fattest cattle dwindle, fevered
By claw-cuts of the Goatsucker, alias Devil-bird,
Its eye, flashlit, a chip of ruby fire.

So fables say the Goatsucker moves, masked from men's sight
In an ebony air, on wings of witch cloth,
Well-named, ill-famed a knavish fly-by-night,
Yet it never milked any goat, nor dealt cow death
And shadows only--cave-mouth bristle beset--
Cockchafers and the wan, green luna moth.


Sylvia Plath
1959


In many ways that was a busy and productive time for Plath; she and her husband both sold poems, Plath met other writers such as Anne Sexton, and later that year Sylvia and Ted were invited to Yaddo.

But something was missing. Plath had been unable to become pregnant and she expressed doubts about her fertility, which is probably a key to the poem.

This sonnet differs a bit from her earlier efforts using the form. The rhythms are looser. There are devices, like the close rhymes of "chary dairy" and incessant alliteration, that later became associated with her astonishing Ariel voice. This is an excellent example of her craft.

1 comment:

wunelle said...

So ghostly to see her smiling broadly in that picture. It's like her history--and this poem (and so many others)--do not match the photo.