Mad Girl’s Love Song – Sylvia Plath – Analysis

Mad Girl’s Love Song was written by Sylvia Plath in 1951 when she was twenty. She was a student at Smith College. It is usually included in the biographical note appended to Plath’s novel – The Bell Jar.

The poem was first published in the August 1953 edition of Mademoiselle.  In June 1953 Plath worked for Mademoiselle as a Guest Editor in New York City, as portrayed in The Bell Jar.

It was written before her first suicide attempt of 24 August 1953.

Looking at this Sylvia Plath villanelle in detail …

“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead,

1,1,1,1,1 1,1,1,1,1=10
Ten syllable iambic – with an up and down bounce to it as you read the line. The quotes indicate the start of a conversation between poet and reader.

To what extent does the world drop dead when you shut your eyes?

If you say to the world ‘drop dead’ and you are irritated by what is going-on then shutting your eyes may shut out the world – provided there is not a noisy car screeching up the road!

But by shutting your eyes you enter into yourself – at least to some extent – sometimes you may find an internal sanctuary of precious space that is you – shut your eye and think about it. 

I lift my lids and all is born again.

1,1,1,1,1 1,1,1,2=10
The end of the first sentence

Opening eyes is a return to the world a return to where you have been – and if you have been truly away from the world, and there is no screeching car to damage your retreat then perhaps you are indeed born again and everything is new.

(I think I made you up inside my head.)

1,1,1,1,1 1,2,1,1=10
This is the closing line to the rhyming couplet of the villanelle – lines 1 and 3.

It is a thought, emphasized by the brackets … a personal thought about a person created in the mind or about a thought about a real person known to the poet – what form this make-up takes is not known … but from the title of the poem we might assume a male person.

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,

Closing the eyes to dance in the sky to blue and red stars – well that sounds pretty high to me (if you excuse the pun)

And arbitrary darkness gallops in.

 The dark is arbitrary, indiscriminate … and the world around continues to interfere with the high … galloping horses invade rather than a screeching car.

 I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

This is a reiteration of getting away from the world around her by closing her eyes.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.

Well I think we can take this as mind-sensuality – if not I’m sure she would remember the experience and there would be no question … indicating a physical desire

(I think I made you up inside my head).

… again the villanelle refrain reinforces the fact that it she is in the mind world

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and enter Satan’s men:

The highs and lows of imaginary love disappear … note that these are defined by the extremes of God toppling and hell fading … and exit an angel and in come Satan’s men the reality of the real world which overwhelms.

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

perhaps living in hope that this will be the case … removal from the world

I fancied you’d return the way you said.
But I grow old and I forget your name.

… unfortunately there is no return of the mind-lover and the high/low experience of love

(I think I made you up inside my head).

… It was made up before but where are you now

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.

… I don’t know what a thunderbird is … but there is some guarantee offered of a return … gave me the image of a flash of lightning

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

(I think I made you up inside my head.)”

… the mind-love conversation concludes. Unfortunately it took much more that the shutting of eyes for her world to eventually drop dead.

Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963)


Looking at Madness and the poet and via this excellent website link-

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, are of imagination all compact ” ~ William Shakespeare.

From the diary of Sylvia Plath  (early fifties)…

“To annihilate the world by annihilation of one’s self is the deluded height of desperate egoism. The simple way out of all the little brick dead ends we scratch our nails against … I want to kill myself, to escape from responsibility, to crawl back abjectly into the womb.”

Footnote …

The interest in the controversial aspects a poet’s life itself can sometimes draw attention away from their creations. There is a general tendency for the sensational and pathological to attract heightened notice by the general public.

This may not always be a negative thing, however, as it can generate more interest – See more at:

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