Wuthering Heights – Sylvia Plath – Analysis

Wuthering Heights

The horizons ring me like faggots,
Tilted and disparate, and always unstable.
Touched by a match, they might warm me,
And their fine lines singe
The air to orange
Before the distances they pin evaporate,
Weighting the pale sky with a soldier color.
But they only dissolve and dissolve
Like a series of promises, as I step forward.

There is no life higher than the grasstops
Or the hearts of sheep, and the wind
Pours by like destiny, bending
Everything in one direction.
I can feel it trying
To funnel my heat away.
If I pay the roots of the heather
Too close attention, they will invite me
To whiten my bones among them.

The sheep know where they are,
Browsing in their dirty wool-clouds,
Gray as the weather.
The black slots of their pupils take me in.
It is like being mailed into space,
A thin, silly message.
They stand about in grandmotherly disguise,
All wig curls and yellow teeth
And hard, marbly baas.

I come to wheel ruts, and water
Limpid as the solitudes
That flee through my fingers.
Hollow doorsteps go from grass to grass;
Lintel and sill have unhinged themselves.
Of people and the air only
Remembers a few odd syllables.
It rehearses them moaningly:
Black stone, black stone.

The sky leans on me, me, the one upright
Among all horizontals.
The grass is beating its head distractedly.
It is too delicate
For a life in such company;
Darkness terrifies it.
Now, in valleys narrow
And black as purses, the house lights
Gleam like small change.

Sylvia Plath (1930 – 1963)

This is a poem of place and SP lived in Yorkshire with Ted Hughes for a time and must have gone walking on the moors. I lived in Ilkley Yorkshire while studying so I can identify with these words as they convey the nature of the windswept moors.

Mention the word ‘wuthering’ and you immediately think of blustery winds, Yorkshire moors and Emily Bronte. And the title takes the mind to that most well-known of books ‘Wuthering Heights’. See this review.

S1 – Faggots and peat are a feature of moorland and were used as fuel, a faggot being defined as a bundle of sticks. The imagery is about sunset likened to the glow and death of singeing faggots. The sun catching the edges of cloud as it lowers in the sky. The moors are vast open expanses and the horizon features in all directions. Distances evaporate with the changing light like promises. SP touches an air of disappointment.

S2 – There is no life higher than the bending grasses and the odd sheep. The wind hurries with unending force bending nature in the prevailing direction. It hurries like destiny. SP stands out like a lone tree and must confront the onslaught as it continually chills. She wouldn’t want to stumble and join the white sheep-bones seen along the way in the heather. From my own experience there are vast tracks of land with little opportunity of shelter.

S3 – A very apt description of the moorland sheep. They do match the bleakness of the moors with their dirty wool-clouds – an appropriate combination of nouns. And of course they are used to the terrain. Grandmotherly disguise belies their more timid nature. And when alone on the moors you are in another world with only the sheep for company.

S4 – The track, ruts and grass clumps are likened to fallen architecture imagined as homes with hollow doorsteps the lintels and stills unhinged of people. The only conversation is from the wind which makes a few odd moaning syllables. The loneliness or solitude is reinforced. The repetition of black adds to the mood as well as implying it is now dark.

S5 – SP has sympathy for the grass terrified by the wind and the dark how can it survive. But SP is approaching the homeward descent and the lights of homes in the distance give anticipation of warmth and company in contrast to the moorland. The lights are likened to loose change. Indicating something personal that will give comfort when she returns. Something perhaps she has had with her all the time in her pocket which she now values very much.

Not that long later Sylvia plath had her final resting place in West Yorkshire for her grave is at St Thomas’ churhyard in the village of Heptonstall.

Sylvia Plath on Wikipedia. 

 

Loveliest of trees … A. E. Housman (carpe diem)

SpringBlossomCrab Apple

Spring is in the air (in Australia that is)… turning to A. E. Housman …

from The Shropshire Lad (II)

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are litmitle room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A. E. Housman (1859 – 1936)

As ‘twenty will not come again’ AEH is considering the brevity of life at an early age … so he decides to make the most of the moment … appreciation of where he is … the beauty of spring blossom in Shropshire, England … good philosophy, and independent of age to make the most of the moment …

A different second stanza …

I’ve used my three score years and ten
only a few will come again
so in every possible way
I make the most of every day!

Another ‘carpe diem’ (seize the day) poem springs to mind …

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

Robert Herrick (1591 – 1674)

The Latin phrase carpe diem actually originated in the ‘odes’… poems composed by the Roman poet Horace … see https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/carpe-diem-poems-making-most-time

‘Poetry on the Move’ – Festival 2018 – Canberra – Prize Winner

IPSI

The vice chancellor of Canberra University (Professor Deep Saini) and Paul Munden  making the announcement of the winner of the 2018 international poetry competition.

Sharing what happened on the poetry scene in Canberra last week … the Canberra University faculty of Arts and Design and the International Poetry Studies Institute have a poetry festival every year called ‘Poetry on the Move’ … and they announced the winner of their annual international competition … worth a staggering $15,000 … it attracted over 1,400 entries. The well-known poet Wendy Cope was the main judge. It was interesting to note in Wendy Cope’s assessment of the entries that poetic form was somewhat absent. The Robert Frost ‘tennis net’ set aside.

The winning poem had a religious connotation … it was a poem from the Canadian poet Michael Lavers. A poem called –

‘The angel in charge of creating Earth addresses his cohort’

An interesting title because I thought God created the Earth … maybe God delegated the task to one of his angels … let’s assume he did … well this angel now addresses the other angels of her/his cohort …

Well the other angels might have been given different tasks creating other worlds … and dare I say it better worlds …

Here is what Michael Lavers had to say about his poem –

“In my poem’s version of the story, the making of Earth has been delegated to this novice angel and his band of beginners because, I imagine, they don’t have the skills necessary to make better, more important worlds,” …

… the poem becomes about failure, the inevitability of failure, but also, I hope, the beauty of failure. There are many aspects of planet earth that could have benefited from a more expert maker, but the poem also tries to acknowledge that it is these very flaws that make this planet and the creatures on it so surprising, so unique, and so irreplaceable.”

Looking at some lines from the poem …

… the opening …
Well who cares if more important worlds have been
assigned to those more skillful, who make crusts
that never crack, or plates too fixed to creep
or jostle or explode?

… the second line is so skilful in making a such a spelling mistake considering the poem is dedicated to failure.

He then follows with the splendours of the makeshift … it is his choice and poetic description of these ‘splendours’ that must have impressed, for example when he considers the weather …

cold May wind, wailing and barbed and riven,
… and the landscape … coastlines ragged as a vulture’s wing
… and looking at the deserts …
Those patches we forgot to water?
Call them deserts, hide there all our
misbegotten dregs, the scorpions
and saltbush beds, blind rats, weird toads.

And of course the ‘splendours’ of a broken humanity are included …
no two cracked the same, some warped or knotted, bent of back,
Some dragging weak-seamed hearts towards stagnation.

It is as though humanity came from an egg … cracking so appropriate in relation to the imperfections and failure of the novice angel … cracking is used earlier in the poem in relation to the tectonic plates and the cracking of the Earth.

The last six lines (akin to a sonnet with a shift in thought) applaud the novice angel for her work and not to envy those more skilful angels … for they should be stunned by your mistakes … and ending with emphasis on the benefits of failure …

the accidents of beauty, which, once realised,
can never be forgotten or undone.

In my mind an excellent poem which makes readers contemplate the failure-world and the benefit of imperfection … and a truly award-winning choice of concept and developed in a brilliant way.

The ending so positive … the failed, broken-world astounds with beauty … the incomparable, the only world … and how fitting to end with that word beauty in mind … in my last Post there is another poem where beauty dominates …. the poem ‘Sonnet to Beauty’ by Lola Ridge. So hopefully those that are particularly broken can still appreciate the ever-present beauty in our world. I will emphasize that we are all broken to some degree!

A big thankyou to Canberra University and all those staff that continue to make this event so engaging for all those that appreciate poetry!

Reference: Poetry on the Move Website

Reference: ‘Sonnet to Beauty’ – Lola Ridge

 

Sonnet to Beauty – Lola Ridge – Analysis

Sonnet to beauty

Show me thy way. Though I have held thy name,
that tremulously now my lips let fall,
as word too dear for traffic of the tongue,
yet I have loved thee, Beauty, beyond all.
Be with me in this hour: dread shapes of thee
apparelled in the lustre not their own –
as buzzard, gracened by the wizardry
of light, looks all but lovely as the swan,
shall not appal. In thy high company –
whereof all things are free and each wild theme
weaves in a relentless rise and fall
to resolution. I shall brokenly –
hear through the fury, through the windless dream,
heart of the terror, chiming at thy call.

Lola Ridge (1873-1941)

Published posthumously.

This poem is all about appreciating beauty when, for whatever reason, it is hard to find beauty in what is happening in life. But LR wants ‘Beauty’ to show her the way and talking about beauty is nonsense – ‘too dear for traffic of the tongue’. She has known beauty through her life.

But she pleads for ‘Beauty’ to be with her in this hour – an hour of need due to sickness or impending death perhaps. She sees some shapes of ‘Beauty’ and likens this to light falling on a buzzard giving ‘Beauty’ to this bird so that it becomes swan like. Swans are beautiful and grace filled images. And high company links to the bird reference in the wild freedom of flight.

The last six lines recognise the power of ‘Beauty’ in everything – it resolves all in a relentless rise and fall. And LR states that she will brokenly hear ‘Beauty’ as she goes through the current terror afflicting her. She will eventually hear ‘Beauty’ answering the call of ‘Beauty’.

This was one of the last poems that she wrote. May beauty astound her to eternity.

Lola Ridge on Wikipedia
and an interesting podcast on Lola Ridge (including commentary by biographer Terese Svoboda)

A right to be heard – Zelda Quakawoot – Comments

A right to be heard

A right to be heard
Not censored of word
A voice that is true
Not a momentary view
A word that is said
It remains in our heads
Of value that’s true
In both me and you
It signals the start
From deep in our hearts
A sentence recalls
From the big to the small
It flows like a stream …
“I have a dream…”

Zelda Quakawoot

A fourteen line sonnet style … rhyming (and half rhyming) aa, bb … and the second line of each rhyming pair complements the first line of each pair. Akin to the way Psalms are constructed.

This is a poem by the Torres Strait Islander Zelda Quakawoot. Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are the indigenous inhabitants of Australia and often seek the ‘right to to be heard’ from the rest of the community. A common situation in many countries with indigenous minorities.

We should all have an on-going dream in life … a positive thought to carry us forward in hope … in hope of better times … for recovery from illness … for repair in a relationship … and for appropriate recognition of the Torres Strait Island culture.

More of her work can be found on this site … https://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/A111526?mainTabTemplate=agentWorksBy

Sea-Fever – John Masefield – Comments

Sea-Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

John Masefield (1878 – 1967)

From SALT-WATER POEMS AND BALLADS, by John Masefield, published by the Maxmillan Co., NY, © 1913, p. 55; the poem was first published in SALT-WATER BALLADS, © 1902.

Well the sea is repetitive … the sea is repeated in line 1 … and there are many lines with repetitions to enhance the rhythmic structure of the poem. Incidentally I always thought the first line was – I must go down to the sea but this is not the case for it is seas. This phrase is repeated at the start of each stanza.

Equally there is plenty of alliteration for instance in the last stanza – To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife.

It is all about the lure of the sea and the joy of sailing and appreciating sea, sky and wind first hand. This is very much an atmospheric poem with plenty of word action. And many enjoy the experience of wind and sea on skin as invoked in the second stanza. At the same time there is some element of control and purpose as the sailing ship ploughs through the waves.

It is a poem with much imperative the want to follow your heart’s desire and follow your life joy.

The last line may be difficult to understand – I think there is an ask for a restful quiet sleep after a stint of duty for a ‘trick’ is also a sailing term and refers to a watch at sea of four hours.

This is a well-known poem, perhaps one reason is that it is suitable for children to recite and I am sure I first heard it at primary school.

John Masefield was Poet laureate from 1930 till his death in 1967 … a Wikipedia Link.

Mirror – Sylvia Plath – Analysis

Mirror

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful,
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Sylvia Plath

S1 – The mirror becomes a person with person attributes. Swallowing is equivalent to reflecting back whatever is in front of the mirror. The mirror is in a room facing a pink wall so it takes on this skin. From time to time faces and darkness separate the mirror from the pink wall which has become its ‘heart’. Whatever it reflects it tells the truth with no emotional response so in a way it is likened to a God being totally honest.

S2 – A lake is personified but this is different from the mirror. A woman (SP) is trying to explore the depths to find out who she really is and when she looks elsewhere there is no faithful reflection. Candles have romantic connotations and the moon insanity. When she cries the lake likes her wet tears. She may touch the water with her hands which is liked equally by the lake. She comes to the lake often and the lake faithfully shows her aging day after day. In her search for identity she has drowned her youth at the same time she is unaccepting of the aging process fearing the future and becoming a fish, a terrible fish the product of a life.

The water in the lake can be regarded as time. Eventually she will be drowned in the lake as time takes its toll. Time will drown us all – well that’s one way of putting it. Whether we become an ugly fish or a beautiful sea-horse is another matter. SP often considered death in her work and in this poem she considers self-discovery, aging and death with a some what depressive outlook on the future.

Sylvia Plath on Wikipedia.

 

Never again would birds’ songs be the same – Robert Frost

Never again would birds’ songs be the same

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds’ song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.

Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)

A rhyming sonnet with a break in thought after line eight.

He = Adam – I guess this would be assumed by must readers – a welcome to Eve who combats the loneliness of Adam …as shown by this text – an eloquence so soft could only have an influence on birds.

For contemplation – What did the voice of Eve bring to nature? How did Adam now view nature? Did nature actually change?

This poem gives contrast to the way Robert Frost explores loneliness in his poem ‘The Most of It’ … see my previous post for comments on this poem.

Robert Frost on Wikipedia