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a short collection of Sylvia Plath poems

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A Glimpse Into the Works of Sylvia Plath

Compiled by Ash Cearns

Daddy

By Sylvia Plath

You do not do, you do not do  
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot  
For thirty years, poor and white,  
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.  
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,  
Ghastly statue with one gray toe  
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic  
Where it pours bean green over blue  
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.  
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town  
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.  
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.  
So I never could tell where you  
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.  
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.  
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.  
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.


The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna  
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck  
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit 
of a Jew.

I have alway
s been scared of you,
With your Lu
ftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.  
And your
 neat mustache
And your 
Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer
-man, panzer-man, O You——

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.  
Every woman adores a Fascist,  
The boot in the face, the brute  
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,  
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot  
But no less a devil for that, no not  
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.  
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,  
And they stuck me together with glue.  
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.  
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,  
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you  
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart  
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.  
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

There is a panther stalks me down:
  One day I'll have my death of him;
  His greed has set the woods aflame,
He prowls more lordly than the sun.
Most soft, most suavely glides that step,
  Advancing always at my back;
  From gaunt hemlock, rooks croak havoc:
The hunt is on, and sprung the trap.
Flayed by thorns I trek the rocks,
  Haggard through the hot white noon.
  Along red network of his veins
What fires run, what craving wakes?

Insatiate, he ransacks the land 
  Condemned by our ancestral fault,
  Crying: blood, let blood be spilt;
Meat must glut his mouth's raw wound.
Keen the rending teeth and sweet
  The singeing fury of his fur;
  His kisses parch, each paw's a briar,
Doom consummates that appetite.
In the wake of this fierce cat,
  Kindled like torches for his joy,
  Charred and ravened women lie,
Become his starving body's bait.


Pursuit

By Sylvia Plath

Now hills hatch menace, spawning shade;
  Midnight cloaks the sultry grove;
  The black marauder, hauled by love
On fluent haunches, keeps my speed.
Behind snarled thickets of my eyes
  Lurks the lithe one; in dreams' ambush
  Bright those claws that mar the flesh
And hungry, hungry, those taut thighs.
His ardor snares me, lights the trees,
  And I run flaring in my skin;
  What lull, what cool can lap me in
When burns and brands that yellow gaze?

I hurl my heart to halt his pace,
  To quench his thirst I squander blood;
  He eats, and still his need seeks food,
Compels a total sacrifice.
His voice waylays me, spells a trance,
  The gutted forest falls to ash;
  Appalled by secret want, I rush
From such assault of radiance.
Entering the tower of my fears,
  I shut my doors on that dark guilt,
  I bolt the door, each door I bolt.
Blood quickens, gonging in my ears:

The panther's tread is on the stairs,
Coming up and up the stairs

The Moon And The Yew Tree

By Sylvia Plath

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky --
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness -
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness - blackness and silence.

Mad Girl's Love Song

By Sylvia Plath

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world
drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed 
me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"

Edge

By Sylvia Plath

The woman is perfected.  
Her dead

Body wears the smile of accomplishment,  
The illusion of a Greek necessity

Flows in the scrolls of her toga,  
Her bare

Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.

Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,  
One at each little

Pitcher of milk, now empty.  
She has folded

Them back into her body as petals  
Of a rose close when the garden

Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.

The moon has nothing to be sad about,  
Staring from her hood of bone.

She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.

       I chose each of these poems because I believe they best represent the work of Sylvia Plath. Sylvia Plath is my favorite poet. Most of her work revolves around mental illness, her childhood trauma, and death. These five poems each display at least one of these themes. Plath wrote "Daddy" shortly after her father died. Her father was fascist and abusive, and this poem was a way for Plath to cope with never confronting him while he was alive. I chose this poem because it explains her background and why her poetry is so dark. It is also considered one of her most famous poems. I chose the image of Nazi boots to accompany it because Plath continuously refers to her father as a Nazi throughout the poem. I chose "Pursuit" because it is my favorite poem by Sylvia Plath. She captures the true feeling of struggling with a mental illness. Plath was haunted by her fear and severe depression until she eventually took her own life, and I believe this poem provides insight into her mind. I chose the image of a panther because Plath refers to her mental illness and fear as a panther. I chose "The Moon and The Yew Tree" because I love Plath's use of imagery. She sets a beautiful an haunting scene that is depicted in the image I chose. I selected "Mad Girl's Love Song," because, once again, I felt it gave insight into who Sylvia Plath was as a person. It is also considered to accompany her novel "The Bell Jar," which she wrote just before she died. I also thought the use of repetition within the parentheses was an interesting stylistic choice. Parentheses are not common within poetry because they are thought to be informal. I chose the image of dead flowers because I imagined a delusional girl seeing the flowers as still alive. I chose "Edge" because I enjoyed the rhythm of the poem and thought the two-line structure was interesting, especially with the way Plath separated her stanzas in the middle of a phrase. I chose the image of a white snake because she mentions a white serpent in the poem.