Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sylvia Plath - Birth, Statues and Museums

Sylvia Plath defines birth in terms of a museum and statues ...

Empty, I echo to the least footfall,
Museum without statues, grand with pillars, porticoes, rotundas.

SP (Barren Woman 21 Feb 1961).

Museum ... a building used for storing and exhibiting objects of historical, scientific or culture interest.

A woman is a museum in that she carries the history of humanity. A barren woman is like an empty museum. Any noise echoes the tragedy of such a state. A museum is of little value if has no exhibits?

Statue ... a sculptured, cast, carved or moulded figure of a person or animal - especially life-size or larger.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

SP (Morning Song 19 Feb 1961)

The echoes now have a sense of joy but the nakedness and fragility of birth is in stark contrast to the solid structure of the surrounds. And of course a new baby is very much on exhibition. How is the new statue going to fit into the historical context?

Here is the memorable first line from Morning Song ...

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

What a strong positive statement on birth that only a mother can truly understand. Babies are fat, gold is pure and you may, or may not, believe that love generates life. A watch is an apt analogy not only to the link to the heart beat pulse tick, but to time. Birth and time are inextricably connected.

Note ...
Morning Song was the first poem of SP's self-chosen set of poems called Ariel (named after the horse she rode in Devon). A memorable first word to open the collection. … love

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