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The Moon and the Yew tree -- Sylvia Plath

Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #881) The Moon and the Yew tree
 "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 at my feet as if I were God,
 Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility.
 Fumy spiritious 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 be all blue,
 Floating on their delicate feet over 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."
-- Sylvia Plath
Rilke wrote that "beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror" and I can't
think of any poet who exemplifies that more consistently than Plath. This
poem is a particular favourite of mine, combing a chilling evocation of
place, a plethora of unforgettable phrases ("the moon is no door") and that
dangerous balance between observation and introspection that Plath does
better than anyone else. If ever there was an imagery for despair, this is


[Minstrels Links]

Sylvia Plath:
Poem #53, Winter landscape, with rocks
Poem #129, Ariel
Poem #366, Child
Poem #404, Daddy
Poem #612, Love Letter
Poem #678, Mirror

Rainer Maria Rilke:
Poem #136, The Panther
Poem #861, Spanish Dancer

37 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

nimisha d/c said...

Just in regard to Aseem's comment about the "imagery of despair" - I know
Sylvia Plath is supposed to be this dark poet, but to me personally, "The
Moon and the Yew Tree" is also describing a place in her mind, where it
isn't necessarily despair, but maybe something calmer and freer - like an
abstracted view of herself and how she thinks?. What gave me that idea was
that when I imagine a sort of place to retreat to, things are coloured that
dark blue and black, and it's always lit by a moon... Despair isn't quite so
clean, I don't think.

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