Another Tragic Moment: Sylvia PlathPosted: March 27, 2013
Take a look at this photo of the young Sylvia Plath: who knew that the author of The Bell Jar could ever have seemed so happy? Photos can be terribly deceptive, but still. The contrast with the writer is astonishingly tragic:
I Am Vertical
But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam a new leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.
Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them —
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.
It’s not even a binary decision to die; despite Plath’s worryingly glamorous suicide, the poem here expresses psychological trauma, collapse. Plath would “rather” be dead. It’s a matter of preference, of taste, rather than of despair. It’s never simple, is it?