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Sylvia Plath - Pursuit

Dans le fond des forêts votre image me suit.
                                     RACINE


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.

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 blook;
 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.

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Added: Feb 20 2003 | Viewed: 2973 times | Comments and analysis of Pursuit by Sylvia Plath Comments (3)

Pursuit - Comments and Information

Poet: Sylvia Plath
Poem: Pursuit
Volume: The Collected Poems
Year: Published/Written in 1959

Comment 3 of 3, added on August 6th, 2014 at 5:31 AM.
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Comment 2 of 3, added on July 18th, 2014 at 5:34 PM.
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crorkservice from Tonga
Comment 1 of 3, added on November 12th, 2004 at 4:29 PM.

Pursuit – Sylvia Plath

I cannot recall ever reading another poem by Sylvia Plath, but, for me, this one alone would place her in the first rank.

The first two lines – ‘There is a panther stalks me down: / One day I’ll have my death of him;’ - throw us straight in at the deep end; in fact, they tell the story. What follows holds us in its pace. We are concentrated, in the first verse-and-a-half, on quickening fear and blood. Suddenly, with ‘sweet’, ‘His kisses parch…’, enters a new factor: passion, sex: the victim is fighting against becoming a collaborator. Clothes, flesh and blood are thrown away for him. It will not do, and never would. She knows her appalling, guilty, secret want, and it is hauling him to her. Unstopped by bolts or doors, on he comes. Mounting, heart-stopping, terror merges with desire. ‘Doom consummates that appetite.’ Perhaps we now hear ‘One day I’ll have my death of him’ as an intention, not a prediction.

Outstanding lines for me are: ‘Most soft, most suavely glides that step,’; ‘sweet the singeing fury of his fur;’; ‘The black marauder, hauled by love / On fluent haunches, keeps my speed.’ ; ‘I run flaring in my skin;’; ‘Coming up and up the stairs.’

She has beautiful, subtle devices beyond my ken, but I love the half-rhymes allowing no rest; the hard gutterals of ‘From gaunt hemlock, rooks croak havoc:’, which cannot be spoken quickly; the repetition of ‘stairs’ in the last two lines. I had better not go on. It should stand on its own, without interference from me.


Philip Shaddick from United Kingdom

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