Comment 1 of 8, 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.
from United Kingdom