for Ruth Fainlight

I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root;
It is what you fear.
I do not fear it: I have been there.

Is it the sea you hear in me,
Its dissatisfactions?
Or the voice of nothing, that was you madness?

Love is a shadow.
How you lie and cry after it.
Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse.

All night I shall gallup thus, impetuously,
Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf,
Echoing, echoing.

Or shall I bring you the sound of poisons?
This is rain now, the big hush.
And this is the fruit of it: tin white, like arsenic.

I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.
Scorched to the root
My red filaments burn and stand,a hand of wires.

Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs.
A wind of such violence
Will tolerate no bystanding: I must shriek.

The moon, also, is merciless: she would drag me
Cruelly, being barren.
Her radiance scathes me. Or perhaps I have caught her.

I let her go. I let her go
Diminished and flat, as after radical surgery.
How your bad dreams possess and endow me.

I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

Clouds pass and disperse.
Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?
Is it for such I agitate my heart?

I am incapable of more knowledge.
What is this, this face
So murderous in its strangle of branches? —-

Its snaky acids kiss.
It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults
That kill, that kill, that kill.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem Elm


  1. Emile Moelich says:

    “Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.”
    Sylvia Plath

  2. sara says:

    sylvia plath… as per usual?
    why dont you settle on the language, not the contents, for a moment? can you feel her words bite into you? i admit that ‘depression poetry’ is hard to take, what is its function? but not self absorbed, no. these are such strong feelings, and need a place to be allowed recognition. its a disease and its something plath feels strongly about, you should not just dismiss her for that.

  3. atom says:

    I think as per usual plath has written another depresing poem. It seems to be all she can do she is self obsessed and nothing else matters to her yes i too belive this poem is about love but i don’t feel the language is “rich” nor do i think it is a “strong poem” I feel it is her at her best which isn’t alot

  4. sandra says:

    In my opinion Elm adresses a “you”, the poetic persona os the poet on the subject offear, love and suffering. It is a very strong poem with rich language. The opening is simple and direct as are many lines in the poem. A fascinating read with so much to offer in terms of getting to understan the poet, Plath.

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