Dans le fond des forêts votre image me suit.

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.

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


  1. Humaira Ayesha says:

    The poem begins with Racine’s line, “Dans le fond des forêts votre image me suit” (In the depths of the forest, your image follows me), setting the tone for a persistent and haunting presence.Plath’s poem portrays the relentless pursuit of a panther, symbolizing a destructive force or desire that threatens the speaker’s existence.

    The panther can be seen as a representation of Ted Hughes(she dedicated this poem to Ted Hughes), who captivates and pursues the speaker. The stalking panther symbolizes the intensity and persistence of their connection.

    “Insatiate, he ransacks the land…” The line can be interpreted as the all-consuming nature of their love and passion. The panther is depicted as someone who voraciously explores and searches for fulfillment, perhaps echoing the depth of their relationship.

    “Charred and ravened women lie, become his starving body’s bait.” Here, the imagery suggests that the subject, Ted Hughes, has a magnetic effect on women, leaving them charred and ravaged by his presence. It hints at the power he holds over others and the sacrifices they make for his affection.

    “I hurl my heart to halt his pace…” The speaker acknowledges the intensity of their connection and the sacrifices they are willing to make to satisfy the subject’s desires. It reflects a sense of surrender and devotion.

    “Entering the tower of my fears, I shut my doors on that dark guilt, I bolt the door, each door I bolt.” These lines suggest the speaker’s attempts to protect themselves from the overwhelming emotions and potential guilt associated with their relationship. It implies a desire to shield oneself from the consequences that their intense connection may bring.

    The speaker attempts to resist the panther’s allure, sacrificing their own desires and trying to shut out the darkness and guilt associated with it. However, the panther’s presence persists, with its presence echoing on the stairs, suggesting a continued and inescapable threat.

  2. Philip Shaddick says:

    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.

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