No map traces the street
Where those two sleepers are.
We have lost track of it.
They lie as if under water
In a blue, unchanging light,
The French window ajar

Curtained with yellow lace.
Through the narrow crack
Odors of wet earth rise.
The snail leaves a silver track;
Dark thickets hedge the house.
We take a backward look.

Among petals pale as death
And leaves steadfast in shape
They sleep on, mouth to mouth.
A white mist is going up.
The small green nostrils breathe,
And they turn in their sleep.

Ousted from that warm bed
We are a dream they dream.
Their eyelids keep up the shade.
No harm can come to them.
We cast our skins and slide
Into another time.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem The Sleepers


  1. Edward J. Costa says:

    Sleepers are wooden timbers that railroad tracks are laid and many gardeners use old ones for flower beds. It’s interesting how often tracks is mentioned in the poem. The first verse explains no map traces the street where the two sleepers are because they’ve been removed from the old tracks and relocated in a garden and lost track of them. I feel the sleepers confine the plants in the garden bed. The blue unchanging light is interesting in that blue light is known to suppress plant growth relating to the word “unchanging light.”
    “Dark thickets hedge the House” again reminds me of confinement done by the sleepers, and where one can smell the odors of wet earth makes me think of something decomposing in the soil and the odor entering through the window crack. The snail leaves a silver track; my first thought that has to be a silver lining to this.
    Feelings of Confinement and “sleepers” this word used in the title by Plath and her many poems on death are making me look in that direction.
    Third verse: among petals pale as death and leaves steadfast in shape, I take this as some plants don’t survive while others thrive and keep their shape through harsh climates, just like people. They sleep on reminds me of many plants sleep through the cold winter months. “The small green nostrils breathe” plants have small pores in their leaves to help get oxygen.

    Fourth verse: “Ousted from that warm bed” again I feel this relates to the summer flower bed that sleep in the winter. We are a Dream they dream. This line I feel reminds us that plants can sense things including people. Plath speaks as though plants have eyelids, but in a way they do since they are sensory. She speaks of plants that “no harm can come to them,” I think it’s true because they have no central nervous system so feel no pain. Plath ends with “we cast our skins and slide into another time.” I believe she is saying in death we are no longer this form with skin and we move into another dimension of time and spirit, where we, like plants, will no longer feel pain.

    Of course this is only my interpretation. I’m sure many others see it differently, but that’s what is so great about poetry.

  2. Jakki says:

    the two sleepers are snakes.

  3. whew! says:

    It’s kinda confusing.
    the two sleepers must represent some characteristic of a person.

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