Two girls there are : within the house
One sits; the other, without.
Daylong a duet of shade and light
Plays between these.
In her dark wainscoted room
The first works problems on
A mathematical machine.
Dry ticks mark time
As she calculates each sum.
At this barren enterprise
Rat-shrewd go her squint eyes,
Root-pale her meager frame.
Bronzed as earth, the second lies,
Hearing ticks blown gold
Like pollen on bright air. Lulled
Near a bed of poppies,
She sees how their red silk flare
Of petaled blood
Burns open to the sun’s blade.
On that green alter
Freely become sun’s bride, the latter
Grows quick with seed.
Grass-couched in her labor’s pride,
She bears a king. Turned bitter
And sallow as any lemon,
The other, wry virgin to the last,
Goes graveward with flesh laid waste,
Worm-husbanded, yet no woman.
Just so you know, the stanza talking about the woman who turned bitter and sallow as any lemon does turn “bitter and sallow”. The second woman is ‘raped’ hence the line “lulled near a bed of poppies”. Poppies are an opiate, and that’s why the stanza after is so violent.
I’ve seen this comment repeated several times so far.. The second sister, who “bears a king” does NOT become “bitter and sallow as any lemon”. If you read the sixth and seventh stanza correctly, you’ll notice that it says “Turned bitter / and sallow as any lemon / the other / wry virgen to the last / goes graveward” etc… By saying “the other”, Plath is referring to the first sister.
When reading poetry it is important to recite it out loud and go through it carefully before making assumptions about its meaning.
Plaths peom of “Two Sisters of Persephone” describe the two sides of Perspehone from the Greek mythology. We know from the mythological story that Hades, god of the underworld and the dead, had taken Persephone down to his dark world. Pershpones mother had begged Hades to give her back her daughter and Zeus made them compromise, Hades would get Persephone half of the year and her mother, Demeter, would get her the other half of the year. While Persephone was with her mother she was happy and so the earth went through spring and summer, but while she went to the dark underwold with Hades, Persephone was sad and gloomy and so we have winter, when the earth is cold and barren. Plaths poem makes and allusion to this myth in that she uses dichotomies to describe the two sides of Persephone through two sisters.
One interesting thing about Plaths writing is that she uses enjambment in her writing, in the first stanza of this poem get an introduction to the “two sisters” and then she goes into the first sister without the use of punctuation. The first sister is described as “shade” (line 3) and being in a dark place so right away we see that this is making a refrence to winter and the time Persphone spends with Hades.
The second sister is describes as “light” (line 3), “bronzed as the earth” (line 13), and “sun’s bride” (line 21) and that makes a refrence that this is Perspehone when she is with her mother and so she is a metaphor for spring.
This poem actually reminded me of my younger sister and myself when we were younger. She was seen as the perfect child that knew so much, was so gifted, and perfect in every way. I was the lackadaisical child that was ignorant and pathetic and would amount to nothing. This poem makes me remember how my sister was to be “the perfect woman” and I was not a woman at all.
I thought that this poem was very interesting because of all the juxtapositions of adjectives and nouns, in addition to all the puns that are used throughout.
I think that Plath really captured the two roles of Persephone well. The language used to show the contrast of the two roles was very effective, leading you to believe that the poem could have been about to completely diffrent women.