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

4 Comments

  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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